Dialysis, Disability and Weasels

With all of the talk in the United States about reforming healthcare I thought that I would take a few minutes and share about my experience with one segment of it. In 1990 my first wife Ellen was hospitalized for 10 weeks with heart and kidney (renal) failure. It was at that time when I was introduced to the world of hemodialysis. Here are a few words about the process from the wiki:
In medicine, hemodialysis is a method for removing waste products such as creatinine and urea, as well as free water from the blood when the kidneys are in renal failure. ... The hemodialysis machine pumps the patient's blood and the dialysate through the dialyzer. ... The dialyzer is composed of thousands of tiny synthetic hollow fibers. The fiber wall acts as the semipermeable membrane. Blood flows through the fibers, dialysis solution flows around the outside the fibers, and water and wastes move between these two solutions. The cleansed blood is then returned via the circuit back to the body.
Ellen was introduced to this life-saving procedure in the hospital and had several operations to install a (sort of) permanent catheter in her upper body. This catheter was used three times a week in the dialysis process to clean her blood - the process took about four hours and was a bit of a nuisance.. albeit a lifesaving one.

Ellen eventually was released from the hospital to the care of a dialysis clinic where she received treatment three days a week in an environment similar to the above photo. Since she was weak we had to employ a specialized taxi service to transport her to and from the clinic.. the driver "Hub" was a God-send during the next four years.. he caringly and faithfully got Ellen to the clinic in his van.. I still remember him with much fondness and gratitude.

It was during this time that I was told that my insurance company would not be covering my wife's dialysis after the first year. It seems that in 1972 the US Congress created a government-sponsored entitlement for endstage renal disease. What this effectively did was transition the responsibility for insurance coverage from the private sector to Medicare. My top-dollar weaselly insurance company had been bailed out by the government and I now had to deal with Medicare for all of Ellen's medical coverage.

Looking back I am glad that Medicare was there for my wife when weaselly private insurance bailed on her. I guess this is a pretty normal phenomenon - when a person is disabled and begins to receive disability payments from Social Security medical insurance coverage is transferred from weaselly private companies to Medicare. After all we cannot expect private weaselly insurance companies to make good on their promise to cover us when things go wrong. Or maybe have we just gotten used to the conduct of weasels?

So I am wondering - Do you have any stories to share in this vein?


  1. I understand that your first wife got good care and comfort-- but with my wife and her congestive heart failure and breathing problems, Medicare messed her up royally--disqualifying her from using their own CPAP machine, so that I had to hurry up and buy a new one for $650.! Please see my latest blog post.

    Tom S
    Jesus is Lord.

  2. Bob, if you haven't been over to Enchanted Oak's blog for a bit, you should. Chris is just emerging from a medical nightmare concerning her Alzheimer's afflicted mom.

    Weasels everywhere!

  3. US government health care is the finest in the world. Every medical issue is promptly addressed. It is totally free, and patients have no paperwork to fill out.
    At least this is true if you are a prisoner. Currently, there are 2,424,279 prisoners (as of 2008) - at a medical cost of billions per year. And yes, people have robbed banks in order to get caught so they could get a free kidney transplant. We even pay for prisoner sex change operations. There are more US prisoners than there are men, women, and children in the whole city of Houston.
    With deserving and law abiding citizens hurting, shouldn’t we reexamine this whole issue? And as a cost related issue, we have gone over the 1 trillion dollar mark fighting the Middle Eastern wars. And what did we get for this after 9 years of fighting? We got Karzai threatening to go over to the enemy. And with announced pull-out dates, I think, unfortunately, it will all have been spent for nothing (“Hey, guys! Just lay low and wait for the end of August when the infidel troops leave – then will take over!”) Perhaps this war money would be better spent on healthcare.
    Adaption is a wonderful thing. Bob did it. My son Jonathan did it. But did you know our government has also done it? We have adopted and are now responsible for the economic development and nation building of: Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Pakistan, Yemen, and Qatar.
    And one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000 – that’s one thousand billion dollars) is earmarked for “Global Warming”, most of it slated to go to developing countries (China/Africa).
    But wait! There’s more! If you call right now, you will receive an additional 12,000,000 illegals added to government healthcare! Operators are standing by for you call. Hurry! This offer ends soon! (Scooze me for going a little nuts).

  4. Well there is a lot of talk of denial for insurance on pre-existing conditions. I was denied private care from a local company actually. Apparently PTSD is something they deny flat out on. As you know, the VA has me covered. However, I wanted to seek a more personal health care private plan for myself. Impossible.

    I will say this though. The last type of people I want in charge of my medical future is Kathleen. The free market encourages local doctors to innovate and find new ways to better treat. This new law.....from what I have read..kills competition and basically turns the innovator into a factory. BTW...what do student loans have to do with health care? Anyone see that?

    Offshore....yeah this is what we have needed for 20 years. Watch what one hand does, and then watch the other. You will see offshore drilling, and next is a major cap and trade tax. I have followed cap and trade styles in Europe. They are broke.

    when you go to the gas pump in 2 years....and you complain about the price...do some reasearch on your own for once people. Find out how much tax is levied on your gas. Find out how much NEW tax is levid on the refinery.

    India has no problem of making refineries and manufacturing gas to ship. It is always Americas fault isnt it?

  5. I agree with Leahey that prisoners should not be allowed to receive a government funded sex change operation - if they didn't get it done before going to jail why should the taxpayer pay for it after they go to jail. But, I don't think any state has paid for a prisoners sex change although some of them pay for hormone treatment especially if the prisoner was already taken hormones before being jailed.

    I've only had one problem with my insurance company which my doctor managed to successfully negotiate after two months.

    I was surprised on another occasion when I had an operation that was supposed to cost $18,000 but spent $59,000 because the operation left air inside my abdomen that caused an infection which put me in the hospital for 9 days. The original operation was reversed to ensure that the implant was not a contributing factor. So, my insurance company spent $59,000 so that I could spend a total of 10 days in the hospital on morphine and antibiotics. The surgeon and the doctor profitted very well and the failed inplant was never reported to the company that provided the implant nor did the implant company care to investigate the cause of the failure. If my mechanic repaired my car with the same poor performance as my surgeon, I wouldn't have paid more than the original repair quote. Perhaps my doctor and the hospital are not responsible for the infection but they were responsible to report it. My insurance company paid more than 3 times the surgical quote and didn't challenge the extra expense. The objective of the original surgery has never been completed and I've wondered how much they would charge if I went back to get it done.

  6. I can relate to a botched surgery Joe. Afterwards the surgeon's office called wanting my co-pay. I told the gal that I would be happy to pay them if the doctor would simply meet with me and answer some questions about the operation. She called back the next day saying that they were writing off my part. Doctors are usually pretty good but sometimes they are a bit weaselly.

  7. I've had very good experiences and very bad experiences with both medical providers and insurance companies.

    For over a year, after having surgery for a brain tumor, I had to have monthly injections that cost $7,000 each. There were a couple months where I had two injections. No cost to me because I had already paid the maximum out of pocket deductible.

    And prescriptions that retail for hundreds that I get for $15 or $25.

    I have some great docs, including the ones who have dealt with my tumor, and not so great ones like the one who misdiagnosed my infant son 20 years ago. He survived, but not without 4 surgeries. That reminds me. I have only the utmost gratitude and respect for Children's Hospital in Seattle.

    Of course, during the hiring process for all insurance companies, there is the mandatory medical examination where they check to see if the applicant has a furry tail. I know that they do hire some actual human beings too, because I've actually dealt with a few. But it's always a shock to encounter them.


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