Two experiences have made me think about the health care system and what the future might be. One has been seeing my father practically bankrupt his medical insurance company and himself with his chronic medical needs, and the second has been breaking my ankle this winter when my dog tripped me while I was cross-country skiing.
Someone said you could tell how bad the winters are by how long the lines are in the emergency room. This was certainly true the day I had to go see Dr. Bullock at Adirondack Medical Center in Lake Placid, the day of a big snowstorm that paralyzed the town. Stores and schools closed, and there was not a person on the street, but there was a long line of patients at the hospital.
AMC - with two hospitals, two nursing homes, two clinics and one separate rehabilitation center - is not only one of our biggest employers but a direly needed entity. We all depend on it at one time or another.
I was surprised, when I started rehabilitation for my ankle, at how many people I saw at rehab whom I knew and at what a busy place it was. Not only did I have a great doctor, nurses and staff for my surgery, but also the rehabilitation people were knowledgeable and professional.
What if this fragile state budget process resulted in losing these services? Where would we be? Hospitals and nursing homes have taken beatings before, but how will further cuts affect their future?
My advice to young people is to get into the health care field, especially in this area; an abundance of baby boomers becoming seniors and bone-cracking winters offer lots of job opportunities. (Get a relative to pay for your medical school by promising them free office visits for life.)
My advice to the elderly is to design your home so you can stay in it as long as possible by making it handicap accessible. Perhaps have your bed in the center of the room and have within reach a freezer for microwavable dinners, an automatically timed prescription dispenser and a TV/computer to shop, pay bills and talk online. Then strap yourself to a bungee cord from a track in your ceiling, with a medical alert button around your neck to avoid falling in the bathroom when you do leave your bed. It sounds crazy now, but those are the kind of things I thought of as I was stuck in bed, healing.
On a more serious note, we need to tell our government representatives to enact real funding reforms for cutting costs without jeopardizing services. A 2 percent rate reduction and global spending cap would be challenging, but hopefully it would encourage reform of New York's Medicaid system in New York. Resolving nursing home reimbursement to protect the availability of care and malpractice reform are also needed.
My personal recommendation for cutting costs would be to share medical history electronically. Filling out numerous forms for different departments asking the same questions and then typing it into a computer and printing out sheets of paper just doesn't seem efficient. But hey, that's what I see everywhere, including here at the newspaper.