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On a Roll

By Paul Bendix

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About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Medical Madness

Uploaded: Apr 18, 2014
The American healthcare 'system' is a kind of madness. And even a marginal improvement could make a big difference. That's why I'm sympathetic to Obamacare.

My sympathies lie with the millions of Americans who are uninsured or poorly insured. I am extremely lucky, having (through my wife) excellent medical protection. But what kind of nation allocates healthcare on the basis of such flukes as marriage or employment?

Or puts up with the inefficiencies of major healthcare insurers. Take, for example, durable medical equipment, a.k.a., my wheelchair. Here, my policy covers virtually everything. The wheelchair itself, spare parts and service.

With the late spring rains, my wheelchair began skidding. My repair guy told me to buy some new tires. These are expensive, but Blue Shield covers them, so I set off down the insurance road.

First, I contacted my doctor. He authorized the new tires overnight. But that's just him. Some person or persons at my clinic reviewed this request. A week later, I got an authorization letter. So did the wheelchair repair company. End of story? Hardly.

Next the wheelchair repair guys had to "bid" on the tire replacement. And it took, oh, about two weeks...to submit an estimate and get a final (sort of) approval from Messrs. Blue Shield. So three, almost four, weeks into this saga, I emailed the repair guys to ask what was happening with my wheelchair repair. Good news. The tires had been ordered.

We are now into week five. The tires apparently have not arrived. No work has been scheduled. I'm hoping that by week six or seven, I'll actually get some new tread on my wheels.

When healthcare pundits allege that insurance companies account for 25-30% of our nation's medical costs, I'm normally skeptical. But, no, this figure seems entirely plausible. For the nation, the drain on resources, the amount of money sucked out of the consumer economy and into the healthcare economy...it boggles the mind.

Incidentally, cuts to Medi-Cal have shut down local medical equipment companies in recent years. Only a handful of providers remain. There's less competition than ever. Which may explain why my wheelchair repair guys aren't in any hurry. Actually, no one is – except me.
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