My Disease is Due to Military Service, Why am I Paying so Much for Care?

Anyone who has ever had to get specialist care in America knows that it is unaffordable for pretty much everyone middle-class and below. Health insurance is more expensive, and covers less, pay wages aren’t increasing, and this gap between wages and expenses keeps widening. I cannot afford to pay for my medical care, so I NEED agencies like the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to be effective. Unfortunately, the VA does not have the funding, nor the integrity of management to properly care for veterans like me. How do you get adequate care when the only care you can afford is chronically inadequate? There is no simple answer. I have not found the solution yet, but I hope I survive long enough to find the answer for myself.

When I separated from the Navy (“got my DD-214!”), my medical issues were fairly manageable; I had a pronounced limp, but I did not need potent pain pills to survive each day. Things were well enough that I felt like I could work with the VA for my future treatment. After a few appointments (which were month(s) between each because they suck so bad at time management, and have no staff), I had my heel X-Rays scrutinized by a few med-students and doctors. Their recommendation was to surgically remove my heel, and implant a prosthetic implant that is fragile and known to break, which would require another surgery. That appointment scared me from going back to the VA for a while. Although it was free, I was basically getting what I was paying for.

Hurts worse than it looks, fo sho!

Instead of watching a dog chase its tail at the VA, I decided to look into private practice. My first two appointments cost around $13k, not counting medication costs. Dr. Rocco (Utah Orthopedics) seemed so confident that he could help! I had developed new spurs that were causing an emergency with my achilles tendon, and the doc needed to cut me up real good. He replaced half of my achilles tendon with one of my big-toe tendons.

Once I awoke from surgery, I knew something was wrong. Even though I had my nerve blocked, I could feel my leg and the recent incisions. They were basically unmitigated. It HURT! The pain never really got better. I expect it, and I have strong meds, and that helps me not want to chop my leg off all day.

So, there I was, recovering from a highly invasive surgery, while hurting worse than I had previously ever hurt. And after that operation, my doctor basically stopped treating me. He was hours late to some appointments (and when you’re hurting like I was hurting, you can’t afford to reschedule your appointments), though he was always late. One of my appointments (which I have mentioned in another story), he left me in the exam room without letting me know he was not going to be coming back.

I spent months dealing with a neglectful medical staff, and all my money. By the time I started looking for a Pain Clinic, I had cashed in a 401k to pay for the medical bills. Being in pain is very expensive, and the War on Pain Patients (opioid crisis) is making things more costly (it’s almost as if it was designed to cost the patients more) by making generic pain relievers more difficult to obtain. Strangely enough, my insurance would cover the name brand Nucynta ($1400/scrip, with insurance I was paying $600), but not something that was proven effective with me, and affordable (sublingual bupernorphine, $80/scrip, with insurance you pay $160).

In the year after my latest surgery, I spent around $25k on medicine and doctor visits. I’m also losing money by taking time off of work, because I cannot get medical treatment that gives me any type of lasting relief. It’s a vicious cycle, that is apparently designed to keep me, and every other chronic sufferer at sea-level.

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