Saturday, February 10, 2018

Me, Too.

He was a neighbor.  He went to my church.  He socialized with my parents.  He had seven children and a lovely wife.  His oldest daughter was friends with my sister.  He was my first gynecologist.  

He didn’t have an office nurse, at least, not anytime I had an appointment.  He told me the thing he was doing with his hands was to relax me so that the speculum would go in more easily.   He made sure I was aware of his erection.  He told me that all women were filthy creatures and that I needed to douche every day with vinegar.  He said I had cysts on my ovaries and gave me medication.  But he also said the medication probably wouldn’t work so he scheduled surgery to remove them.  

A week or so later I hemorrhaged, and went to the ER.  When he was called he screamed at me, calling me low class for going to the emergency when it was nothing but a heavy period!  But it wasn’t. I could tell the difference.  He wouldn’t listen.

When I got to the hospital he came to examine me before surgery.  The hospital nurse wouldn’t let him be alone with me - there are rules, doncha know.   He was angry at being interfered with.  He was angrier that my cysts were gone, so no surgery.  No removal of ovaries.  The nurse suggested very carefully I might want to find another gynecologist. 

My family doctor couldn’t understand why I went from having low blood pressure to high blood pressure in a matter of months for no apparent reason.  I learned about White Coat Syndrome.  I tried to forget Dr. Larkin.  Successfully.  For decades.  I just always told my doctors I had White Coat Syndrome and went to female gynecologists.

Two years ago someone in my GP’s office didn’t listen when I said I needed to be referred to a female OB/GYN.  When the male doctor walked into the room I had a panic attack, right then and there.  I suddenly remembered Dr. Larkin and told the story to that doctor and his nurse.  They were horrified, and apologetic, and understanding.  They referred me to another doctor.

It was liberating.  My BP has been perfectly normal at all my doctor’s appointments since that day.  I have answers to some of the questions that came up when I was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago.   

The #Me,Too movement has given me the freedom to tell this story out loud.  I am grateful for all the women and men who have spoken out, and hopeful that all of these stories can bring about change.

Monday, January 29, 2018

My Mother's Pearls

On their 25th wedding anniversary my father gave my mother a string of pearls.  It was one of her prized possessions.  When she wasn't wearing them, she kept them in a velvet pouch.  But she wore them frequently because she said that if pearls are not worn they lose their luster.

When Mother died my sister and I talked about the pearls, and chose to give them to my brother's wife, Carol.   Mother had lived with Nick and Carol for a couple of years before she died.  I knew from experience how challenging life with Mother could be in those later years and really thought if anyone deserved those pearls, it was Carol.  When my brother died a few years later, Carol gave the pearls to me, saying she thought they needed to be in the family.  Although I graciously accepted the gift, in my head I was kind of freaking out. "What am I going to do with pearls?  Do I look like a pearl wearing woman?"   When I got home, I put the velvet pouch holding my mother's pearls in my jewelry box and proceeded to wait for the proper occasion to wear them.

The invitation to a Steampunk themed costume event said, "Here is your chance to wear your best corset and pearls!"  I thought about it for a while.  Although I dearly love costume events (especially if I get to wear a corset!), I gave it a pass.  I wasn't sure that was the appropriate venue for the pearls. Fake pearls, sure.  Pearls I bought myself, why not?  But my mother's 25th anniversary pearls?  I don't think so.

Then came Election Day.   Hordes of pantsuited, pearl wearing women proclaimed their vote with their attire.  I didn't see what pearls had to do with anything.  I mean, yes, I get the symbolism, but we're talking about my mother's 25th anniversary pearls, here!  They are way too important to wear as if they were an "I voted" sticker.

And suddenly I remembered watching Mother getting ready to go out one time, and asking her why she always wore her pearls.  "Because," she said, "pearls need to be worn or they will lose their luster.  They will just be round, white beads, not the glowing things of beauty that you are holding.  They need to be kept warm and cared for and loved."

So I went to my jewelry box and took out the velvet bag.  I poured the pearls into my hand, then put them on.  I felt their weight and warmth around my neck and realized something important.

They aren't my mother's pearls any more.  They're mine.  And anytime I wear them is a special occasion.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Is this for real? Questions about Health Insurance

Is this for real?  Questions about Health Insurance

I got a statement from my health insurance company the other day, a report of what my health care costs were for 2017. 

Background:  I am 66 years old, on Medicare and paying $134 per month for coverage.  Last year I had HealthNet for my doctor appointments and such, with no premium.  I don’t make much money so I have free prescription coverage through Medicare.  That means my total health insurance cost per month is $134.00

During 2017 I had a colonoscopy, a mammogram, an MRI, one (minor) outpatient surgery by my OB/GYN oncologist, several doctor appointments and some lab work.  No illnesses, not even a serious cold, and no prescriptions (except for the colonoscopy prep - yuck.) 

The statement said that my medical costs for 2017 were as follows:
Amount billed by medical providers $27,560.71
Amount approved by insurer $. 4,036.19
Amount paid by insurer $. 3,668.96
My share $.   335.00

So, what I want to know is - what about the $23,524 that wasn’t paid by either my insurance company or me?  Do all doctors and hospitals and labs, etc. overcharge by that much knowing they’re going to receive such a small amount from the insurance company?  

And, if I didn’t have insurance, would I have been responsible for that entire amount?   Never mind.  I already know the answer to that one.  :( 

I know at least one woman who has health insurance through her employer and can’t afford an MRI of her lower spine because it would cost her $2,000 out of pocket.  In December I had the same procedure at a cost to me of $215.    There is something seriously wrong with this picture.

Mind you, I don’t know much about health insurance.  I don’t even really understand my coverage, or the difference between Part A and B and C and whatever.  When I have questions or problems I contact my insurance agent, who does understand all the things that confuse me.  

But I do think that there is something seriously broken in our health care system if someone who is really pretty healthy had medical bills that exceeded my annual salary - and because of my insurance coverage less than 1/4 of the billed amount actually had to be paid.  I mean, how is that even possible?  What if I had been really sick?  Or been in an accident? 

And what about that $23,524 that neither the insurance company nor I had to pay?  Are those legitimate charges that go unpaid or just seriously inflated so they will get what they actually should charge everyone from the insurance companies?