Friday, April 11, 2008

Medical Arcana

Hello everyone!  Kernal Ken back at the keyboard, writing the truth for justice and the American Way.  

One problem with such writing is that my audience is a mixed lot.  Many of you I know from the military or are in my extended family, some of you I know from my time in the Wall Street World, some are Church friends and/or neighbors, and some go all the way back to the days when I was a high school stud.

Today, I want to post about my experience with the health care system.  For many of you, this will be old news.  For some, this will be an eye opener on the military health care system.  For others, you have already hit the escape key and are on to better things.

Someone once said, "A veteran, be he or she on active duty, in the reserves, the National Guard, or retired is someone who once, or many times, signed a blank check to the American People 'for any amount up to and including my life.'" 

 In return for that level of commitment, the government agrees to pay wages that are substantially below the civilian market, pay a housing and subsistance allowance that are inadequate for either purpose, move the soldier and family around every few years, whether they need it or not, and provide other benefits, such as retirement at an early age and healthcare -  both of which are substantial.

Active duty soldiers and families receive their healthcare at no charge,but must find their own dental and eye care.   Retired soldiers and families pay an annual modest fee, currently $498 for the same services.  Historically, I should note that one of the reasons the Queen Vee decided to marry me was because I had a plan for the future which included healthcare.  Her family had just gone through very difficult financial times when her mother died of cancer at age 46.  So, the healthcare benefit is a major player in why many soldiers join and stay in the service.

Nonetheless, all healthcare seems to share some odd quirks, many of which I have seen most recently in my 4 months within the "Beast."   Here are a few examples.

"Good morning, colonel.  Welcome back to the ABC clinic.  Let's take your vital signs."  "I just had those taken 15 minutes ago in the DEF Clinic."  "Well, let's take them again. Step on the scale, please."  " I weigh 210 lbs."  "Well, sir, our scale says you weigh 210.5 lbs.  Did you have a doughnut on the way here?"  "My blood pressure is 125 over 70."  "Well, our device says 135 over 80, can you explain that?" "Yes, you're making me crazy!"  I have had my vital signs taken four times with a three hour period - can that be efficient?

"Well, sir, we know you come from a long distance for these appointments, so we will try to make them for your convenience.  Would you like this one at 7 AM or 4:45 PM?"

I have discovered that the number of doctors in the room is directly proportional to how painful the area to be examined will be.  For instance, when the ENT doctor platoon wants to spray your nose with  industrial strength Afrin so that they can insert the ENToscope into your sinuses and poke around for a while, you can be sure that at least three doctors will want a look.  Each will say, "You may feel a little pressure."   You will feel it.

The more technical the explanation of what is going on will always be given by the more junior of the medical staff.  By the time someone starts explaining things in Latin, you can be sure that you are speaking to the most junior resident in the clinic.  Junior residents always seem surprised if you ask a question.

Despite what you might expect, healthcare providers are among the least sensitive to those, like me, who also having hearing problems.  I can point out hearing aids in both ears and note that I need to see their lips to fully understand what they're saying, but most doctors and nurses need several such pleas before they begin to get it.

The most critical prescriptions are the ones that come with the fewest pills per bottle and with the least number of refills authorized.

If you are an inpatient, your chances of communicating with the various nurses who will arrive in your room at odd times are directly proportional to whether or not you speak Spanish or understand English dialects from the Caribbean.

Well, enough for now.  I have some real questions about the differences between the bills submitted  by healthcare contractors, amounts allowed and amounts actually paid, to include patient share.  But that stuff is complex enough to gag anyone.  You may feel a little pressure.

Thanks for your continued support and prayers.  This recovery part is harder than I expected, but  not harder than I can take. 

Anyone who would like to contribute to the fight against cancer as my daughters Audrey and Samantha take a marathon and a half walk  in two weeks on my behalf, you can donate through their blogs at audrey at  or  Thanks to many of you whose support has already been received!

I'll see you on the high ground!



Tobi said...

Amen Uncle Ken! The most shocking thing about some military doctors is if Joel, the solider, goes into the doctor he is treated with disdain and censure. The doctor belives that Joel must be making up an ailment in order to avoid work.

However if I go to the doctor I feel I am always treated fairly. But in reality how is that fair?

I'm so glad to hear that you are slowly but surely getting better. I'm sure your ready to leap back into high gear but your body is only ready for turtle speed. I hope even after your full recovery you will continue to blog. I enjoy all your posts very much.

The Dragonfly said...

This post made me laugh! You are too funny! But, if you think medical care in the military world is bad, you should try it in my world. Crazy!

I do have to say however, having been with you at the hospital, and having met a few of your doctors - they have all done a great job and are all working towards the same goal - getting you healthy! It would be nice if getting you healthy came with a few less pokes and prods though.

Thanks for the shout out for our Avon Walk . . . and anyone reading this, please donate to Audrey - she is just shy of her goal! Love you Dad!

The Queen Vee said...

I cannot say enough good things about the medical care Ken has received at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Appointments and treatments have been scheduled for our convenience and usually several appointments on the same day. The amount of time spent and concern given to us by the Drs and nurses of this excellent institution goes beyond any care ken would have received in a civilian hospital. All in all our experience with the military medical system as Ken fights cancer has been extraordinary!

Anderson Zoo Keepers said...

Having been off the taxpayer (read: Army) insurance dime for about 6 years of my life, I can attest to the fact that I much prefer being in my nice, happy Army medical community. However... I have learned to work the system like a pro. Like, I can get dental care if I drive certain distances. I can also chose my own providers (civilian included) if I'm willing to ante up some of my own dough. All in all, I know this - Sparky's medical conditions have made it such that we could not consider getting out of the Army and off the insurance payroll for quite a large sum of money and/or a pretty convincing hardsell on insurance. They are too good to us with his medicines and his condition. I know people who pay over $500 per month for the meds, and I pay $0. They didn't get me one second of hassle to get him on the meds and I know people who have been fighting with their carriers for years because they didn't want to ante up. This isn't to say that I don't want to strangle much of the staff at various clinics - but that's when I jump onto Tricare Standard and use my MOAA supplemental. :-) Being here at Madigan is the first time in 3 years I've been back on Prime.
Wow I got windy.
But in the end, I'm with Victoria. I'm in this for the retirement and the benefits. It certainly isn't the housing.