Thoughts on American healthcare

For lunch on November the 20th, I was trying to struggling with a can of refried beans. This was one of those difficult cans without a pull tab, and we had no openers at home. The frustration led to a moment of madness where I just decided to stab the can top with a large meat knife. Pop-pop-pop and stab! Yup, I looked down to find I had stabbed the webbing of my left hand. Only a moment later there was blood oozing out left and right. Perturbed by all the blood, I decided to stop everything else and run to the Northeastern student health center.

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Before we begin here, its important to share that this was my first experience with any American medical facility. Now healthcare is not too bad back home in India either. In a similar situation in an Indian college, I would have gone to a dispensary, possibly gotten roughed up by a couple of nurses and “compounders” over the unavailability of the correct doctor, but eventually stitched up with a pair of sterilized scissors and new tapes.

With the insurance card in my pocket, I entered the health center. First impressions – it was nothing like any dispensaries back home. There were four booths and students in small queues in front of those. I went up to one of them when it was my turn. The lady at the booth asked for my college ID, and pulled up my record. They already knew I had had a tetanus within the last year (yeah I keep doing these things). She pulled up a number from my insurance card, gave me an appointment number and asked me to wait in the spacious waiting area. She added I could use one of the self check-in terminals (placed on the sides of this first room) next time.

I had barely waited for 5 minutes when a nurse came out of the clinic door looking for me. I followed her in an entered one of the rooms. She asked me to place all the stuff in my pockets on a table, and stand on a weighing scale. To me, this was frivolous. Why would anyone take my weight for fixing a knife cut? It only got weirder when she next placed a blood pressure clip on my finger and took my temperature! Seriously, what was going on? In fact at this point, I went ahead and insisted once again that I was only here to get a cut fixed, pointing at my broken webbing. She replied she knew, but wants to go through procedure to see if anything else was wrong. She left once she had taken my vitals and asked me to wait for the doctor.

Next up – the doctor. She was probably no older than 30 and beautiful, I must confess. My next interrogation began with a series of questions about the injury, followed by my history of bruises, allergies and reactions. She looked at the wound for a bit and decided that we would need a couple of stitches. Next, she pulled out a square box case – about 6 inches side – broke open a seal,  pulled out a syringe and a small bottle of numbing anesthesia and began with the, by now seemingly mandatory, disclosure about anesthesia and its effects. I declared I was okay with all that and just wanted to get the procedure done with. She cleaned the wound, numbed the wound and pulled out a brand new pair of surgical scissors and cut a small piece of the surgical thread for stitches. Diligently, she applied two stitches and rubbed a small gash of disinfectant on the now closed tear.

While all the care by this moment had been overwhelming enough for me to actually bring up the differences with the Indian procedures, what happened next flummoxed me completely! She trashed the entire kit with at least 15 other medical supplies such as unopened packs of tapes, bandages, scissors, ointments, etc in it. Unbelievable! Totally new, those could have been used by another patient bringing healthcare costs of the system down, or even sent for medical relief to another country. Additionally, it would have saved all that extra medical waste to be dumped. Anyway, albeit stupefied, I thanked her, fixed the followup appointment on her computer and asked if I had to pay anything. To my surprise, the expenses (apart from the care, wonder what that kit had cost) were covered by my insurance. So I left the health center, fixed up and not a penny lighter.

Since then, while I commended the excellent care received, I’ve asked my friends about the wasteful medical policy of dumping the entire supplies kit. Matter-of-factly, they replied it was routine procedure and pointed that the kit “wasted” in my little procedure was nothing compared to the ones thrown away during complex orthopedic or internal surgeries. The inefficiency it seems, is because of the supplier-hospital contracts in this capitalist economy which stipulate the hospital to use an tool kit only once after its seal has been broken! An unbelievable and inhuman requirement at so many levels, only in place to maximize supplier profits. Hospitals don’t care because in the end its the doctors who receive royalties for the products developed.

So while America contemplates the pros and cons of Obamacare, deep rooted capitalism kicks humanity hard.

 

Maha-Freak-‘India’nomics – a shot at India’s sudden rise to stardom !

Okay so here’s the facts. This nation, with its 1.2 billion people

  • is not rich,
  • by far prosperous,
  • diseased and hungry and corrupt,
  • and still inhabits the largest number of slum dwellers in the world.

So the ‘slumdog’ is pretty much barking, but the ‘millionaire’ is here. He’s shining, no, he’s not wearing the Armani’s yet, certainly not the playboy, but you give him a dare, and he’s upto it. He’s being talked about, and looked at, and everyones interested, and throwing glances only the super-hot will get. He’s hot, boy he’s hot !

