As I sit at home with the flu, I am gaining a new appreciation for how cut throat the bureaucracy in medicine is. For those who don’t know, I am a ‘Fellow’ in the subspecialty of Hematology & Oncology. This means I finished medical school, specialized in internal medicine, board-certified in internal medicine, and chose to go on to further sub-specialty training. I.e. I’m a doctor.
I had what seemed like a simple sore-throat on Monday morning, which has since turned into a full blown assault on my body. I am talking about headache, myalgia, high grade fever, chills, nausea, and diarrhea. The full monty if you will. Naturally, I called out sick. In this case, I should be the last person who should be making executive medical decisions for patients.
I get an e-mail saying it’s corporate policy for me to file FMLA paperwork if absent for ≥3 days due to illness, and get clearance from occupational health before I return to work — keep in mind I am still very sick, and feel like I’m dying in slow motion. I look like shit for lack of a better word.
So I call Occ-med, and the nurse politely asks me if I’ve seen a doctor. I reply, no. She asks my why I haven’t seen a doctor. I replied, well I am a doctor, it seems like the flu and I’m managing myself conservatively. But that wasn’t the full story. I would’ve gone to see the doctor within the first 48 hours I felt sick, I would’ve taken oseltamivir (Tamiflu) — if I could’ve afforded it. You see, despite being signed up with the highest level of plan offered to physicians “in training”, I have a $600 deductible that highly discourages me to use my health benefits.
In training most physicians are paid less than minimum wage, work inordinately long hours and do damn hard work. I don’t make much, my wife — who is also a resident physician makes even less, and is saddled with 6 figure loans. So, you see I can’t afford going to the doctor because, I will have to shell out $600 before the insurance company does what it’s supposed to do.
This is how it is for a doctor in America, who has an education, a full time job, and health insurance — whatever that is.
So as I sit here, drenched in my own sweat and mucus, aching from head to toe…
Take pause and think for a second.
What about the others?
Is this the way it’s supposed to be?
Fund the government, impeach the president, and enshrine universal health care as an inalienable right for American citizens.