Animals, Farming, Healthcare, Pets and Livestock, Rural Living

Ruminations on the High Cost of Healthcare, and How to Bring it Down–2023

Rod_of_asclepiusIt’s been almost exactly eight years since I published a version of the post below on Ricochet.  (Time really does fly when you’re having fun.)

I was reminded of it this week, when I had a rare encounter with health care of the human sort myself.

On Monday night (it’s now Saturday), I did my farm chores, finishing up–as usual–somewhere between 9:30 and 10PM, when I went out to put the sheep in the barn.  All went well: They marched in for their daily bribe (corn), and I closed the gates.  Then I started processing up the steps from the barn and up to the patio.

About half way to my goal, I up-ended myself, and landed with quite a thud on the very unforgiving bricks and concrete.  I threw out my left arm to save myself, scraped my left elbow on the wall as I went down and then (I eventually figured out) was thumped on the back of the head by the large flowerpot which fell off the ledge.

Glory be.

Fortunately, I didn’t knock myself out, but I did lie there for a few minutes pondering the situation, and enjoying the attentions of a very solicitous and worried 150lb Great Pyrenees dog.  After he’d given me a thorough licking all over, and stood on my chest a few times (not sure if he was trying to keep me safe and make sure I didn’t repeat the performance, or if he was–perhaps–trying to administer CPR), I decided that if I didn’t get up and head into the house I’d probably end up squashed and suffocated by the dog.  So I went indoors and–unusally for me–looked in a mirror.

Heavens.  What a sight!  I’ll spare you the gory details (and there were some).

Once I’d cleaned myself up and decided that the damage could have been much worse, I went to bed and–actually–had a pretty good sleep.

I woke up on Tuesday morning with agonizing pain in my left wrist.  (I’m left-handed.)

Long story short, I did break a bone (radius) in my left wrist, and am now wearing a very spiffy splint, made up of two fiberglass strips surrounded with padding and fitted and formed to the shape of my arm and hand, one on top of, and one below my forearm, and the whole lot wrapped with a stretchy cloth bandage to hold it in place. The pain has diminished, from excruciating to a dull roar, I’m taking fewer powerful meds to assuage it and help me sleep, the swelling in the immediate area has started to subside, and I think I’ll live.

But it does appear to be the gift that keeps on giving, perhaps with no end in sight. In addition to the actual break, the lumps, bumps, bruises, abrasions, and contusions are augmented by new stiffness, aches, and pains every day, and, to add insult to injury (literally) a couple of days ago I realized that–when I fell–I must have put my left hand straight into a patch of poison ivy when I tried to save myself.  So I now have a short course of prednisone to mitigate the blistering and itching all over my hand and underneath the splint…

Although this was, in the great scheme of things, a minor health scare and kerfuffle, I await with interest confirmation of the thousands of dollars that I’m sure have been charged to to my insurance, and notification of the remaining co-pays that I’m responsible for myself.  I thank God for good insurance (part of which is through Medicare, and part of which I pay for myself), and that I’m in the United States of America where it’s top-notch and usually efficiently-delivered. (There are exceptions, mostly to do with single-provider (aka monopoly) programs such as the one run as a “service” by the government for the nation’s military veterans which is unconscionably awful.)

Since I’m an independently-minded, belt-and-suspenders sort of gal, once I recovered most of my scattered wits, I went online and ordered up a splint kit identical to the one on my arm ($19 on Amazon), and a ten-pack of the identical stretch bandages–which are lighter, and in my opinion nicer, than the standard Ace brand–$18 on Amazon for the ten.  So if I’m ever so daft as to do such a thing again, or if I ever need such supplies in the future for anything or anyone else, I’ll be ready.

I await–with my usual degree of interest–to discover what the charge is for those two items–the splint kit, and just one bandage–on the Explanation of Benefits I’ll soon be receiving from the insurance company. My guess? 💲💲💲

As I mentioned, the following post was written nearly eight years ago, when the topic of Obamacare was front and center in the national debate:

It seems that it’s about time for the regular pre-election “Let’s Fix the High Cost of Healthcare Once And For All!” national political posturing extravaganza, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents, and present what I’m pretty sure is a unique and extraordinarily effective solution.

I’ve alluded to this subject in a few other posts, but I thought that this would be a perfect opportunity to focus on the subject, and, along the way, to introduce you to She’s Medical Plan.

As many of you know, I’m a farmer. Well, a hobby farmer, really. We have sheep and goats (Mr. She says we run a welfare program for them). And this year (2015), I’ve added three more beehives, the result of more swarms in my fields than I’ve ever seen before. (So far, so good. Me, I mean, not the bees—although they seem fine, too. But I’m rather allergic).

