Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Expensive Medical Care on Upper Middle Bogan

I started watching Upper Middle Bogan today. Although, on Hulu they call it Bess of Both Worlds.


I'm watching the second episode now.

Bess (Annie Maynard) uses her connections, as a doctor, to get her newly found birth mother Julie (Robyn Malcolm) an appointment for her knee. Bess thinks maybe the painful knee is NOT osteoarthritis, and maybe it's something that surgery can fix.

Julia is grateful for her daughter's help and goes to the appointment...only to hear from this prestigious doctor that the problem IS osteoarthritis.

Okay. Fine. So, they didn't learn anything new. Julie and her husband Wayne (Glenn Robbins) are about to leave; then the receptionist tells them they owe close to $400. I mean she doesn't say they owe close to $400. She actually gives an exact number. It's just I forgot it.

Julie and Wayne aren't wealthy. They struggle to pay the bill, which they learn isn't covered by government health care. And it has to be fully paid right on the spot.

They manage to pay using the little bit of cash they have on hand and multiple credit cards. As a thank you, they had planned to take Bess out for a nice lunch. But now they can't afford it and take her to a fast food joint where they can't afford to treat Bess to the salad or a water bottle she desires. And they're stuck eating a chicken and chip meal without the chicken. It's a pretty funny scene, because Julie and Wayne are such nice people and don't want to tell their newly found daughter that she's lost them a huge chunk of money.  And Bess herself is kind enough to pretend she's totally fine with this restaurant and the food her parents have ordered her.

The episode made me think of my mammogram experience last September.  I was supposed to be so grateful that the government forces insurance companies to provide me with free mammograms even though science is showing statistically they might not actually save that many lives. So I got the FREE mammogram. But then I had to fork up hundreds of dollars for the two ultrasounds and the needle aspiration thing.

I was told I didn't have breast cancer. I was supposed to be super happy and relieved.

But I never thought I had breast cancer UNTIL they gave me the mammogram and then called me back for some more testing.

If I hadn't had the mammogram, I would be hundreds of dollars richer. I would have saved myself a health scare. I'd just have an innocent cyst quietly growing in my breast.

We could talk about the women out there who were saved by a mammogram. The cancer was caught early. They're alive because of it. I'm not denying such women exist.  Mammograms do right by some people.  But it makes me think of the people who get hit on the head; go to the doctor to check for a brain injury; then learn from the CAT Scan they have a tumor. Because the tumor was caught early, they survive. Lucky them!  So...does that mean we should all get routine CAT scans?  How about MRI's?  If we all get yearly full body scans, I'm sure some people will end up being saved from dying of horrible diseases.  But I don't think that means we should all get tested. It's too expensive...for the individuals and/or the government.  And the false positives will probably drive people slightly crazy.  
It's just like how many lives would be saved if everyone wore helmets and life jackets 100% of the time?  Some deceased people out there would still be with us if they had made it a rule to ALWAYS wear protective gear.

And why wait for someone to be unconscious and choking to do an emergency tracheotomy? Think of the lives that would be saved if we all had straws sticking out of our throats.

The thing is....

We have to balance costs and benefits.

I wasn't really relieved when I was told I didn't have breast cancer. I felt numb and slightly violated. I felt screwed by the system. And I didn't feel cancer free. I was thinking...fine. There is no cancer in my breast...TODAY. But what about my uterus? My ovaries?  My pancreas.... My brain?  No one is checking on any of that.  No one's offering me "free" screening for those things.

Free. Ha!  I think if we're really going to push these "free" mammograms, the ultrasounds and biopsies should be free as well. Unless they can get to a point where false positives are an extreme rarity.

Going back to the show. It's like Bess. She reminds me of the people who push women to get free mammograms. She definitely means well. She wants to be helpful.  But she's not thinking enough about the financial strain of it all.  She should have either paid for the appointment or at least been upfront with her parents about the cost.

Edited to Add: I watched more of the episode. It's revealed that Bess believed the appointment would have been free for her parents. She didn't realize they'd have to pay.