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Saturday, August 08, 2009

I'm a Number in the Federal Health Machine

I forgot that it's that time of year again. Time for me to be counted, not by the census, but by the Veteran's Administration. You see, I was put into their system in July of 2003. Now, annually I need to be counted by them to make sure my local VA hospital gets funded for treating me.

I didn't make the appointment in July like I was supposed to, so in my weeks worth of mail I'm sure there is a frantic letter reminding me that I need to get it before August 31st (my actual retirement date). If, probably by the end of next week, I don't make an appointment I'll start getting phone calls reminding (badgering) me to get in.

This year we'll find out what happens when I don't make it by that day. I don't have a day off in my schedule until mid-September.

They call it an annual physical, but it's not. Physicals take more than 15 minutes, and consist of an exam, not asking me what my actual doctor has been doing for the last year. Most years they don't ask me about my service connected disabilities, the reason they are supposed to see me.

This illustrates one of the reasons I don't like government managed health care. It's not about providing good service, it's about numbers. You call in as many people as you can in an 8 hour day, talk to them for 15 minutes, and call it a "wellness check" and suddenly you are practicing preventive medicine, and "saving money for the system".

What you are actually doing is the same thing as public schools do on Attendance Day; getting your numbers up high enough to get more money from Uncle Sugar.

Direct government employees, like the VA doctors are trying to make a quota, they have to see X number of patients to justify their existence. Indirect doctors, like those who provide for Medicare or Medicaid need to see that number to make the abysmal reimbursement rates pay enough to cover the bills. Neither is as interested in providing good care as they are making ends meet, they don't have time to be interested.

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