In addition to the livestock, we have two Great Pyrenees dogs, both rescues, and six cats (ditto, on the rescue thing), and two rabbits (ditto again). We don’t eat the rabbits (or the dogs, or the cats), and I no longer eat lamb or goat (you wouldn’t either, if you’d seen some of the things I’ve seen), although we do send our lambs off to the auction now and then.


Cost of Healthcare.

It’s a vast topic, but today I’m going to concentrate on the following areas: Obstetrics and Neonatal Care, Orthopedics, Dentistry, and Wound Management.

**Note: This post deals rather explicitly with serious medical issues. It’s an important subject, and my only goal is to save you money and bring you up to date on the latest care techniques. However, you have been warned.

I’ve written at length on the birthing process of sheep, and if you would like more details, please go here and take a look. I’ll just reiterate that with a hay bale, a jug of Crisco oil, a bucket of hot soapy water, and a pair of rubber gloves, almost all things are possible, and, if you’re careful and persistent, the result is usually a live birth.

I will mention now, as I neglected to in my previous post, the value and utility of a bag of sugar as a medical tool (white, brown, organic or not, cane or beet, makes no never mind to the mom).

A bag of sugar comes into its own in the rare instances when the birthing apparatus of the mom everts itself and makes an unwelcome appearance on the outside. This is never desirable, and can be very off-putting, especially if you’re not expecting it (and why on earth would you be)?

However, liberally sprinkling the parts with sugar (which reduces the swelling and promotes healing) makes the job of shoving them back inside much easier. (If you’re not sure how things go, or where, there are lots of helpful illustrations on the Internet to assist. Again, I’ll spare you the explicit details).

Once you’ve got things back where they belong, simply remove the two loops of baling twine from the handy hay bale you’ve been using a ramp, a stool and a prop (the mom will thank you for taking them off, as this makes it much easier for her to eat the hay), and tie them, onto her wool, in a big “X,” across her behind. This will keep things in place until her muscles firm up and can take care of themselves. Voila! Another success!

Once birth has occurred, the managers of She’s Medical Plan believe very strongly in the virtues of breastfeeding, and encourage that wherever possible.

Occasionally, however, there are issues with ‘latching on,’ or there can be a ‘lack of bonding’ between mother and baby that seem to make successful breastfeeding difficult.

Not to worry! She’s Medical Plan has a solution.

Simply tie the mother firmly to the side of the birthing stall so that movement is difficult, and wait a few hours. (Note: use soft, comfortable ties. The idea is not to hurt the mother, or to induce discomfort of any sort. The idea is simply to render her incapable of much movement while Nature takes its course).

Under these circumstances, the baby will immediately find the udder (farmer talk for ‘breast’), will figure out how to ‘latch on,’ will bond and feel very fondly towards its mother, and will begin feeding quickly. Eventually the mother (who would really like to be untied) will realize that she feels better when her udder is emptied of milk, and she will get with the program.

Win-win, right?

This can save hundreds of dollars in milk replacer (formula) purchases. You will also find that you don’t have an orphan baby in a Pack ‘n Play in your living room for several weeks in the middle of winter, and also that you won’t spend untold hours washing and sterilizing baby bottles while you’re up at all hours of the day and night for the frequent feedings. (As cute as that little black lamb, sitting in Mr. She’s favorite blue leather chair and waiting for her bottle in the photo to the left is, this isn’t the ideal situation, whether the baby has two legs or four.)

It’s fair to say that She’s Medical Plan was founded, over twenty years ago, as an outgrowth of our first experience with orthopedics. This is what happened:

One day, Brownie, our large black ram, shuffled into the barn looking quite miserable and limping badly. It wasn’t an ugly fracture, but his leg was obviously broken. We don’t know what happened to him–perhaps he got into an altercation with the other ram, perhaps he stepped into a groundhog hole and fell awkwardly, perhaps he got stuck in a tree while trying to reach some tasty leaves. All those sorts of things do happen on a farm.

At the time, though, we were so new to the farm thing that we actually called a veterinarian–Doc Lewis, a James Herriot-like gentleman of the old school, officially in retirement, but still visiting a few ‘friends’ upon request.

Doc Lewis, Mr. She, and I studied Brownie. We were very concerned.

Mr. She said to Doc Lewis, “Do you think we should shoot him?”

Doc Lewis twinkled at us.

“I wouldn’t shoot you if you broke your leg,” he said.

We put Brownie in a small stall with plenty of hay and fresh water. We fed him aspirin (which sheep respond to very well) for the pain, a few times a day for a week, and we kept him quiet for about a month. He recovered almost perfectly, with just a slight stiffness of one leg to show that there had once been a problem.

Since then, we’ve used the Doc Lewis method on many similar injuries–relieve the pain, exercise patience, give it time, and allow Nature to take its course. More often than not, we’re rewarded with a recovery.

And, because of our experience with Brownie, we developed a motto that we think perfectly describes She’s Medical Plan, and which we’re certain will reverberate with millions seeking reasonably-priced care.

