Friday, January 16, 2009

Cold continues; Health Care Comparison

I’ve decided I don’t like cold. I’ve been cold for several years now due to a medicine I take and this current cold weather spell simply isn’t helping a bit. Because of the cost of heating oil, we’ve cut back the heat a little in our house, and that isn’t making me happy, either.

Today should be similar to yesterday with highs only in the teens. Possibly the low teens at that. When I got up this morning my weather station said it was 12 below zero, but my computer said that it was 18 below wherever the Google thingy reads the temperature in my town. My station is dropping early this morning, though, as it now reads -14.

We in Southern Maine are getting off easily, relatively speaking, compared to northern portions of our state. There were some wind chill readings in the far north in the negative 40s and a wind chill advisory or warning has been posted for northern zones.

We’re all buttoned up here in our little home. Curtains are closed and we’re layered in clothing. We’re trying to keep the heat from burning too much oil, but at my age and condition we won’t allow it to get cold here if we can help it.

Poor Gator Golden doesn’t understand what’s going on, though. She loves to spend her idle time out on the breezeway where she can watch the world pass by, but it’s unheated so she’s kept in. And with the curtains pulled, she can’t see out when she hears something. Poor little girl.

Like most of you, we’ll all manage and get through this spell which right now looks like it will come to an end over the weekend. The weather gal on Ch. 6 this morning reads right over a report we’ll possibly get some measurable snow on Sunday, but then our temperatures should return to being somewhat balmy…in the twenties.

WCSH-TV, Channel 6, says there’s a consumer’s group attempting to get some legislation passed in Augusta that will allow consumers to compare medical prices of both doctors and hospitals. The group, Consumers for Affordable Healthcare,
says that if people have choices like neighboring states, the cost of health care will come down. The proposed legislation calls for internet listings of various procedures and what they procedures would cost at different hospitals.

For a lot of people, the web access might offer some help and give them choices. Is that a good thing in medical treatment? I don’t know. I’m an older person and have been using the same doctor for many, many years. I have him because he had joined a medical practice I first started using since the late 1960’s or early ‘70s. When my first doctor retired, I migrated to this new one and have been with him for at least 20 years.

Would I shop around for a new doctor? The answer to that one is a simple, definitive No. He knows me and all my little conditions and quirks and when I need to visit him, he already is aware of my whole body. He doesn’t hesitate one second to tell me something is beyond his expertise and send me to someone else he trusts.

That doesn’t need to happen often, but it’s assuring to know he knows his limitations and won’t try to bluff his way through anything strange. For example, I had a spine problem a while back and immediately was sent to a spine specialist who diagnosed the problem and arranged some relief. (That’s how I got started at the physical therapy place where my senior fitness program is held and where I continue to visit regularly twice a week.)

My good doctor sent me to another good place from where I was sent to a third. I might have been able to shop around and gotten less expensive treatment, but at what cost?

I already have done a cost analysis and comparison of the medical procedure I’m facing at the end of the month. I know how much Medicare spends on an average for an ICD implant in hospitals in Maine. Knowing that changes nothing. My procedure will be held at Maine Medical Center and that’s the only facility in Maine I would consider for any heart related situation. Its heart unit is ranked among the very best in the nation.

I think that my happiness with the hospital was solidified several years ago when I was there for multiple heart events. While recuperating in my room, another patient arrived for heart treatment; and he was there after being transferred there from another local hospital by that other hospital.

I think it’s probably an excellent idea to have the information available and that alone might get patients to shop and negotiate, but in the end, I, for one, will continue to go to doctors in which I have faith and hospitals that continue to be among the best.

More cold today and tomorrow, then some moderation for the weekend. Possibly several inches of snow may come in Sunday before we get into a warming trend next week as temperatures climb into the balmy twenties.


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