There are now references like :

” The following list is Forbes ranking of the world’s richest billionaires as of February 12, 2010, and does not reflect changes since then. There are 1,011 names in this year’s list. United States currently has the most billionaires amongst the world’s top 10 but India is expected to soon overtake the United States to gain more billionaires among the world’s top 10 than any other country”                       – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbes_list_of_billionaires

“Chelsea is a big club, and probably the most suited to be bought, if [the owner] ever decides to sell. Located at London’s posh west-end, with a sufficiently large stadium, high attendances, no debts, and huge markets in Americas and India. Infact, I’d fancy one of those Indian tycoons buying it”              – Some random BBC Chelsea forum

Jai Hind!”                                                                                                                                       – US President Barack Obama

In hushed tones, all over the world its being talked about as the land of new riches. In unprecedented trends, the west desperately wants jobs in a country, where they once used to receive Hardship allowances, for so much as landing. Its the breeding ground of world’s richest businessmen, owners of Formula 1 teams and English football clubs and steel magnates, the playground for the world’s most successful companies, not just IT companies, but retailers, automobiles, power, steel and manufacturing, textiles, and you name it, everything is going Indian; everyone wants a slice of the burgeoning Indian pie.

But, how and why, this sudden rise in expectations, this unforeseen stardom, this rise in power ? Is it the relaxing of the Indian market laws, or is it the media, its scrutiny into everything ? Has it got something to do with the Governments, and their plans of development ? Or can it have, umm, well, something to do with the Indian girls? Perhaps it has.

The market laws were, well, apparently non-existent in the 50s and the 60s. Of course, being a young country, those markets were not very strong. Add to that, the relative adolescence of technology ( well, for 1 there was no internet, no cheap airfares to reach India, no cheap calls), yes, you would not really have expected much awe to be generated. But wouldn’t a new and open market be better suited to investment of any kinds, to see your money grow. But there was none. The Cadillac never came, the hotlines stayed back, even the computer never touched base till the early 80s. There was coke, but pepsi stayed back, Levis and Pepe never thought of the cheap manufacturing costs. It could’ve been big, but the bang never came.

They opened up again in the 90s. Yes, this time it was different, probably the perceptions had changed. They fancied India, but from a distance. No one really interested to come down and have a look. If anything, the soft drinks thought they could sell. But anyone who drove, still drove a Maruti, the phone was BSNL/MTNL, the finest suit was still a Grasim or Dinesh. They looked, and they looked harder, but none wanted to take the jump.

At the same time, cable TV arrived, and in a big way. The physical goods might not have landed, but whatever could be sent via satellite, was sold. Western media giants tried to push the cable television market, and along it brought with it, the inevitable birth of “Dynamic Media”, read, television news, news reporters, media driven justice drives, undercover scandal exposures, which also poured down to the expansion of print media, and media in any form fathomable. A billion Indians wanted stories, everyone wanted the truth, and everyone loved the spice, the unmasked faces. Suddenly, the News was in!

But media was fighting within itself; it was bringing news at cut-throat competition. Yes, it was causing shivers amongst the corrupt, the evil, the hypocrites; but the scandals, the news would not stop pouring in. So the evil, never really stopped being evil, the corrupt, though straightened to an extent, never really became incorruptible. Infact, in its exceedingly growing involvement with the dirty, the media started growing dirty. Instead of uncovering scandals, it started planting them, in order to make the Big Newsnight. Often, the reporters turned out to be scandalous, instead of the righteous ! In the long run, the Indians who loved their media, started to mock it on public forums, for its desperation, for its over-denigration, for its incompetency, and almost “Freakshow” programming in some cases (read India TV, AajTak, Samay et al). Quite surely, an aspect the Indians grew to disrespect themselves, couldn’t really have made it walk the red carpet.

The Governments, they come and the Governments they go. They promise, they win, and they try to work. And they try to suffice their greed while they work. The small cut that remains trickles down to whatever the small amount of work they could put together. Not that there isn’t work. The education available now, although still nowhere near the levels set in the west, is light years ahead of the previous decades. The infrastructure is toiling to get a newer, shinier look. But a lot remains to be done. Health services have hardly improved, or for that matter, become any inexpensive. The standard of living is to a large extent (ignoring the lets call it “creamy layer”, very original, eh!) really poor. The leaders have become, no less corrupt, only smarter in their ways to smartly (read very secretly) amass the public money. The Governments surely have played a bigger role than any of the other above mentioned aspects in inviting the west over home, but they’ve not really motivated no one.

So where has the motivation come from? Where has this new found zeal to succeed, and grow rich, and make name spurted from? In short, where has the stardom, the “world’s favorite baby” tag come from?

