TITLE: Government Run Health Care? I Don't Think So!
By Jim Moyer
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Government Health Care – My Trip Through The Veterans Administration
I turn 65 but am still working full time. Being a Vietnam combat vet I hear that I am entitled to VA benefits including health care. “Why not check it out?” my wife asks. “What did you say, dear?” I ask. “See if they have hearing aids,” she yells. Why does she always have to yell at me?
Anyway, I find all the forms on line and it says you have to mail them in, they cannot be sent in on line. So I print them out, fill them out and proudly enter them into the USPS system for handling. That was February.
Mid-June rolls around and my cell phone rings. It’s the VA. I’m informed that they wondered if I was ever called. I tell them, “No.” They tell me that usually a request this old they just throw away but they wanted to be sure that I had been called. I repeat that, no, I had not been called. I’m asked why I did not submit my DD 214 and financial information. “I did send in a copy of the DD 214 and the form said combat vets did not have to submit financial information.”
“That rule has been changed,” I’m informed.
OK, so I fax in the DD 214 and she takes some vague financial information from me over the phone. “Hang on and I will see if you will have a co-pay or not.”
A few minutes on hold with very nice symphony music (I almost fall asleep), I am informed that I, indeed, will have a co-pay (I earn too much money) but otherwise I’m in! Now I’m told I need to call into the VA help line and set up an “intake” appointment so that if I need medical help I will be fully set up to receive such help. The person also tells me to be sure to stop by and get my picture taken for my ID card.
I immediately call the help line. I mean, seconds after I hang up with the first person. I’m on hold for a few minutes – no symphony music this time. I let the person know that I need the initial “intake” appointment. “Last name and last four, please.” I respond with the info only to be told that the last four don’t match. I explain that I just minutes ago got off the phone with so and so and I must be in the system. She puts me on hold – still no symphony music. In a few minutes she comes back on to tell me that my social has been corrected, “Now, how can I help you?”
We set up an appointment a week out for a Saturday afternoon. I am close to having benefits, I am sure.
Early Saturday morning my wife’s cell phone rings. “It’s the VA honey.”
“Mr. James Smith?”
“The very one,” I explain jumping ahead of the ‘system’ but quickly spitting out my last four, and hoping that has been corrected.
“We have an earlier opening if you would like to come in early.”
That sounded good to me so I accepted and ran to the shower to get ready. While I’m in the shower my wife’s cell phone rings to inform me that I have an afternoon appointment and was I going to show up. She assures them that I will make my appointment.
I pull into the huge VA hospital complex and park in front of one of the first buildings I come to. Upon entering I am told that the intake area is all the way around the other side of the complex. It would be better to drive than walk. As I leave I admire all the pictures of the therapy dogs on the hallway wall. Don’t hospitals usually have photos of the staff and patrons of the facility?
Anyway, I pull around to the other side and park again. Now I am struck with a poignant scene. I see men of all ages, though mostly older, who have put their lives on the line for their country. Most are in disrepair and some in despair. I slow my walk to take in the scene and feel tears forming in my eyes. Some limbs are missing, a few are in wheel chairs, and many have ball caps on proclaiming their war and the unit they served in. I am ashamed to be so healthy and able to walk as I can. Is there any way for America, especially young America to see and appreciate this scene and the price of the freedom we enjoy? I again wish every person under the age of forty would be required to see the first twenty minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.”
Stunned, I continue on past these heroes. I find the right clinic and, to my surprise, I am taking in immediately. The “intake” goes well. A nurse takes the vitals and asks a lot of embarrassing questions including, “On a scale of one to ten, what is your pain level today? We will ask that question every time we see you here at the VA Hospital.” Before I answer, the scene I passed while entering the building flashes in my mind. I wonder what kind of answers those people give. My level is “one,” and I’m sure few of those I saw would give that answer.
I see a doctor who asks a few more embarrassing questions and tells me that to obtain the one med I am on I must see the pharmacist. The doctor also tells me that I need an initial appointment with a GP to complete my “intake” and be ready for any needed services. In the meantime, if I have a need, just show up at the emergency room. I do tell him, in a loud voice so he can hear me that I’d like to check on hearing aids. He said he would enter a request and I should hear from that department in a week or so. If I don’t hear from them in that timeframe, don’t hesitate to call them.
I’m sent back to the waiting room to wait to be called to set up an appointment with a GP. I’m entertained by CNN and a similar depressing scene of humanity waiting for VA services.
After twenty minutes I am called and set up a GP appointment three weeks out. I wait another twenty minutes before the pharmacist calls me and tells me I’ll have to wait until I see the GP to get the one med authorized.
I leave through the same scene that I entered. Only the faces are changed. I thank God for His care of me while in Vietnam. This time tears do roll down my cheeks.
About a week later I remember I need to get my picture taken for an ID card. Thinking that is a good idea, I head back to the ambulatory care area and encounter the same depressing scene again. “Head down that hall and take a number. They will call you,” I am informed.
I’m number sixteen. They are serving number four. The waiting area in this hallway is jammed so I read my newspaper standing up – for thirty five minutes.
I’ve won the lottery!
Within ten minutes I am photographed by a state of the art system on which I can see my mug shot and all the info that will appear on my ID card. We stand, shake hands and he tells me I should have my ID card in two to three weeks. If not, give us a call and we will check on it. Now I wonder how in the world I could see such a sophisticated system, just like the DMV uses, but it takes two to three weeks for me to get an ID card. The DMV produces them immediately. I keep my mouth closed and exit the building.
About a week later, my wife’s cell phone rings and they tell her that I have an appointment with the audiology department – six weeks out. No, there is nothing sooner.
So, I have to wait 3 weeks to see a GP and six weeks to get into the audiology department. Both people tell me that if I need care before that just proceed to the emergency room. All of a sudden I feel like an illegal alien.
Before becoming a full-fledged member of the VA system I think I will try to get my correct phone number into the system. Symphony music accompanies my wait time and I get a pleasant person who does, indeed, change my contact phone number.
The day before my GP appointment my wife’s cell phone rings…
No, I don’t think I want government run health care. And I haven’t even begun to interface with Medicare!
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