Thursday, November 09, 2006

Second Opinion: Having skin cancer on Medicaid sucks eggs

"Hummmm...." said my dermatologist. "It looks like you have a pre-cancerous skin condition...." Oh dear.

Here's the story:

I went for a routine physical check-up last spring and my primary care physician wanted me to go to a dermatologist for a second opinion on whether or not I had basal cell skin cancer on my face. Okay. I will have a dermatologist check it out then I'll get treated. No problem. We live in the age of modern medicine. A little bit of skin cancer should be no big deal.

Unfortunately, things didn't exactly go that way. Yes, modern medicine in America really IS wonderful -- but health care insurance in America is still back in the Dark Ages. Fortunately, however, I am lucky enough to be insured by Medicaid -- as compared to nothing.

My primary doctor then gave me a referral. This was eight months ago. Apparently there is only one dermatologist in our entire county that takes Medicaid and he was booked up solid for the next six months.

But finally my appointment time came. Well. That was an interesting experience. The dermatologist runs a Medicaid clinic on Tuesday afternoons only -- out of the goodness of his heart. I walked into his office building only to discover that the entire second-floor hallway, his entire reception area and his entire waiting room were filled to the brim with Medicaid patients.

I waited my turn.

Finally the dermatologist saw me. "We will do chemotherapy on your face," he told me, "which will cause you to break out in hideous lesions and terrible sores. And oh, by the way, you don't have anything going on in your life in the next few months, do you? Anything where you need to look nice?" Er, no.

I then got a prescription for some EXYREMELY toxic stuff called Efudex which basically eats away at your face. "Remember," instructed the dermatologist, "that this is a chemotherapy chemical that is highly poisonous if ingested by mouth or by membrane. Do NOT let it get near your eyes, nose or mouth!" I nodded, took the prescription and went home to poison myself and disfigure my face.

Why was I given a tube of terrible chemicals that would endanger my life and make me look like a leper? Because the alternative cure -- several sessions of quick-freezing the harmful cells with a dry-ice spray -- was too time-consuming to be practical when a dermatologist is being forced by economic considerations (and the kindness of his heart) to see over a hundred Medicaid patients in one afternoon.

So. What's my point? That I'm too vain to look like a swamp creature for two months? That I'm too much of a chicken-hearted wimp to endure unbearable pain? That I deserve what I get because my job doesn't come with health benefits?


My point is that now that the Democrats have control of Congress, can we PLEASE have decent health care in America? Please?

A decent single-payer health care plan would cost much MUCH less than the nightmare system we now have. Plus it would help doctors, patients and employers instead of insurance companies and bureaucrats. And, if the Democrats HURRY, it might even save my face!