Lets take this discussion to a lounge in Mumbai, where the author is meeting two lady friends, who’ve met eachother after a long time. They’re discussing the intricacies of their lives, or rather gossiping, and this author is bored to hell, and gulping it down with beer, only when, the girls start discussing another of their girlfriend, who’s set to get married soon. The girls discuss the options this girl had as her suitors, one was apparently a nice IT guy, another a doctor, and the third had just finished his business course from IIM-B (lets call it the Indian Yale). The girl’s decided in unison, of course it has to be the IIM guy ! The author, puzzled by this shocking matter-of-factly unison probed into the why this decision? But the girls could only figure out, “ C’mon ! The richest/best prospects guy obviously “. The author pointed out, had this been the case, the great Indian heroes of yesteryears, who played poor coolies, or laborers, or as unemployed daredevils who fought for righteousness (read Amitabh, Dharmendra, and annoyingly repetitive Mithun) would never have had happy endings with their rich/or even not so rich good-looking heroines. The girls’ simply responded if there were any such heroes to be seen, in any movies, anymore. Shockingly true again ! So the girls had changed. The rich men were in. Now, I’m not being chauvinistic and announcing that this was the only action in place, and that the women were not striving to get any richer by themselves, but they certainly did want the rich boys, and infact it was quite obvious to all of them !

The author, still in disbelief, tried to bring up the matter with any and all of the lady friends he happened to talk to. And the responses that came up were strikingly similar. The old school days of chivalry, and of the rugged, the fighter against injustice, the righteous man were gone. Their men now had to be rich, and ready to empty their pockets, and if they were not already, they had to strive for it, study for it, work their asses off for it, because, to the women, it was quite obvious they had to be, if they had to be with them ! In his research, he came across “The one I marry has to be earning atleast 20 lakhs an year (i.e, Rs 2 mil)”, “What’s the point marrying someone, who doesn’t earn enough to be happy with, or rather to shop with (and a scary LOL)” and “C’mon the guy has to be making more than the girl, those [not so rich] guys can marry someone else ! “ and most shockingly “After I marry, who wants to work or anything, I’ll just spend heheh”.

So, the Indian girl has spoken, and she’s driving every guy to riches, and again not that she’s not trying for the riches herself, but she is, atleast as it seems, aiming high (read in everyone’s league their highest) when it comes to the guys. In effect, a richer girl by herself expects to land a richer guy, and the productive cyclicity of money-making is driving the Indian youth to crazy new heights ! Gone is the good life, they all want the best life now (and the best squeeze !). And the “Indian Baby”  is going global with that best life.

Okay, I know this work might sound really shallow, but those were real girls, and when asked to contemplate on the reasons I figured, none of them seemed to disapprove. Although, they found it awkward, they couldn’t really deny the reasoning. So contemplate ! 😛

Are we terrorized?: The Good Year- Analogies with a Joker

Its been troubled times lately. The world all of a sudden seems a much more gloomier place than it was an year ago. And NO its not about the dementors ( i guess ). “Its chaos, and right now its the rule”

We’ve been seeing the physical terror striking every now and then. New militant groups spring out of extremist ideologies each day, they kill innocents, and innocents for whose cause they supposedly fight keep getting branded as miscreants. Multiple blasts in various cities across Asia have suddenly hindered the progressive peace and prosperity drives that resulted in significant financial improvements in the region. Political leaders keep playing the blame game, and well-wishers of the common are numbered. “People are dying out there, what’d you do? ”

Money changes hands, money disappears, and keeps re-appearing, but money lives on- So where’s all the money gone now? Global Credit Crunch, Inflation, Rising Interest Rates, Taxes, Crude Prices; frankly i heard about most of them, this past quarter. Its not that money was easy to handle before, but its become a lot more difficult to understand now. People lose jobs each day, they kill themselves for their situation, its not because they don’t have the money now, its because they have seen it before, they’ve been on the highs, and now can’t live on the lows.

What we probably do not see very easily, or still pretend to be apathetic towards, is our very co-existence with the earth. I call it co-existence now because it seems we’ve come to a point, when either humans manage to exist somehow, or the earth end our existence naturally, through one of its ‘disasters’. As an eg. we keep celebrating the usual pleasures of Formula-1 racing ( the author included ), even though we all know what its worth.

What we’re witnessing are times when the water slowly rises above our necks, you can still breathe, but inside your head you know you’re not seeing a way out of this; so you re-assure everyone around you that every thing’s gonna be okay, even though you barely speak through all the choking; in turn you believe someone’s giving you hope, when that someone is you, yourself, the drowning man.

So isn’t it like one of the many days of terror that Gotham witnesses, isn’t there a Joker somewhere around who keeps laughing on our faces, and asks us

Why so serious?