I have spent the entire morning making phone calls to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and gardeners. Am I having a crisis? No. I simply changed doctors … and incidentally, changed medical networks … or partially changed networks because I’m keeping my cardiologist and associated hospital, but my new primary guy uses an entirely different network and hospitals.

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While the world is busily announcing all these great 24th century style ways of diagnosing and connecting patients and medical records … I can’t get Beth Israel in Boston to send a copy of my medical records to UMass Memorial in Worcester.

I can’t even get my previous PCP to send my records from his office in Needham to the new guy’s office in Douglas.

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Pleasure? Surely we can make this stuff simpler? Everyone is being nice. We are all kind, polite. Lots of pleases and thank yous … yet somehow, the important information which ought to be flying through the ether … isn’t.

But the gardening people? They already came this morning and dug out that catalpa which was determined to root in my well. I’m sorry catalpa, but I couldn’t let you do that. I notice they took you away, so maybe you will be reborn in a better location where you can be loved and wanted.

Pleasure? I’d be happy to not have to spend half a day untangling this stuff. Surely we can do better than this?



If you’re on Medicare, that’s the message you’re getting.

Paul Ryan wants to bring back allowing insurance companies to refuse insurance based on pre-existing condition. In other words, if you’re really sick, you definitely won’t get medical help. He also wants to eliminate additional help for people with serious illnesses who need expensive medications and long-term care. Way to go Ryan. What a guy.

medicare__estelle_carol___bob_simpsonIf this stuff were to actually go into effect, a lot of people will die. I’m very likely to be one of them. Our death certificates won’t say “killed by their government,” but that will be the truth. Nine years ago, I almost died because I didn’t have medical insurance. I got lucky. I was saved by a great doctor and his hospital who performed the surgery I needed. If not for them, I wouldn’t be writing this or anything else.

Even without any additional cuts, out-of-pocket expenses of Medicare have been going up annually. Ever-higher deductibles and premiums and the massive doughnut hole in prescription coverage keeps going up … while Social Security doesn’t. Many of the most fundamental, critical medications aren’t covered at all — emergency and other inhalers for asthma sufferers, nitroglycerin, newer antibiotics. This year, I did not get a CAT-scan as part of my cancer check up. I haven’t had a scan for three years because I can’t afford it.

Vaccinations are no longer a medical expense either. Instead, they are now classed as prescription medication and fall under Medicare Part D. Of course, none of the prescription plans actually cover vaccinations — except for flu shots. They’re free. Anything else will cost you. Hundreds of dollars. It’s cheaper to let us get sick — maybe we’ll die and save even more money — than vaccinate us against preventable diseases. Millions might avail themselves of preventative measures (we are old, not stupid), but many fewer will contract the illness. It’s all about the good old bottom line.


Ever since I turned 65, it’s been a downhill slide.

The day I turned 65, I was dumped by MassHealth (Medicaid). I hoped I’d be protected by my disabled status. I’d been on disability for years which was why I was entitled to MassHealth.

No problem getting around that. Social Security reclassified (sound familiar?) me as not disabled and switched me to standard Social Security. This eliminated the extra protection and medication support I’d been getting.

“Why don’t you just die already?”

Social Security and Medicare is not charity. This is money we paid into the system during our working years. It is an entitlement as in “we are entitled to that money.” Because it is our own money supposedly being returned to us. As promised.

They took our money and promised it would be our safety net when we were no longer able to work. When they make cuts to Medicare and Social Security, they are stealing our money. Remember that when you hear the rhetoric.


I have been depressed. Not that dark “can’t get out of bed” depression that some people get and that I have also experienced. This is the slow, grinding depression that accompanies having a lot of stuff to do that I don’t want to do.

As a start, I have to change doctors. Granted I’m not thrilled with my current doctor. He’s not a particularly caring, supportive guy … and he is far away. I will only go to see him if I’m sick enough to be afraid I’ll die … but that alone probably wouldn’t motivate me to change. It’s that my doctor is changing “groups” and the group to which he is moving doesn’t accept our insurance. So, I have to find another doctor.


