Just try getting a doctor’s appointment in America on the spur of the moment

We’re number one, my ass.  Just try geting a doctor’s appointment in this country on the spur of the moment when something goes wrong.  Just try.

An elderly family member has had some issues with their leg the past few weeks.  It started with extreme pain, anywhere between five-out-of-ten and the occasional nine-out-of-ten on the pain scale, and has been going on for a few weeks now.

Day 7, the relative figured the pain wasn’t going away, so they made a doctor’s appointment… for five days hence (that’s all that was available).

Day 10, a Saturday, the pain increases to nine-out-of-ten non-stop (felt like a knife going into their leg), so they called a doctor friend of the family who said it could be a blood clot, call their regular doctor now.  So they called the doctor they were to see on Monday, told him another doctor feared it might be a blood clot.  He said to take some aspirin, elevate the leg and come in on Monday.

That night, the leg swelled, and a rash or bruising developed in an odd linear pattern.  So we went to the emergency room at 11 o’clock at night instead of going to Easter services at church. The doctor there said it looked like cellulitis, started an IV drip of antibiotics, and gave them antibiotic pills to start taking at home, and said if it gets any worse, come back immediately. Otherwise, see your regular doctor on Monday to see if the antibiotics were working, because sometimes they don’t.

Understandably, the relative wasn’t too thrilled to see the doctor who 1) gave them an appointment 5 days hence for a serious infection, and 2) told them to take some aspirin and wait two days, for a serious infection.  So they canceled the appointment with him and tried to make an appointment with another doctor.

Good luck.  No one was available.  Finally they were able to get one doctor to squeeze them in the following day, Tuesday.  On Tuesday, the doctor confirmed the infection, but also said other just as bad things might be at play, and there was a risk of a blood clot.  So, we wait another day, and on Wednesday we try to call a doctor friend of the family who specializes in infectious diseases.  They’re not in, so we leave a message.  Twenty four hours later, no response.  We call that doctor again on Thursday and ask when the next appointment is available, we’re told June 15.  Today is April 19.  That’s two months from now.  The family member, appropriately, responded, “I’ll be dead by June 15.”

We’re number one!

So, we’re now trying to find another specialist who might be available sometime before mid-summer who can see whether this cellulitis is a) responding to the antibiotics, and b) not turning into a deadly blood clot.  I told the relative that if we don’t get an appointment today, we’re going back to the emergency room, to hell with the cost.  Their insurance is impeccable and will cover everything anyway.

And we wonder why the elderly routinely go to the emergency room for medical care.

We already have rationing in this country.  Either because you have no insurance and can’t afford the treatment, or because you have insurance and still can’t afford the copay, or because you have insurance and can’t get a doctor to see you without weeks of wait.

In France, I’ve always been able to see a doctor within hours of calling.  And of course, in France the cost of the doctor’s visit and/or emergency room visit is in the $30 to $40 range.

Yes, we have some of the greatest health care in the world in this country – so long as you don’t actually need it.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

Share This Post

  • Jennyct

    Good post, I’m surprised no one has commented. I’ve actually had my insurance turn down an ER claim because 1) I had been treated for the infection 2 weeks previously and 2) my pain at the time of check in was only 3/10. Their rationale was that I was already treated once, and that was all I needed. Never mind that I had the experience of being misdiagnosed 2 times before for other reasons, and it was the beginning of a holiday weekend. The visit for 15 minutes exceeded 900.00 (no tests or medication) and I am in the second round of appealing it.

    Today, I made an appointment for coccygeal pain I’ve had since September, and the earliest appointment is in March!

© 2014 AMERICAblog News. All rights reserved. · Entries RSS