Spending Time in the ER and Health Care

The picture is from a couple of weeks ago when I spent 36 hours in two separate ERs. The first stay was for 12 hours and the second for 24 hours. I was happy because I was being discharged for the second time.

First of all, I’m fine. Second I was discharged on a Sunday morning and by Wednesday morning was back to playing pickle ball. Ok, some may think I was pushing it a bit, but some may be wrong, at least for me.

Comment #1
According to Peterson-KFF analysis, the per capita cost of health in the US is $12,555. By comparison, the next two close countries, Switzerland and Germany are about $8,000 per capita. Canada is almost half the cost at $6,319. For retirees age 65 and older the per capita is a significantly higher. Our health care costs are not sustainable.

Urgent Care 1
After playing pickle ball Wednesday morning, I had a lot of discomfort. Discomfort is what doctors say when something hurts like a SOB. It was in my upper back and upper chest and felt a lot like pleurisy which I had years ago. [Pleurisy is an infection of the membrane around the lungs. The membrane has fluid in it and as one doctor said, pleurisy is the equivalent to adding sand to the fluid and it really sucks.].

I went to Urgent Care Thursday morning and after a couple of tests and an EKG, the doctor said “you might be having a heart attack and I called for an ambulance to take you to the ER”. I said did not feel like a heart attack, felt like pleurisy. The doctor said he could not look at back at EKGs I had over the years so he was not taking any chances. For the record, the staff at the Urgent Care were excellent and they made the best decisions for me that they could with the information on file.

Comment #2
One way we can reduce health care costs is anyone who is receiving public money for their health care should have all their health care information and history immediately available to any and all health care professionals. For the record, if you are on Medicare, you pay about 15% of Medicare costs, workers paying into Medicare pay about 34% and the rest is from federal dollars or more accurately federal deficit spending.

Ambulance Ride
The EMTs came, hooked me up and said we think your having a heart attack and off we went to an ER. On the way I asked the EMT if we could make a quick stop. He asked why. I said the pickle ball courts were close by and I thought I could get a couple of quick games in. He said no. For the record, I still did not think I was having a heart attack, buy maybe I was wrong. The EMTs were excellent.

ER #1
I was admitted into the ER without any time delay or paperwork was because the word on the street was I might be having a heart attack. I suspect one reason is having a patient die in the ER can lead to a poor review on Google. The first ER doctor also thought I might be having a heart attack. However, after multiple tests over a few hours it was confirmed I was not. In fact my cardiologist happened to be at the hospital that afternoon and stoped by to tell me I was not having a heart attack, I had pericarditis which is like pleurisy and equally sucks. Pericarditis can have similar symptoms to a heat attack. He also said, as far as he was concerned, as soon I was done taking some high powered meds I could go home. Unfortunately he could not release me, only the ER doctor can do so. That was at 2:00 in the afternoon, it was not until after 9:00 until I was actually released.

I had not eaten or had anything to drink since early morning so at about 5:00 the nurse checked on me. He was excellent, but I had watched him run around like a chicken with his head cut off for the past few hours. The reality is ERs are normally very busy with more patients then staff or time. Also, I suspect they also knew I was not going to die so I was a very low priority. I don’t question this, I was a low priority. Anyway, when the nurse checked on me I said I was on their website and could check myself out which I was going to do. He said please don’t do that. The word on the street was I was hangry but that just does not sound like me. Anyway, shortly later they brought me something to eat and a few hours later I was released.

Comment #3
ERs are absolutely necessary and a vital part of our health care system. At the same time, ER’s visits cost more than other types of primary care. A recent study by UHG found the average cost of treating common primary care treatable conditions at a hospital ER is $2,032, compared to visiting a physician’s office at $167 and urgent care center at $193. A majority of ER visits could have been treated at either primary care or urgent care office at a much lower cost.

I would suggest that one way to reduce health care costs is to reduce ER visits which in theory is easy to do but politically, difficult. There are several ways this can be done.
One, many people go to ER’s because they either have poor health insurance or no health insurance. The can be addressed with a universal health care system.
Two, Where I live, we have excellent and expanding urgent care facilities which are much lower in cost and consumer friendly than ER visits and can treat a many of the issues which send people to ERs. We need more urgent care facilities nationally.
Three, as mentioned above, enabling any health care provide to access each person’s health care data will reduce overall cost of health care and enable more effective treatment on an individual basis.

Urgent Care 2
The meds kicked and I played pickle ball Friday morning and felt pretty good. However, Friday afternoon I had a severe headache, achey-painy, and a very sore throat making swallowing difficult. It got worse over night and went back to urgent care Saturday morning. Urgent care looked at my recent visit and sent me to a different ER which is part of the same system, but normally not as busy. The reality is they could have treated me, but did not want to take the risk in case I was having a heart attack. I was not.

Comment #4
The urgent care I visited twice was excellent. In each case they were looking our for my best interests and did not believe they could treat me. But what why I was there had nothing to do with my heart.

ER #2
Off I went to another which was not very busy, especially for a Saturday morning. They thought I might be having a heart attack and I was quickly on more IVs, had another EKG and bunch of other tests. By early afternoon, they realized I was not having a heart attack, but in addition to pericarditis I had strep throat and pneumonia. All unrelated, I just happened to get them at the same time. They wanted to keep me for observation so I spent about 24 hours there. The staff was great, but they wanted to be cautious for several reasons including my heart rate was higher than normal.

The reason for the higher heart rate was I was dealing with three separate issues at the same time and my heart was working over time. Or as my cardiologist said a few days later after finding out I also had a strep throat and pneumonia, “that explains everything”.

Comment #5
I have had significant heath care issues for 25+ years and have had excellent heath care for the very most part. One important reason for this is I could afford the best health insurance. When I owned my firm, we had the best health care plan on the market, low deductible, minimal co-insurance and broad coverage. When I sold my firm, my share of the group premium for my wife and myself was about $20,000 annually.

Today, the US is funding health care with deficit spending. We are literally charging our health care to our kids and grandkids. The Republican party has opposed health care reform for years. They have been and continue to be completely wrong on health care. The only economically feasible option is some type of universal health care which includes lowering administrative costs, total transparency, and again, easy access to health records. Additionally, we need to continue to invest in AI/Automation as health care solutions. So far health care looks to be a forgotten issue in this election cycle which is completely unfair to our kids and grandkids. It should be one of the main issues.

I checked out of the ER on Sunday morning after 24 hours. I asked the ER doctor when I could resume playing pickle ball and other activities. Regarding this, I did not lie, but was not totally forthcoming to family and friends so here is my chance to be totally honest. Plus I doubt any of them will read this. The doctor told me Friday, I countered with Tuesday and we compromised on Wednesday. So I played on Wednesday morning. I feel better about getting that off my chest, no pun intended.

For all of us there is going to be a health care issue at some point from which we cannot recover, but this was not mine for which I am very thankful and grateful. I am also grateful and thankful for all my family and friends that worried about me. Very grateful and thankful.