The Tipping Point


The sun is shining. The temperature is 8. The sun always shines in Central New York when it is beastly cold. I go with the Shepard’s Pie theory: the cloud cover, like mashed potatoes, seals in the warm. I do realize that this theory only works if you believe that heat comes from the Earth not the sun, but I’m okay with living in a fantasy world. You’re invited to join me.

It is only 11:00 a.m. and I AM ALL CLEANED UP. Yes. Seriously. Not only am I all cleaned up but also the apartment is all tidied up. Really! Of course, I’m not unpacked but that’s a different matter from daily tidying up. I even put all my clean pajamas and sweaters on the bed and folded them up, which I never could do BYB (Before the Year of the Beast). I have lower-back arthritis—or so they say—and the pain used to be unbearable.

So where did the pain go? How can I do today what I couldn’t do a year ago? Well, it certainly wasn’t because I’m taking pain killers—at least not the pill kind. Here’s what I have been doing at least once every week:
• Lymph massage
• Psychotherapy
• Craniosacral massage
• Acupuncture
• Diabetic diet
• Lightbox therapy
• Chiropractic adjustment
• LED therapy
• Swedish massage
• Syracuse University basketball

Actually, depending on the S.U. game schedule, that includes 29 separate positive non-medicinal interventions.

So let me tell you what else I am doing that I could not do BYB:
• My own showers
• Washing dishes
• Laundry
• Changing sheets
• Grocery shopping

And, all things considered, I suppose it is absolutely mandatory to report that I have no depression. I AM NOT DEPRESSED. Got that? My constant companion has succumbed to the ministrations of my care team.

Another reference point: my glucose readings are higher than ever, topping 600 every couple days. There is not a doubt in my mind that the highs are from what doctors like to call “stress”; real people call it “living.” Getting dressed and ready to go out to a morning appointment is the most frequent cause of high blood sugars. THIS MORNING MY FASTING BLOOD SUGAR WAS 321!!! This is a new low.

I feel better than I have in years. Why? Because instead of just rejecting the ministrations of modern American medicine, I have reached out to vigorously embrace all the alternative treatments that the American medical system rejects. My glucose may be through the roof but my depression is completely gone and I am ENJOYING LIFE. Wow. Is that a concept, or what?

Let me tell you a couple of stories about Big Government and Big Medicine. On Saturday I got a letter from my pharmacy ORDERING ME TO REPORT ALL MY FINGER-STICKS TO MY DOCTOR OR THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WON’T KEEP PAYING FOR MY GLUCOMETER STRIPS.

Honest to God. You know what a glucometer strip is? It’s a piece of plastic an inch long and a quarter-inch wide. One end has a little place that sucks up a drop of blood and the other end has a little spot that transfers blood information into the handheld glucometer. They come 100 to a bottle and two bottles to a box. And I can’t get any more unless I report each time I use one. Generally, if you have diabetes then you check your glucose four times a day.

I want you to think about The Government and how it’s micromanaging. The point, of course, is to make sure that the patient is actually USING the glucometer strips. Let me ask you a question: if the patient is buying strips—and therefore billing you, the taxpayer, for these strips—why wouldn’t the patient be using them? Why would you buy the strips if you’re not going to use them? You think there’s a black market for these things? You think people are using them for unauthorized purposes? Exactly what do you think they could be used for? Picking your teeth? Cleaning your fingernails? Building replicas of the Statue of Liberty?

Now, while I have your attention here, let me point out something else to you: in the interest of monitoring me so that you can make absolutely sure that I’m not cheating you, you are paying for: the extra work the pharmacy has to do; the extra time the doctor’s staff has to spend reporting; the civil service clerks in the government who take and file the reports. And how many horrific miscreants do they catch buying but not using glucometer strips? How many people have been paid to do the job, and how many patients have they terminated to save you money?

When are you going to wake up to the fact that all the surveillance, screening and monitoring costs more than the miniscule amount that is saved by terminating a patient?

Let me tell you another little story. There’s some fancy-schmancy form of oxycodone/oxycontin painkiller that has a street re-sale value of $80 a pill. So the government told the doctor that before he could write a prescription for it, he had to call the State and let them do a background check on the patient—see what doctor he went to last, what prescriptions he’s gotten recently, and so on. The doctor has to do this EVERY TIME he writes a prescription. He is not allowed to use his own best judgment about a patient he’s been treating for years.

So what the doctor did was politely decline to engage in this time-consuming police activity. And you know what The Government did? They threatened to take away his license to practice medicine. So you know what the doctor did?

He stopped prescribing the oxyco-medicine. Go ahead—feel your pain; he’s not going to spend any more time on government surveillance. Each day, each care provider comes closer to his own tipping point.

The government that you are supporting is steadily making doctors not treat you. I could tell you many more such stories. “Your” government is driving your medical care providers out of business.

A physical therapist had a dozen claims returned unpaid from Medicare. He called them up. Spent twenty minutes on hold. Got some guy who told him that he hadn’t filled out Box 16. He said, “Yeah, I did.” Medicare guy looked again and said oh yeah, my bad, you did. So then Medicare guy says, “I’ll take three of these claims and put them through again for payment.” Physical therapist says, “What about the other nine claims?” Government guys says, “I only process three claims at a time. You’ll have to call back three more times to get the rest done.”

That’s when the physical therapist quit the Medicare system. It wasn’t the first straw; it was the last straw. He’d reached his tipping point.

When are you going to do something about this? When are you going to re-claim your government and make it work for you? Are you on the government payroll? Does your work get reimbursed by some part of the government?

When are you going to get the balls to push back? Before or after your medical care provider reaches his tipping point?

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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