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The Great Conversation – Military Health Care

I have had a few people mention the military’s health system and how it relates to socialized medicine.  I also remember a conversation I had with a certain someone (cough, Dad 😉 pointing out my hypocrisy since we are military and get socialized medicine, so I shouldn’t bite the hand that is feeding me, so so speak.  I’ll just share my thoughts on that too.  The following is a response to a comment about the military (though I added a few things towards the end and cut out an anecdote or two for the sake of brevity, heh 😉
You are absolutely right that the military is a perfect example of socialized medicine. I would have to disagree those who feel that the military has made it work. Up until very recently the majority of people (though not all) felt that military medicine was the last possible medical attention that anyone in the US would opt for. I remember when we started looking into the air force people told us not to for that reason alone. That the medical establishment just wasn’t up to par.
Though being in the military now, I can tell that it isn’t the same as it used to be. Here they outsource nearly everything to the private sector, as there are only three or four Air Force hospitals left. Basically anything other than routine physicals are referred out to either the next closest army post (who have first right of refusal for active duty) or to a private doc in town (for dependents). The care that the kids and I get is great because we are able to see private doctors.
Now not to knock on military docs, a lot of them are great!  Nearly every one I have met is fabulous.  And from what I understand, military medical school are the best around.  I especially like our new pediatrician. But I have a new one because I hated the one we got when we got here. But never before have I ever had to request a new doctor.
Another problem is the wait. Medical staff are is short supply military wide. There is a six week wait for any appointment. Now that might sound that bad, but once you realize that the books for the month don’t open up until the 15th of the month before and the month is then booked within two days, it puts it in a little different perspective on things. Matt tells me that the phones ring off of the hook on the 15th of every month with people trying to get appointments. There are also “sick call” appointments that are blocked off for people who need to come in that day on short notice. In Medical they start taking appointments to fill those at 7am. I have called before at 7:05 and had all of the sick call appointments gone. If it’s bad enough, we either have to go to the ER (which is a nightmare in and of itself) or just wait it out.
Matt also tells me that when he worked in the private sector he could see 12 or 13 patients a day and do 25 exams. Here, because of the way the system is set up, he see’s 7 patients and there is another doctor who does nothing but exams. He’s not any slower and in fact since the military in general take better care of their teeth, his appointments are much shorter then they would be on average in the private sector. But since they don’t have the resources for multiple assistants and operatories, he can see one patient an hour. No more.
He also told me stories about Medicaid and how the only thing it would pay for would be to fill the tooth or pull the tooth. No root canals, no bridges or inplants. They couldn’t give their patients the care that was needed because the government refused to pay for it. And as far as how much the dentists are compensated for the work they were allowed to do, there were several dentists in Maine that didn’t even bother billing Medicaid for the work they did. They got paid so little that it was easier just to eat the cost.
The only reason we get as good of care as we do in a timely manner is because they work with the private sector just down the street.
Now I will be perfectly honest, Jack had a prolapsed umbilical cord and I had to have an emergency c-section. No one could be more grateful than we are for our insurance and the fact that we weren’t on the hook for the $50,000+ bill.
But while socialized medicine looks a lot like military medicine, there is one big difference. Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve do not receive this insurance for free like many people think that Government Run Universal Health Care will be. They are owned and at the beck and call of the federal government. Matt works 12 hour days, has to go in on weekends for training, he is called in to do emergency care, he is sent TDY all the time and there is always the chance of deployment. And we have it good. I have friends who’s husbands are gone for months at a time for training in addition to their deployments. The consecutive time that they spend with their families can be counted in weeks rather then months or years. Even the retiree’s can be called up if push came to shove. Our neighbors are both in. She is active duty and he is reserve. They are both being deployed at the same time to separate places and so their little boy is going to have to live with someone other then Mom and Dad while they are gone. When you are in the pay of the government, you will be used for what they want to use you for.  Matt knows a man who had been a med tech in the army for several years.  Then one day the Army told him that he was going to be an interrogator from that point on.  He didn’t want to be an interrogator.  This man was fortunate in that his enlistment was up, so he switched to the Air Force who needed med techs.  He gave up a life he loved in the Army for one he doesn’t like nearly as much just so that he could keep his medical job.  That is a high price for health insurance. No one joins the military for the insurance. They join to serve and protect. And insurance is part of the compensation for that service.  Military members and their retiree’s earn every dime of the health care they receive.
Also, even with insurance, BAH and other bonuses, those who serve in the military earn a fraction of what they earn on the outside.  But as I said, we don’t do it for the money.  People are in the military because they are proud of their country and want to serve.  We knew what we were giving up.  This is a wonderful country and we are proud to be in the military.  That is where our passion comes from.  This country is great and we have to protect it from the foreign powers who would bring us down as well as make our voices be heard and protect it from those within who would change us into something we were never meant to be.

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