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The Mess in the American Healthcare System | The Phia Group

By: Chris Aguiar, Esq.

It’s easy to get lost in the day to day of our jobs and forget WHY we do what we do. We jump in and out of all of our client’s problems and everything becomes so second nature that you sort of go on cruise control – and then you have a problem yourself and you’re surprised that, well, you’re surprised. I know our healthcare system is a mess, I see examples of it every day – but I never expected it would happen to me …

I recently had neck surgery. It took 2 years of seeing specialists, and MRIs, and symptoms randomly subsiding and then becoming worse, seemingly for no reason at all. All the surgeons said the same thing “your neck is very bad, but your symptoms aren’t. Surgery is the only option but we don’t recommend it because your symptoms seem to be improving on their own – oh and by the way, your 25% more likely to become a paraplegic”.

What activities might cause that to happen, I asked? The spectrum of possibilities was so broad – I had no idea how much risk I might be taking simply getting out of bed in the morning. By the time I left the surgeon’s office we had discussed things like serious motor vehicle accidents (the likes of which I would likely not walk away from anyway) to jumping out of a plane, to … playing pickup basketball! After getting over the shock of how serious my ailment apparently was and that the only answer appeared to be “let’s wait and see”; I couldn’t help but wonder – with a slip on ice being both incredibly likely in a good ol’ New England winter, and that fall being significantly more likely to render me immobile, why wouldn’t I want them to fix me while they can?

Fast forward 2 years, more surgeons and eventual discovery that my condition was worsening, it was abundantly obvious we could no longer wait – so we commenced with surgery.

I couldn’t get great information with regard to my recovery, either. “Plan for 4-6 weeks” was countered with “I’ve had patients go back to work the same week”. Or the one that really threw me for a loop, when I was told I’d be able to take care of myself by the time I got home 1 day after the surgery – only to end up having to go to my mother’s house because I wasn’t even able to pick up my head. And then came weeks and weeks of me being unable to return to work.

I’m (FINALLY) back, finally feeling like myself again, and early signs are that the surgery was a success and assuming all continues to go well I’ll return to my norms prior to my symptoms materializing. But as I reflect on the 2 + year process – I can’ help but wonder….

If an attorney that has worked in a healthcare benefits setting for 17 years can’t get the correct information to make sure he is making the right decision – how the heck are folks who either don’t have the education or perhaps are immigrants who don’t have a strong command of the English language going to get what they need? How are those people going to advocate for themselves when someone who advocates for a living struggled to do so?

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, I see some of the failures of our healthcare system every single day. Alas, I stood, bewildered. I guess I just have to be more prepared next time (hopefully there won’t be one)!