“She’s Medical Plan–We Won’t Shoot You If You Break Your Leg!”

Bear with me here. I’m going to talk about rabbits. Although rabbits are very different from sheep and goats, and even people, I need to give you an example of the excellent dental benefits available under She’s Medical Plan, as it’s my intention to get on the government gravy train, and I must offer wide-ranging options, including pediatric dental care, in order to do so.

Rabbits have what are called open-rooted teeth. This means that their teeth never stop growing. Under normal circumstances, they wear them down in the course of eating, and, if they’re pets, chewing on things like your dining-room table legs. In that case, there’s rarely a problem (for the rabbits, anyway). But if you have a bunny whose teeth are ‘squirrely’ (to mix a metaphor), you’ve bought into a whole lot of trouble. A rabbit with bad teeth is prone to dental abscesses, and requires frequent tooth trimmings (because the darn things just keep growing and growing . . . .).

Young Oliver was such a bunny.

He’d been abandoned on the streets of Pittsburgh and brought to the Western PA Humane Society by a kind lady who rounded him up. I adopted him because it was clear that no-one else would. A few months later, I was forced to call the concierge at She’s Medical Plan to see if we could develop a more cost-effective method for handling the expensive and time consuming tooth trimmings ($80 apiece, every few weeks). Fortunately, the intrepid researchers and medical professionals at She’s Medical Plan came to the rescue, and presented the following suggestion:

Purchase a cordless Dremel tool, a flexible shaft extension, and a package of #13 sandpaper disks. (Total financial outlay, about $70 at the time). Lie the bunny down on his back, holding him gently and firmly with one hand, and using the Dremel in the other, sand down his teeth. Hey, Presto—the problem is solved!

But wait! There’s more!

This very sickly rabbit, that everyone had given up on, and who was not expected to live more than a few months, thrived. By the time he died, almost eight years after I brought him home, I figure that, by Dremeling his teeth, I’d avoided 121 trips to the veterinarian at $80 a piece, or a total of $9,706 in bills.

So, $9,706 minus $100 (I’ve rounded up to include the occasional purchase of another package of sandpaper disks)—and a total savings of over $9,600 over the life of the rabbit!

I hope you can see from this example just how advantageous a subscription to She’s Medical Plan can be.

I’m proud so say that, good as She’s Medical Plan is in other respects, it really excels in the field of wound management.

Never mind that, decades before human doctors, She and her cohorts were using superglue to ‘stitch’ up minor cuts and gashes.

Or that in the unfortunate case of a nasty, and very bloody, shearing accident, miraculous results can be achieved with a bag of flour, several clean, wadded-up washcloths, and an old pair of pantyhose.

No, our signature achievement in wound management is the successful treatment of the ram now known as Maggothead.

Several years ago, the ram formerly known as ‘Forty Two’ suffered a minor injury to his face, probably as a result of butting heads with his rival. As it was the height of summer, the wound quickly festered in the worst possible way.

(Before I go any further, I’ll just say that, in the summer months, this sort of thing can happen very fast (within 24-48 hours), and it’s pointless to beat yourself up because you missed it. All you can do is deal with it as soon as you see it).

In this case, She’s Medical Plan quickly went into action, washing out the horrible mess with a strong solution of Creolin, which is, basically, coal tar. Actual medical professionals, whom I have since consulted, have opined that this was rather a drastic step, but Boy, Howdy, did She ever want this thing cleaned out–immediately.

She’s Medical Plan then recommended a course of injectable penicillin, got out the aspirin, and pondered how Maggothead (now officially named), could be kept fly-free, and M-word free, in his stall in the barn, while his wounds healed.

Once again, timely and effective recommendations. A quick trip to the fabric store, and a yard or two of no-see-um netting, paired with a few of Mr. She’ old cotton T-shirts resulted in:

A burka (or is it a niqab?). Clever knots in the sleeves, around his horns, the neckline sewed shut, a piece of string looped around to stop it from falling off his nose, and Maggothead was ready to face the day.

About four weeks in the stall, with his headgear changed every day, almost a case of triple-antibiotic ointment, and then a couple of weeks in a paddock by himself (for some reason, the other sheep were reluctant to eat at the same trough with him) before being integrated back with the flock, and his recovery was complete.

And his ears didn’t even fall off! (I was worried about that for a time).


I hope this little excursion into the details and intricacies of She’s Medical Plan, and the resultant successful outcomes, cost control and expense avoidance has piqued your interest.

The Managing Directors are in the process of setting up a Nigerian Bank Account to receive your payments, and the whole thing should be fully up-and-running in the near future.

Every effort will be made to keep the premiums affordable, and as you can see from the above, you will not receive this level of care from any other plan.


Who’s in?

*This post, which has been minimally revised, first appeared on Ricochet on July 20, 2015.

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