Health Care Doesn’t Care: An Old Folks’ Hospital Diary (Part One)


The American health care system is designed to make sure that old people get attended to in a sensitive, cost-efficient manner that humanely suits their needs. That’s one theory.

Let me explain my bitterness. A while ago, my old father fell in the house and my almost-as-ancient mother tried to catch him and tumbled too. Hilarious! They ended up in a hospital—let’s call it Lutheran—where mom stayed for rehab, while dad was moved to a rest home across the street (part of the same complex) for his own rehabilitation. But I was assigned the most demanding workout of all. Right away, the home’s admission staff urged me to sign a mountainous stack of papers, mostly forms assuring that they’d get paid by any means necessary. (I nobly signed some of them.) They also made me autograph something saying the insurance provider just added a lovely $125 a day copay after a six-day stay! I reluctantly did so while thinking that Michael Moore was right to think the most harrowing movie you could make is about people who DO have insurance.

Oh, well, I thought. At least dad will be privy to all the medical services he needs. After all, this is a hospital complex and everything will be readily available, right? Think again, honey. When my father had to get the monthly injection required for his prostate condition, we had to pick up the drug at a freakin’ Rite Aide, arrange for an ambulette (which you pay for in cash), get dad to his regular doctor’s office to get the injection, then wait for the ambulette to come back and return him to the home. By the end of that ordeal, he looked like he’d fallen five more times.

(To be continued tomorrow. . .)

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 5, 2008

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