Health

Health
"Too much scrutiny spoils the soup."

I shrink whenever I enter a Health Food Store. I doubt many of the claims I see advertised there. I came not for salvation, but for non-hydrogenated peanut butter and cheap walnuts. I've never quite qualified as a food faddist, though I might come close to being considered a foodist. I subscribe to Michael Pollin's suggestion that I do eat food, though not too much, and mostly plants. I was raised adjacent to an Adventist community filled with proudly healthy pallid-skinned people who looked like warmed over death and lived to extremely ripe old ages. I've joined food co-ops where I rubbed shoulders with every form of eater known to man, always slipping between the queues to find the cheap but good enough stuff hidden in the bulk section there. I retain a lifelong membership in the Gluten Appreciation Society, an Adele Davis-inspired love of organ meats, and a natural aversion to all soda drinks, especially those touted as especially good for me. I believe Vitamin Water® a scam, whether it is or not, and try hard to avoid the latest recommendations regarding diet. I follow a turn of the twentieth century recipe for cooking beans.

I eat to excess whatever's in season.
The Muse and I eat fish, properly prepared, two or three times each week. Our red meat consumption usually involves a single lean flat iron steak per week. We fill in with roasted chicken, lean pork, and the occasional lamb. I drink only non-fat milk. The Muse makes a batch of her own yogurt most every week. We usually consume a large box of fresh veg each week, with rarely a supper served without two veg sides, often raw or lightly cooked. We use butter and olive oil as our fats of choice, and usually have a cache of cured pork jowl around for flavoring purposes. I drink too much beer, occasionally a glass of wine, and less frequently, a snort of decent single malt Scotch. I'm decaffeinated. I quit smoking a long time ago.

Whether I'm healthy or not depends upon who's looking. To placate The Muse, I started visiting a clinic last year. I had not been to a doctor in over ten years and the exam found me generally healthy. My blood pressure read high-ish, thanks to new government guidelines which lowered that bar, and my triglycerides, thanks to heredity, continued to register through whatever roof they use to gauge those, but I was able to engage in any activity I cared to engage in, walking to the top of the local mountain without losing my breath. I might be a little overweight, a probable consequence of aging and those beers, but nobody was jeering at the size of my butt when I walked by. I felt healthy until the scrutiny started. Then I just felt paranoid.

Blood Pressure medication made me sleepy without lowering my blood pressure. The doctor could only offer side-effect-inducing medication for the triglycerides, an offer I refused. Some tests, perhaps? How about an echocardiogram? Fine, I said until I checked the price tag. Three thousand bucks? I'm not authorized to approve that magnitude of expenditure. An AAA Screening, which will supposedly discover if those misspent smoking years left me with an aneurysm, which if it did would cost at least $40K to fix. Where would that $40K come from? Would that knowledge improve my quality of experience, my sense of well-being, or degrade it? I'm putting my affairs in order at the mere suggestion of the test.

I've spent the last three weeks failing to schedule those tests. Between discovering their outrageous cost and failing to justify that, I've been delving into previously unseen depths of my own personal health crisis. I question whether I'm worth a three thousand buck test, let alone a forty K surgery. It's been established as a matter of law here that health care is not a right, but a privilege, and a closely-held one. Those who can pay co-opt the need to pray for deliverance, for they can just put both on their credit card or have their agent pick up the bulk of the tab. Our insurance would likely pay for most of the cost for both procedures, but would it be ethical for me to expect that insurance company to pay for something which seems so terribly over-priced? Could I look myself in the mirror knowing that I'd submitted to such a questionable system? These dilemmas have dominated my foreground thinking these past three weeks.

I finally last night confessed my confusion to The Muse, who immediately began explaining (to her own satisfaction if not my own) about health savings accounts and how health insurance works, all news to me. She'd asked me to investigate the cost of those tests before agreeing to submit to them, and my investigation had strongly suggested that I should not submit to either of them, given the cost. I see a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor, a perfectly reasonable accommodation to the fact that doctors are scarce and terribly expensive. I asked how my condition would have been treated in my great grandfather's time. Modern medicine seems to operate like a Mercedes dealership, where one might be able to get better, but one could be certain that they'd never pay more. I know that specialist cares little about the cost of care because he somehow manages to afford a BIG screen television permanently tuned to Fox cable in his waiting room, as if that could possibly contribute to anyone's well-being.

I feel conflicted, hardly a healthy state. The meds don't seem to work. The cost of the tests seem determined to degrade the quality of my experience, whatever results emerge. My nurse practitioner suggested that I might want to bring in my home sphygmomanometer for calibration with one in the clinic, because its readings seem suspect. She finally conceded that the cost of the echocardiogram seemed to exceed the potential value of the test. I wish I could feel as though my health care providers would spend my money as if it were theirs rather than as if cost couldn't possibly matter. The insurance quickly approved coverage of both procedures, a bit of information the clinic had but I didn't, though my portion of that expense was not disclosed. What kind of health care system is this? Somebody must be making a ton of money off it, that alone seems certain. I do not feel healthier for interacting with this machine. I understand that we're surrounded by silent killers determined to do us in. I'm more okay with dying today than I am with walking this slow labyrinth labeled Health Care. Health seems mostly a function of how I feel, an inevitably short-lived sensation unimproved by anticipation or preparation. Too much scrutiny spoils the soup.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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