Adventures in Medical Land
by Justin Hancock
What follows is going to be my way of verbally processing a recent experience and putting some questions out there, rather than having a definitive answer by the end. Last week I went for my yearly physical, which required me to take a bus through the DART Paratransit to be at my doctor’s office on time for my 9:30 AM appointment. The bus arrived at my house early, so I was on the bus and headed to the doctor by 8:05 or so. Now I feel that it’s important to know that I am not complaining about the bus being early specifically, rather I am just trying to indicate how the use of certain Medicaid related transportation services can commit someone to a very specific schedule and experience in their daily life.
I arrived at the doctor’s around 9:00, and for once was actually back in the examination room on time for my 9:30 appointment. Because of the volume of patients that my physician has to see related to his status as a doctor in the Medicaid system, I waited for a good 30 minutes to be seen and actually complete my physical examination. Between the visit with the doctor and the drawing of blood, my actual procedure took anywhere from 10-15 minutes. The time spent at the doctor was an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. Which, given my track record, was actually not too bad. My bus was scheduled to take me home between 11:15 and 11:45. By the time I was done at the doctor, it was just after 10:30, so I knew I was already waiting a minimum of an hour for my transportation to arrive. That’s when things got really fun.
I managed to find an out of the way, shady spot where I could avoid the awkwardness of waiting in the waiting room, and get some of my work done while I waited on my bus. Unfortunately, my paratransit ride back home ended up being an hour late picking me up. Which means, it didn’t arrive until just after noon. Then estimate another 30-40 minute ride home and it was nearly 1:00 when I arrived at my house. At this point I would understand if you were asking yourself, “Okay, besides moaning about your travel, what are you doing here?”
And this, my friends, is my larger point: if I can drive straight to my doctor’s office and be seen relatively promptly, then the whole experience should probably take me somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours, max. The experience I have just related to you, which at every level involves something related to Medicaid, took me somewhere north of 4 hours. Maybe almost 5. When you take into account that those on Medicaid are usually dealing with chronic conditions, which tend to make them more medically fragile, then the need for the doctor becomes all the more real. But because the doctor takes 4-5 hours for a 20 minute visit, I can tell you flatly that I am less likely to go unless the situation is critical.
So the takeaway for me is this: as we move into the drama of a presidential election, where healthcare is a central issue, lets bare in mind that we are dealing with real people who live real lives. Let us advocate for healthcare laws and government programs that allow people to be a sustainable part of the workforce, and contribute to the nation they are a part of. Let us also remember that when it comes to healthcare and common sense government programs, efficiency doesn’t just make sense, it can save lives too.