Ben Casey. Marcus Welby, MD. Dr. Kildare. St. Elsewhere. Grey’s Anatomy. Scrubs. House. ER. Nurse Jackie. Medical Center. Nip/Tuck. EMERGENCY, General Hospital. I could go on.
TV Shows about doctors. Shows about hospitals. Shows about emergency rooms. Shows with really attractive medical professionals (shout out to St. Elsewhere with Denzel (this is a black blog, I don’t need to use his last name) and Mark Harmon and ER with Julianna Margulies and George Clooney). Shows with rescues. Shows with sympathetic characters. Shows with people with diseases that nobody ever heard of . Bossy nurses. Mischievous orderlies. Cranky maintenance men. Confused and exhausted interns. Penny pinching administrators. As you can tell from the list, I have been watching medical shows for decades.
Have you ever noticed that there are no shows about health insurance? There’s a reason for that.
Health insurance isn’t sexy. Or funny. Or entertaining. Or interesting. But one thing is for sure–it can introduce a hell of a lot of drama in our lives. Especially when you have a chronic disease like diabetes.
My sister was a type 1 diabetic and her disease was very poorly managed during most of her life. Before she died at the age of 47, she had several unfortunate experiences with the healthcare/health insurance industry. One that stands out in my mind is the night she was discharged from the hospital during a bitterly cold snowstorm. Why? Because her insurance (Medicaid) would not pay for another day in the hospital. She was left in a wheelchair in the lobby, too weak to even get out of the chair.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater. I really have no problem with my insurance company. My beef is with how complicated it is for people to navigate the insurance/healthcare system. It shouldn’t be so expensive and so complicated in a nation as wealthy as the United States of America for people to receive high quality healthcare without having to make a million phone calls and be stressed out about constantly changing rules and payment conditions. And hospitals should not abandon their mission to provide quality care in order to say “how high” when the insurance company tells them to jump.
Another topic television writers ignore is the doctor being, shall we say, underinformed. Let me preface this by saying that my doctor is a great guy. He’s smart, earnest, hardworking and easy on the eyes. But by no means is he always right. To his credit, he always listens to my crazy, I mean innovative, ideas about how to manage my condition. He has never questioned my intelligence or judgement and while he may caution me on some actions I am taking, he allows me the latitude to exercise autonomy over my body without any back talk. I think I’ll keep him around for a while longer.
But while I found a good physician, many in the black community are dealing with doctors who don’t know very much about Type 2 diabetes, are not up to speed on the latest treatments or nutritional information, and they catch an attitude when told about something that read on the internet. Many people are informed that they have diabetes, handed a scrip and told to stay away from sugar. If they are “lucky” they will be referred to a certified diabetes educator (CDE). Or the American Diabetes Association website. Don’t get me started.
The cost of drugs and medical devices is a major issue in every community, particularly the black community. A recent article in the New Haven Register details the issues that some Connecticut residents have with paying for insulin.
My bigger concern is how the cost of prescriptions and medical devices are prohibitive for low income people. So many people have to choose between purchasing insulin and eating. Further, so many are unable to access the leading technology (insulin pumps, etc.) to manage their disease, and are stuck with treatment that is unaffordable and ineffective. It illustrates the appalling inequity as it pertains to access to healthcare in our country. The Affordable Care Act is a start, but does not go far enough.
We can put our voices to good use by speaking out on these issues. Americans may have the best healthcare in the world, but everybody doesn’t get to access it. That’s my biggest problem with healthcare.