Not just hospitals are closing…

As many of you know and have experienced, it isn’t unusual for me to share my cell phone number while visiting groups or speaking to awesome audiences. Yes, it is my real one.

Why? Well, growing up my dad always kept his home phone number listed “just in case” and one night I asked him why he declined to go unlisted in the local phone book (remember those?). We’d had a man show up at the house, friendly and wishing to say thank you in person, but it startled me a bit.

“I almost did once,” he replied. “And then I thought about what sort of patient would go looking for it. I decided if someone was truly in need and that’s the number they find, I want to make sure I can be a resource to them.”

Though I’m not a clinician, I like to offer the same resource to my own community of colleagues, friends, and frolleagues. If someone is truly in need and that’s the number they find, I want to make sure I can be a resource to them.

I’m lucky to be connected across a few channels touching healthcare, not the least of which has been my higher-than-usual contact with my allergist this month following a lung infection that zapped my existence and dabbled with performing as black plague* in my imagination.

Today, I came across this HRSA article (below) about hospital closings in rural areas and — it is not just hospitals.

In the last four days I’ve had more calls from past audiences on my cell phone than I have had in the year prior. I’ve heard from exhausted, frustrated clinicians in podiatry, pediatrics, obstetrics, and allergy/asthma specialists and more. They ALL share three patterns:

  1. Insurance companies are rapidly declining coverage for needed care. Notification isn’t sent to the practice, patients and clinicians learn of the claims rejections/policy changes through their unpaid bill. Things covered for the same patient through the same insurance months ago, like a medication or in-office treatment for injuries or routine therapy for a child with autism, they are rejecting and claiming they do not have to cover anymore. Patients are left without care for non-narcotic-based pain relief, illnesses, behavioral therapy, medications, etc.
  2. Patients are begging for free health care delivery from specialists and specialists are providing it so patients do not suffer. Can you imagine begging for your life? Begging for the ability to walk? Begging for treatment?
  3. Patients aren’t seeking care. They aren’t showing up for appointments they set for urgent issues (flu, trouble breathing, suicidal ideation, pregnancy) or they are skipping follow up appointments. This doesn’t mean the patient is at fault, it means they are being driven away from meaningful care and attention they recognize they need. As much as a 60% drop in year-over-year childbirth/delivery rates was reported by one practice. Attending 1/9 appointments for podiatrist treatment on foot injuries that could cause disability. Most scary for me to consider as an allergy over-performer myself, was the report that patients are dropping care for allergy shots and asthma monitoring and treatments with the allergist.

It’s not just rural hospitals, folks. Our healthcare is dying, and so are we.

“For every 1 million people who lose health insurance, about 1,300 people nationwide could die early.”

We need a way to know what is happening. We need to monitor this like we monitor flu spread. And, we need to act together to save our lives.

*It was not black plague, obviously. I did get sick right after visiting the gorgeous Badlands National Park where there were warnings all over the place about the prairie dogs carrying black plague and — fevers make your mind do very weird things. ;-)