If you don’t have a doctor, you can always take a hike

General practitioners or “family doctors” are in short supply. Of all the specialties, they are the most necessary yet the lowest paid. They carry the heaviest patient loads and burn out fast. The shortage of these basic providers is a national crisis. It’s worst in thinly populated areas. Big practices are mostly clustered around larger cities and we aren’t a city. We’re also short of good surgeons and all kinds of specialists. They make so much better money in Boston and there are good research and teaching hospitals there. Any big city offers better choices, medically for both doctors and patients.

All my whining notwithstanding, I have to change doctors. A lot of paperwork is required, including providing a full list of all my prior surgeries, illnesses, etc. Such a bummer. I don’t remember all the surgeries. I don’t remember the names of the doctors who performed them and in many case, the exact name of the surgery or in what country or state it was performed.

This isn’t because I’m old. It’s because there have been so many over the years.

Above and beyond remembering what happen, where, when, and who was involved … I am not exactly thrilled to revisit the experiences. There are a lot of rancid memories that go with this stuff and having to dredge it up again makes me sad. I don’t even remember the name of my heart surgeon and that was just two years ago.

Medical marijuana

Regardless, I need to take care of it immediately. There is some good news in the midst of the not-so-good stuff. I think this guy may be a better doctor than the one I’ve got … and his office is a mere few miles down the road. It will be very nice to have a doctor (again) to whom I can go without driving 60 miles through heavy traffic!

Meanwhile, before I do all the paperwork, I have to go to the dentist. I need a crown for a crumbling tooth. I’ve lost so many teeth, I cannot afford to lose another. I also have to figure out how to pay for it, since Medicare doesn’t cover teeth. Or hearing. Or vision. Or, for reasons best known to someone who isn’t talking, asthma medicine. I have — such an irony — tons of credit. That takes care of the dentist, but I have to then pay off the credit and that’s trickier. Fixed incomes are — well — inflexible.

medicare confusionWhatever is right with America, our health care system is pathetic … yet it’s far better than it was before President Obama.

Forgive me if this isn’t my best or cheeriest day. Today is full of purpose and a head-throbbing determination on my part to take care of business. Mostly, I want it to be over.



Am I healthy? Is that the same as “not dead yet?”

Medical marijuanaWe all need a good whine now and then, don’t we? I mean … what’s the point in all this blogging if we cannot occasionally snivel and moan about how hard done by we are. Right?

The problem with doctors is that as far as they are concerned, if the tests they run don’t show up as abnormal, you’re fine. No matter how much you hurt, no matter how miserable you may feel, you are fine. Just fine. If your heart beats and your blood pressure does not make the cuff explode, you are fine.

If every single joint in your body is throbbing and you’ve got a five-day migraine that seems to be heading for a world record for migraine longevity, but no test shows anything wrong with you?

You are fine. Remember that.

I’m fine. How are you?



Bishop, our oldest dog … a gorgeous, shaggy Australian Shepherd … had a nasty infection in his foot. It had been there off and on for a long time. Mostly on, rarely off. I’d taken him to the vet several times and he’d had multiple rounds of high-powered oral antibiotics.


But the infection was back. Again. With a vengeance. The antibiotics knocked it down temporarily, but never knocked it out. As soon as the prescription finished, a few days would pass and the paw would be red, raw, swollen, and obviously painful.


I didn’t see the point in another trip to the vet or more antibiotics. The vet had no idea what was causing the infection or what would cure it.


I was feeling that particular kind of helplessness one feels when a pet is sick — and not getting better. When you’ve done everything you can think to do … and it isn’t working. Being me, I had to do something, however ineffectual or lame, so I slathered his paw with over-the-counter triple action antibiotic cream. The stuff I keep in the house for my own and Garry’s cuts and bruises.

