Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Experience with Socialized Medicine

I realized recently that I had been the recipient (victim?) of socialized medicine. During my 22 plus years in the Marine Corps the health care that my family and I received was provided by the government, was free, and the practitioners were not motivated by financial gain. While as a general rule the care that I received was pretty good, I think that was principally due to the dedication and professionalism of the sailors and Naval officers who provided it even though they didn’t benefit beyond the salary that Uncle Sam deposited into their respective accounts on the 1st and the 15th of the month. This salary was much lower than that received by their civilian counterparts – but I don’t recall that any of them complained. However I wanted to provide a couple of anecdotes:
My first visit to a Navy dentist resulted in him breaking one of my teeth. He said that I had a cracked filling and when he drilled it out, he broke my tooth. I was at a training command and the office was a dental factory rather than a typical dental office. He piled silver on what was left of my tooth rather than give me a proper crown. That was cheaper, faster, and it didn’t require that he see me again. Problem solved. For the next 20+ years the only thing that I could eat that didn’t get stuck in the resulting gap was ice cream.
Most of the rest of my visits went pretty well. An appointment would be scheduled for an hour. I would show up, rarely did I wait very long, and the dentist would attend to whatever my issue was. It didn’t seem strange to me at the time, but the dentist was with me the whole time. He checked me out, determined what needed to be done, gave me the Novocain, chatted with me while it took effect and then fixed my teeth. It was only after I saw a for-profit outfit hum that I noticed the difference.
My current dentist is actually a former army dentist. In his office, there is a waiting room and then three exam/treatment rooms. All three treatment rooms have a patient in them all the time. If you are there when they open up in the morning, there are two other patients there as well. There is a constant stream of people in and out of that office. Part of that is because there are good people there who are trying very hard – the other reason is that none of those people get paid to entertain me. There is a system at work and technically qualified and hard working people feed you into process. It is like clockwork. The doctor only does those things that require his skill and expertise – everything else is done by wonderful people who no doubt make less money than he does. I see him every time I visit, but sometimes it is only for a few minutes. He replaced that monstrosity that the first Navy dentist perpetrated on my mouth with a state-of-the-art ceramic crown that they made right there in the office.
That operation is everything that the military system wasn’t. It is efficient, personal, and fast. My dentist delivers better care, faster, than any other three military dentists combined. I don’t think that he cares any more than those Navy officers who saw me did but he is motivated by profit. They deliver great care partly because they want me to come back. There are lots of dentists around, but I come back because I like this one. I like the lady that cleans my teeth even though I joke with her that I would rather be water boarded. The ladies that check me in remember my name, file the insurance claim, and check my records to make sure that I’m paid up to date.
I get my way too. He provided me with choices about how to approach the 20+ year old botched tooth repair. He has long stopped bothering me about flossing. He knows that I think it is for sissies and so he brings me in a little more frequently for Ms. Water-board to torture me. I pay a price for that in pain, time, and dollars as my dental plan doesn’t cover the extra annual visit. I don’t care – flossing is for sissies. The military ripped out all of my wisdom teeth – I can’t help but wonder if this guy might have saved them.
Non-government, for-profit medicine is the only way to go. Get the damn government out of health care and we will all be the better for it.
Conservative Resistance - 283

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