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A doc of one’s own
Jan. 2, 2012
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by Ivan Raconteur

I recently read a news story that said the Rev. Billy Graham had been hospitalized.

I was flabbergasted to learn that he was still alive. I thought he had passed the hat for the last time years ago.

The thing about that story that really made me think was a reference to the televangelist’s personal physician.

The question is, just how rich does a person have to be to have a personal physician?

This is by no means the first time I have heard of someone who had a personal physician, but it seems bizarre, in a nation where so many people can’t afford health care, that there are people who have a personal physician dedicated to their needs.

It seems unreal to me. Even though I am still lucky enough to be able to afford health insurance (only just), I rarely go to the doctor if I can avoid it because even with insurance, the out-of-pocket costs of medical treatment practically kill me.

On the rare occasions when I do go to a doctor (or dentist or other medical professional) it takes me months to recover – not from the treatment, but from the bill.

It seems that five minutes of a doctor’s time is worth about a week’s pay for some of us. And, since that is by no means the only expense we face, it can take months to finish paying off a single illness or injury.

Every test, treatment, and procedure comes with a price tag, many of them from multiple sources.

I don’t begrudge these medical professionals their compensation. Most of them are pretty smart cookies, and they worked hard to get where they are. I’m sure they have plenty of expenses of their own, especially in this litigious society.

We could, however, do without the layers of bureaucracy, regulation, and duplication that add cost, but not value, to the process.

But, the thing that makes me curious is this: if it costs so much for a brief visit with a doctor, when I am only one of many patients, and the doc spends his day flitting from one patient to another like a bumble bee pollinating a field of wildflowers, dispensing big bills to each one as he goes, what the heck kind of rates does a doctor charge when you are his only patient?

I suppose it is one of those situations where, if one has to ask the price, one can’t afford it, like buying a yacht or a Jaguar (car, not large cat).

This is probably why only pop stars, professional athletes, televangelists, and members of Congress can afford such a luxury.

On the positive side (and I am always looking for the positive side), one has to admit that private physicians don’t seem to have the greatest track record when it comes to caring for their patients.

Conrad Murray, 58, who was Michael Jackson’s personal physician, only had one patient, and was reportedly paid $150,000 per month.

Murray was recently sentenced to four years imprisonment in a Los Angeles County jail by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor, who declared him an unfit candidate for probation and pronounced the sentence for involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s 2009 death, citing Murray’s involvement in what the judge called a “cycle of horrible medicine.”

That news was probably of little comfort to Jackson, who is reportedly just as dead as he was before the ruling.

There have been other cases in the past in which personal physicians have been as bizarre as their clients, and the combination has proved deadly.

When drugs are dispensed like candy, bad things tend to happen.

I wouldn’t want a personal physician (not that there is any imminent danger of my reaching that income level). I just don’t think I would be comfortable with that kind of arrangement.

What I would like to see is a change in the way health care is handled in this country.

Every year, for as long as I can remember, the cost of health insurance has increased by double-digits, eating up a larger portion of my paycheck (and that of many other working people) each year, and that is simply not sustainable.

The cost of services has also increased at an unbelievable rate.

Reform is needed, but health care in this country has become a political football.

Even the mention of the topic is enough to start an argument in some venues.

I don’t believe most Americans want their own personal physicians.

Nor do I believe most of us are looking for handouts to pay for our health care.

It seems to me that what most people want is a system in which they have access to a reasonable level of care at a cost that won’t kill them.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely that government will to do anything about the problem, since the people we elect don’t have to worry about their own health care.

It doesn’t seem that we can rely on Providence to provide a solution, either, in view of the fact that even a venerable old Bible-thumper like the Rev. Billy Graham has hedged his bets by enlisting a personal physician.

The necessary course of treatment may not be simple, but a prudent observer is sure to diagnose that our current system of health care can’t continue the way it is. The industry is sick, and without intervention, the condition will become a terminal illness.


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