Bishop Almost Christmas

The next day, the paw looked nearly perfect. Most of purple mottling and swelling was gone. I slathered the paw again that morning and a second time in the evening. The next day, there was no sign of infection. Unable to believe I had somehow cured an antibiotic-resistant infection with an over-the-counter remedy, I kept applying the cream to his paw for another few days. Then, when there was no sign of returning infection, I stopped. And waited.

When the frame is completely full, your picture is by definition in the middle!

Three weeks later, his paw looks normal. No limping. He will let me hold the paw and examine it without any sign of discomfort. He had that infection for more than a year. I despaired of curing him, yet in less than a week, it’s gone. My son wonders if maybe, that was all Bishop needed in the first place. Antibiotic cream applied directly to the infection site rather than oral antibiotics. Hard to argue, considering the outcome.

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Talk about a Hail Mary pass, this was a classic. I did it because there was nothing else I could think of to do.  It worked. If it weren’t me, I wouldn’t believe it either.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Pets

cee's fun foto chall







No one covers asthma medication anymore. A while ago, insurance companies universally decided to stop covering medication to prevent asthma attacks. Most of us don’t have the medication anymore.


We buy emergency inhalers because they cost around $50 — without insurance. The daily medication which would prevent the need for an emergency inhaler is about $500 for a month’s supply. No one I know can afford it, so we don’t have it.

Breathing, it turns out, is not medically necessary.


Vision is medically optional. Most insurance will cover a routine annual eye exam. A few will cover part of the cost of a pair of single vision eyeglasses per year. That’s pretty much it. If you need bifocals, or anything other than one cheap pair of corrective lenses, that’s too bad.



Teeth falling out? Need a root canal? Tough luck. Your teeth are entirely cosmetic (bet you didn’t know this!) and therefore, are not covered by medical insurance. You can buy private insurance, but it covers less than half the actual cost of most dental procedures (usually a lot less than half) … and it’s expensive. It is never part of standard medical insurance. They don’t cover dentures either.



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No one covers hearing aids, probably because they are extremely expensive. Thousands of dollars and the average lifespan is four to seven years, after which you need another set. If you are a state or federal employee, or you lost your hearing while serving in the military, you are probably covered. If you are anyone else?

I’m sorry. What did you say? Could you speak up please?

Private insurance plans sometimes offer riders which will cover corrective lenses and basic dental work — a cleaning, x-rays, and a filling. Maybe. Not a root canal or a crown.

No one covers hearing aids.

Classifying hearing, seeing, and anything in your mouth as “non-medical and cosmetic” is standard in the insurance industry. It saves them billions of dollars a year … and leaves you with a bill you probably can’t pay.

What’s the solution? Don’t be old. Or poor.  Especially, don’t be both.



Today, after having postponed this appointment three times, I finally went for my annual checkup with the oncologist.


I like my oncologist. He’s a very pleasant, easy-going, friendly guy. Low key. Not an alarmist. Sensitive and sensible. But, in the end, he’s the one who will tell me if I have cancer. Again.

So, as much as I like the guy, I’m not eager to see him. Too much history.

I’ve been doing well. I’ve got more energy than I used to, probably because of all the heart surgery a couple of years ago and having a pump that actually is delivering oxygen to my body. I think my breast bone has finally knitted. I no longer hear it grinding when I move.

Fake breasts

My double round of breast cancer is now 5-1/2 years past. This makes me an official survivor. I have no symptoms, no lumps, no nothing. I have exactly the same chance of getting some (new) kind of cancer as anyone. Maybe a little higher because it runs in my family, but basically, I am (finally) regular folks.

If you think of “refresh” as that thing you do on your computer monitor to clear up garbage and update your open apps? Today was my “refresh.”

I’m clean. My panel of tests are spot on normal. The lab lady found a live vein on the first stab, too!

It doesn’t get better than this.