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Rant: Our healthcare system is totally broken

November 16, 2011

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I don’t rant about non-tech stuff often but I am fuming right now and this is the place to let off some steam. I have been experiencing the healthcare system in the US for a long time, and the longer I participate the more I realize just how broken the system is.

I am a Type 2 diabetic like millions in the US. I was diagnosed a decade ago and have been successfully treating it with the help of a good endocrinologist. Until two months ago, when I was told by this doctor’s staff upon arrival for my standard quarterly visit that my health insurance was no longer accepted. I was shocked by this unexpected change, and left untreated.

This put me on a quest to find a new endocrinologist who specializes in diabetes. I figured that wouldn’t be difficult given the constant news that millions have the disease. Silly me.

What I found was that even in a large city like Houston, there aren’t enough of these specialists to go around. The practices that specialize in this treatment are full, and everywhere I turned I was told that no new patients are being accepted.

While my search was ongoing, I was going through the last of my prescribed medications for diabetes, running out of one after another. Eventually I was down to standard insulin, and began using it alone to keep my glucose level under some semblance of control.

Today I finally badgered an endocrinologist’s office to accept me as a new patient. The caveat was it would be three weeks before I could be seen. I explained to them that was fine, but I had exhausted all of the medications I have been using successfully for 10 years, and had just run out of insulin; my glucose level would quickly be at a dangerous level. It was explained to me that prescribing me even insulin was out of the question before seeing me the first time. If my glucose level reached a dangerous level then I would have to go to the emergency room for treatment.

I understood their stance on this, but it didn’t help me at all. So I called the cardiologist who has been treating me for a decade and explained the situation. I asked them to prescribe the insulin for me so I could last until the appointment with the endocrinologist in three weeks. They couldn’t do that since they are not treating me for the diabetes and they were not willing to assume liability for complications.

Again I could understand their position, but I was still in a very bad position. Then I remembered that standard insulin doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription, so I headed to my local pharmacy to get some, along with glucose monitor test strips to properly control the dosage.

Imagine my surprise when the insulin and test strips together cost me $200! The test strips alone were $125 per 100 (I use 4/day), and the insulin $70. These two items under prescription cost me maybe $20 total.

This clearly shows how broken our healthcare system is, when items cost so much without insurance. I doubt that my health insurance makes up that much of a price difference and can buy drugs and covered items for far less from the major pharmacies than they sell them to me, the patient without insurance. That is just wrong.

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From → Personal

9 Comments
  1. Bcreekski permalink

    Please call Baylor Clinic 713 798 1000. If you have problems, contact me.

  2. Bcreekski permalink

    Because you can get an appoinment with someone who can easily manage your diabetes.

  3. Josh permalink

    The health care system is broken, yes. It is life or death and that is were the got you. My mom is in the same position, payed in all this time and pretty much taking her social security check to pay for the medicine she need to stay alive.

  4. Kal permalink

    James, point well taken, but where are you buying test strips? I get Bayer Contour ones for my mom at $20/100 at Amazon. (They’re even cheaper if you put them on a subscription.)

  5. James, I let myself go untreated for 5-10 years with Type 2 until experiencing serious effects this past May and getting diagnosed. Since then, my A1C dropped to 6.0 in three months and is now closing in on 5.0 with fasting glucose regularly testing in the 90s. Morning after Thanksgiving, my fasting reading was 98. I am on Metformin, but what I really credit is Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes. Not saying the program will work as well for you, but I sure as hell would be trying something new, something beyond medication, in your place. The diet may seem strict, but there’s no portion tracking and it is independent of exercise.
    http://www.nealbarnard.org/diabetes_book.htm

  6. Thanks Sumo. I’ve never heard of this diet but I have now. I will check it out and see how it might work for me. Do you ever deviate from this diet? That seems to be my trouble is sticking religiously to a given diet.

    • I haven’t yet deviated by more than a few bitefuls every now and then. I have eased more sweets into my routine after going sweet-free the first couple months, but that’s my own restriction for kick starting the routine.

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