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SKOL : Getting hip to the health-care system : Courierlifenews

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A pretty pale blue gown. How nice, I thought, handling the taffeta-like fabric. I was about to don it for my first hospital stay in 50 years. The little sockets in the corner of the fabric, I was told, were for the plug-ins that would keep me warm and comfortable during the operation to replace my worn out hip.
I reflected on how things have changed in 50 years, vaguely recalling the discomfort of surgery at the Mayo Clinic when I was a young man. Now I was about to have a firsthand look at some of what drives the $2.7 trillion in annual health-care costs in our country.
I represent a substantial part of the reason for that cost along with other people in my 70-plus age range, having lived long already and yet having the expectation of more active years to come. I’ve read estimates that more than a million people a year now have joint replacement surgery. That number is expected to escalate to some 4 million a year in the next 20 years as the aging segment of our population expands.
But some of the rising costs are associated with the advances in medicine such as, I suppose, the comfort gown I slipped into while I was waiting for the anesthetist to consult with me about how my surgeon would cut me open, use power tools to install a prosthetic hip, all without causing me any pain or anxiety.I remember passing on the opportunity to watch the replacement on the screen suspended nearby, but I did watch the closing, and admired the dexterity of the stitchers. We can’t help but marvel at the skill of the surgeon and the surgeon’s team including RNs, aides and therapy givers.
As it turned out, I didn’t learn what the cost of the disposable gown was. Nor did I inquire the per-stitch costs, though there were lots of them. And I’m pretty sure if I’d ask what cost the TV screen added to the procedure there wouldn’t be a quick answer.
When my care givers quickly provided a drug to counteract the nausea apparently induced by one of the pain medications in the hours after the surgery, I didn’t ask, nor was I told, the cost of the medication. I was just glad to receive it.
The disposable tidy blue barf bag with its volume marks was surely an added cost compared with the stainless steel bowl I used 50 years ago, but it was sure easy to use and probably contributes in some way to maintaining a low infection rate so prized by anyone considering surgery.
Similarly, the rigorous sanitation procedures— the gloves, hand washing, sanitizer use — are worth any cost given what we know about the growing risk of drug-resistant bacteria. I soon saw it was well established and was comforted.
The bottom line is that our health care procedures are delivered as a package and we really don’t have an opportunity or inclination to shop for or dicker over component prices. We are simply grateful that help is available when we need it, such as when we’ve put off getting the new hip as long as possible and the time has come.
I’m glad that millions more Americans will have that option as well because of the Affordable Care Act and what will likely be subsequent fixes to it. And I hope that our nation will continue to work on containing health-care costs, but without excluding anyone from the health care they need.
Finally, I’ve come to appreciate again the component of our health-care system that is priceless — priceless 50 years ago and priceless for me last week. It is the genuine caring offered by those who carry the pills, deliver the ice water, take the vitals and perform the procedures that protect, extend, enhance or save our lives. They are Sam, Rita, Lisa, JoEllen, Sally, Esther, Matt and others.
A painless gait is quite enough, thank you very much.Dave Skoloda is an award-winning journalist and former owner and editor of the Onalaska Community Life and Holmen Courier.
Copyright 2014 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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11.4.14 15:49

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