Why our healthcare system sucks

If you need to get your ear removed and attached to your back, if you’re on the brink of death and trying to stay alive, if you need a heart transplant — the U.S. healthcare system is the best in the world.

Then again, there are a lot of areas where they aren’t so great. Chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, cancer, or diabetes, for example, have mixed results at best, and at worst, they actually get exacerbated by the allopathic model.

To add to the problem, healthcare costs are rising at an alarming rate.  In fact, some projections show that healthcare could reach 20 percent of the nation’s GDP in just nine years.

Not every fix is going to be easy. But for lowering costs, one of the most crucial facets is reducing inefficiency.

Here’s a personal anecdote to illustrate. Nine months ago, I had my wisdom teeth pulled. The surgeon was competent and the swelling and soreness afterward were minimal.

Within a few weeks, however, I noticed that a pocket under the lower left side of my jaw had formed. I soon deduced it was infected. I took some antibiotics, and it went away for a while.

A few weeks later, it was back. Loath as I am to take pharmaceutical drugs more than I absolutely have to, antibiotics were again the only choice offered. And I assumed they would do the job.

They did. Or at least, they made the problem go away temporarily. Within a few weeks, the pocket was back, again.

After this, it never really went away. I saw the surgeon who had performed the original operation several times over several months, and each time he didn’t really see a problem but thought antibiotics would be the best route.

I insisted that all he needed to do was make a little incision and clean the thing out.  The lump was tiny, after all, and wouldn’t have been difficult to do.  But he refused.

Now, I should note here, this guy didn’t even feel the pocket under my jaw.  Each time he asked maybe two questions at most, barely glanced at my jaw, and then issued his opinions.

After a few visits like this, he gave up trying entirely and told me to see a specialist.

From there, I saw a handful of other doctors, each of whom told me to see someone else about the issue.  All this time, the pocket got larger and more infected and more painful, even as the doctors told me there was really nothing to worry about.

Finally, I found an ear, nose, and throat specialist who, after two appointments and a completely unnecessary and expensive MRI, agreed to perform the surgery, even though he didn’t think anything was wrong.

By this time, the pocket under my jaw had practically fused itself to my jaw and was twice its original size.  I would have to be completely put under.

The procedure seemed to go successfully, if I dare say so just a day afterward.  And as it turns out, the doctor informed me after the surgery that the pocket was, in fact, infected, and that it should have taken out a long time ago.

Funny, because that’s what I was saying eight months, four doctors, a dozen appointments, and several thousand dollars ago.

Blessedly, I am one of those fortunate enough to have health insurance which will cover at least part of these expenses.  Yet I’m still going to end up paying way more than I should have to.  In fact, we all do, thanks to my case.

A few months ago, this issue was simple enough that it could have been taken care of in ten minutes or less with a local anesthetic and a scalpel.

But because of how ridiculously inefficient the system has become, this tiny pocket under my jaw became a rather large pocket, and over the course of nine months, became a perfect example of how our healthcare system doesn’t work.

Now, I don’t want to leave this on a note of gloom. We shouldn’t resign ourselves to a system that doesn’t serve us very well. Instead, we can take anecdotes like these as points of reference for what we don’t want, then start to focus our attention on what does work. Focus on what we want to see, and then demand more of that and less of the other.

For example, the hospital that performed my surgery — they were kind, considerate, and professional.  That, coupled with the fact that I went into the surgery laughing and joking and determined to keep smiling, made the whole experience not quite so bad, even after all the crap that came before it.