It’s Been A Year: I’m Back; Excerpt: Creed and Greed–The Buck Stops Nowhere; medical bills and housing foreclosures equal population of Texas and Florida

It’s been one year since my stroke (Jan. 19, 2014). I am back with new insights and a re-doubled commitment to consumer advocacy.  I am working on the 3rd Edition of The Buck Stops Nowhere.  Here is an excerpt from the 2nd Edition published in 2003. 

An excerpt, 2nd edition (2003)–Chapter 3:  Creed, Greed and Compensation:

When greed holds hands with ideology, it is easy for those who do not have an extreme ideological point of view to get lost or shut down in the dialog…It is almost impossible, even for thoughtful people, to make independent decisions given the barrage of ideological positions about an issue that touches each of us and our families every day. We have no baseline of what the issues are, and therefore, we trust no one.

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Must Reads for 2015: What the public needs to know

As Congress re-assembles and the Supreme Court takes aim at some provisions of the Affordable Care Act it is important to note the serious systemic flaws in our health care system that the Affordable Care Act addresses.

While much remains to be done significant provisions focus on accountability, transparency, costs and end of life issues. With the upcoming debates in mind, I highly recommend the following books:

Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care, Marty Makary, MD

Makary’s book covers issues ranging from dangerous care; lack of transparency; and overtreatment. It is an excellent and important read.

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Theo’s Story, Medical Bankruptcy and Proposed New Hospital Consumer Protections: Next Must Read Books for 2015

We read headlines about medical bills and bankruptcies.  We will take a look now at what happens to some people.  Gerrit was ‘lucky.’  He had a house he could borrow against and he eventually recovered enough to return to work and he could pay off the lien against his home.  Others were/are not so lucky.

Theo is not alone. In 2013, medical costs were the leading cause of personal bankruptcies, outstripping credit card debt and mortgage foreclosures.

Here’s Theo’s story.

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New Year, Good News, New Story–Coming Next: Must Read Books

Here’s to a good new year for all of us. My good news is:

  • My clots are gone and my veins are no longer clogged. There could be no better outcome or news.
  • Our new webpage “Our stories Our voices” is up and will be expanded. Click on the link above.  If you have a story send it. Publishing guidelines will be posted soon.
  • The Primer of The Buck Stops Nowhere: Why America’s Health Care Is All Dollars and No Sense will be out in February. See testimonials of 2nd Edition.

Very good things happen in our system. I know this first hand and very well.  But significant problems plague both patients and health care professionals. This website will be a platform for those voices. My upcoming primer tackles them head on.

However, I want to start this year on a positive note with a story of one doctor.

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My Gratitude and Our Necessary Work Ahead

 I’ve heard too many stories for too many years. My recovery gave me profound gratitude for the gift of life. My stroke also strengthened my voice and my resolve. I cannot remain silent as attempts are made to eviscerate The Affordable Care Act through death by a thousand legislative or judicial cuts.

I now have a beginning website to address these issues and tell our stories:   I need time and funding to refine and strengthen it. For access, see the upper right hand corner on the main website.

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Integrative Health, Upcoming Changes, and a new Website under construction

Many Thanks to Bastyr University and A Donor

Our heartiest thanks to an anonymous donor and to Bastyr University.  I am a true believer in integrative health care having used it successfully for over 20 years.  Learn about Bastyr here:

Bastyr University is the world’s leading academic center to advance and integrate        knowledge about the natural health arts and sciences. It uses an integrated approach to education, research and clinical service and works collaboratively with both scientific and natural therapy traditions. Its vision is to transform the health care and well-being of the human community by educating future leaders who respect the healing power of nature and recognize that body, mind and spirit are inseparable.

Thanks to sponsors and donors we can update this website’s design and content, add another website and expand content.   Please become a sponsor or donor. All donations over $100 will be recognized if you wish. We accept no corporate sponsorships. We are NOT  a 501(c)(3). Contributions are NOT tax deductible.

Our Stories Our Voices New Website (under construction)

This title evolved from the Gifts From A Stroke book I originally intended. Many issues go beyond strokes—from memory, to living costs, costs of care, access to care and care quality. I hope the site will provide a platform for patient, family, caregiver and provider concerns. I am especially passionate about this having been a patient in a system I wrote about professionally. For more on why see:

 The Buck Stops Nowhere: Why America’s Health Care Is All Dollars and No Sense–Upcoming Third Edition–2015

My book was originally published in 2000. A second updated edition appeared in 2003. Many key structural issues remain.  The 2015 edition will provide a timely analysis of the forces behind change to the Affordable care Act.

