Saturday, May 27, 2006


I spent Thursday afternoon with my new Kaiser doctor asking about three things: a lump on my foot, red patches on my neck and possible hearing loss.

The red patches, she said, are probably my old friend Rosacia coming back to haunt me. The lump? Probably a cyst. She sent me for an x-ray. The hearing loss? She sent me to the hearing center.

This was magic to me. Why? For years, I was enrolled in HealthNet, which has become stricter and cheaper over the last three years. At age 56 and with a family history of osteoperosis, HealthNet wouldn't authorize a bone density test. When I got a bad rash and a scaly patch on my face, I had to wait three months for an appointment with a HealthNet dermatologist who diagnosed the Rosacia (by then pretty yucky) and said the scaly patch was nothing.

An uncle of mine died of skin cancer. Knowing the patch didn't look like "nothing", I paid out-of-pocket for a local dermatologist who told me, "Oh that's pre-cancerous." And she burned it off with liquid nitrogen immediately.

Two of my co-workers have also switched to Kaiser. One has lifetime diabetes and was getting nickled and dimed on every monthly Rx he requested. After 35 years, he knew what he needed. And HealthNet wouldn't cover syringes.

The other co-worker's daughter has serious asthma and HealthNet was cutting back on her doctor's visits as well as her medication. The mom got sick of seeing her daughter's hands turn blue during attacks and switched to Kaiser. Her daughter is now in school in Southern Cal, but she can get her meds by mail--ahead of time. There's a concept.

So to get an x-ray immediately and get a reference to a hearing center without a struggle or wait was terrific for me. People complain about Kaiser, but I see it as a model for the National Health Care we should all have.

Almost 20 years ago, I moved to Japan where I was immediately signed up for National Health Care, citizen or not. Japanese people assumed we had this in prosperous America. They were shocked to learn that if an American doesn't have health insurance, s/he is out of luck. Twenty years later we still don't have it and the only time the government discusses it is before elections. After elections, no one mentions it.

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