Monday, August 10, 2009


While it probably is true that everyone has a healthcare/insurance story, I find it difficult to believe that everyone has a nightmare as some members of congress are reported to have said. All I know for sure is the experiences of myself and my family and I'm fairly certain none of us would like to trade our experiences for those of another country's healthcare.

Most particularly, and recently, is the case of my 34 year old tobacco-free, non-drinking, drug-using, or any other health destroying habit doing, being diagnosed with oral cancer on his tongue. The GP who originally examined him, in the course of a different procedure, was concerned with a sore on DH's tongue that hadn't healed in three months. Within a couple of weeks DH was seeing an oral surgeon who figured it was probably an auto-immune issue but was willing to do a biopsy. Because DH wasn't able to relax enough for a biopsy with "laughing-gas" he was sent home with an antibiotic and a steroid as well as an appointment to see the surgeon again in a week if things hadn't cleared up. A week later I took him in, he was put under and the surgeon removed two spots and sent them into a pathologist and asked my husband to come back in a couple of weeks to discuss the results as the surgeon travels between three cities covering about 100 miles. The vast majority of this was covered by our insurance, the exception being that the surgeon, due to a communication breakdown, sent the samples to an out-of-network lab.

Because the schedule of the surgeon and husband didn't work out, DH asked for the results over the phone. Turns out it's really hard to get a doctor to tell you you have cancer on the phone, but it can be done. Naturally, this suddenly made it much easier for DH to find time to meet with the surgeon.

One of the first things we did, besides cry and pray a lot, was to call my sister who is a surgical PA in a practice in Minnesota. Her office was able to recommend someone in the nearest large town for DH's oncologist and she in turn recommended us to Dr. Bruce Smith as ENT surgeon. Both recommendations were very good, and once again they were in network as well. In fact, I've wondered if someone high up in DH's company has had cancer because the insurance and his company worked with us wonderfully every step of the way. By the beginning of February Dr. Smith had operated on DH's tongue and removed a thumb-sized section for further biopsy. In between there were CT scans and scopes checking DH's complete interior due to the strangeness of his having cancer. Everything came back as perfect which was an answer to prayer because given DH's history of stomach and bowel issues we fully expected there to be at least problems if not actual cancer.

The point of all of this is, within four months of a GP shaking his head in concern, my middle-class husband had two surgeries and many expensive tests and I seriously doubt that could have been accomplished by any but the very richest of citizens in any other country. Yes there were out of pocket expenses, but we had done our part by having a flex plan and saving money for emergencies. We also very much believe that God protected DH from further damage and protected our finances as well as we practiced turning to Him in a situation we couldn't control. Between insurance, personal responsibility, and trust in God our situation brought our family closer and greater long-term health to my husband.

I realize that there are probably many others who can say that their situation didn't work out so well but all I can say to that is "this country and this system, while undeniably imperfect, gives the vast majority the best chance of a good outcome." I don't want it broken to try to help a small number when there are other ways to be tried first.

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