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Thanksgiving: For Karen and Courage

The opinions expressed herein are exclusively mine. 

I  have many reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving. I am alive. I have many people to thank and I will. But I want to acknowledge my friend Karen. She made the call that led people to my door when I was probably hours from death.

For my thankfulness I want to honor her courage. She died on August 27 after years battling Ovarian Cancer. The cancer started in her ovaries. It was temporarily contained by chemotherapy only to migrate to her brain where it was stalled by radiation. But then it found her spine and crept into her spinal fluid. There was no mistaking what was before her.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said it wants to reimburse doctors for end of life discussions. This provision, if passed, will not start until 2016. It is solely about discussion. Not action. Many already rail against it. But we need theses discussion with our families and physicians about what we want at the end of our lives or we could die in ways we would not wish.

Much attention focused recently on a terminally ill young woman who moved to Oregon so she could have a dignified death she could control. She did not have that choice where she lived in California. Only three states have Death with Dignity laws now: Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

We won’t all agree on Karen’s path. It is, however, what she chose. We do deserve to have control over our own lives. Our lives are ours. Atul Gawande, MD, in his new book Mortal Lives examines the importance of discussing our choices so they reflect our wishes at the end of our lives when people too often are faced with others making decisions for them. As nearly happened to me.

We need these end-of-life discussions. Continue reading

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From the Heart: Too Many Mired Mantras

New attempts after attempts to slaughter the Affordable Care Act drive stakes into my heart.  I cannot be silent and remain true to myself and others.

From 2003 to 2009 we at CodeBlueNow! had the honor of working with the American people to learn what they wanted in a health care system.  They did not care about specific prescribed, slogan solutions from the right or the left. They said they wanted a fair system that works for them, their  families and neighbors. They want accountability, equity and affordablity:

We were honored by The Seattle Post Intelligencer which  ran a 10 consecutive week series on the need for health care reform. Authors included former Republican and Democratic governors, a national technology executive, small business owners and franchise business owners among others. Read the papers here:

In 2000 I wrote: The Buck Stops Nowhere: Why America’s Health Care Is All Dollars and No Sense. A second edition was published  in 2003.  I am now updating it. The following testimonials supported the second edition:

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A Story of Courage, Grit and Love: Don’t Be Passive–Be Engaged

This could be just Bill’s story but his courage and determination are intertwined with the love and tenacity of his wife Kerri. He would not be alive without their mutual grit.

Bill was a successful banker with a full life. And then little things began happening to him that seemed odd. His face burned and he could not stop constantly hiccupping. It became so bothersome that his doctor finally recommended an MRI. They found a cyst on his brain stem.

They interviewed neurological surgeons. One did seven to eight such surgeries a year. Through a friend they found another neurological surgeon who did seven to eight such surgeries a day.

It was complex surgery. Bill needed it to live. When they asked if the surgery was life threatening, the surgeon said: “Absolutely. You need to get your affairs in order.” But the surgery was a success.

He was in the neurosurgery ward. Bill was in the ICU for a week and in the hospital for another week. He went home thinking all was well.

A month later the symptoms returned. The surgeon could not do a biopsy. The nerves were too entangled. They did another MRI. The cyst had re-filled. Bill faced another surgery to put in a stent to drain the cyst. Within three months Bill’s symptoms returned. Then came another surgery with a longer stent.

Within a month a staph infection developed in the stent and it had to be removed. This was Bill’s fourth operation in 15 months.

Kerri navigated his care from the beginning. She is an attorney and is particular about details. She double checked the neurosurgeon’s appointments and orders. She made sure Bill was getting the right medications at the right time and in the right form. Nothing escaped her attention. She had had her own health care experience and knew the importance of paying attention. When she was given the wrong medications once she refused to take them until they brought the right ones—even though she was labeled a “medication hoarder and a thief.” Continue reading

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Health Care is Foreign: Excerpt From Gifts From A Stroke

Health Care Is A Foreign Country

Do you have a passport? In this case that means insurance. Even if so, the question is: Is this country friend or foe?

Let’s see: If you are sick you are pretty much on our own. Entering the health care system is like arriving in a strange land without a guide or translator. There is no embassy to explain local customs. The customs and rules vary by state and insurer.

No one speaks the same language even among health care professionals, not to mention insurers. They all have their own dialects. There is no interpreter to tell you what something means, even in English.

There are no clear rules. The insurance you have or don’t have dictates the care you can receive and how much you have to pay. Many insurers tell you what hospitals you can use, the doctors you can see, the medications you can take, how much they cost and how much time you can spend with your doctor. Costs differ between insurer and health system. Some are based on your income, age or disability.

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