I am writing this essay because the average American has no idea of the inequities that exist in the Medicaid/Medicare system and the harm the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration has wrought upon the American public - especially those who are poor, disabled, and live in chronic pain. I write these words not from speculation, but from real-life experiences - the same problems that face millions of our citizens, yet largely remain unknown and even Congress and President Obama seem to be oblivious to the plight that faces a large portion of our population. At this moment, I have no hard feelings for those whom are unaware, but after I detail the sad state of affairs that I have witnessed myself, if action is not taken to alleviate at least some of these Inequities - my attitude will change from one of attempting to educate people to one of knowing that our President and Congress simply don’t care. My hope is that some of these issues have occurred because they are largely unknown - but if they do know what they have done, none of them are worth the time it will take me to write about the suffering and poverty I have witnessed first-hand among my own family.
Also of importance is that I am not seeking sympathy or pity from anyone; what I have faced has been dealt with on a daily basis by millions of other American families - and I am attempting to speak for them as well as my own family, and most of them have no voice, no way to express the outrage and shame they feel as they are treated as second-class citizens and driven into the depths of despair, depression, and poverty on a level that most of you won’t understand. Some of these issues were caused by huge pharmaceutical corporations who choose profit over properly testing their drugs, some of the many home health care corporations that tend to the elderly and disabled, and physicians whom are rightfully scared to death of the terror tactics employed by the DEA. As thousands of Americans are losing their jobs each week and unemployment and foreclosures rise, keep in mind that sometime in the not-too-distant future, the words you read here could represent the plight of your own family. IMO, no one is safe in this economy except for the elites and wealthy - and we all know that they could care less about anything other than their bottom-lines and keeping-up their lavish lifestyles while the rest of us lose everything we own.
My experiences with the “system” began in Kansas when I slipped in the bath-tub and fell, breaking a vertebrae in my lower back. I had already ruptured three cervical discs several years before, was told that I would never work again - and I worked hard to rehabilitate myself, which included re-education and i subsequently completed many more years in the workforce before this accident and the discovery that my Dr. also thought I had terminal cancer. I lost 40 pounds in less than a year, something that millions of us would give anything to accomplish, but at 5′10″ and now weighing 137 Lbs., I have to run-around in the shower to get wet. That account can be found at these two LINKS. LINK The issues I encountered in regard my personal health are important but not the basis for this essay - and don’t bother clicking those links unless you have time to spare. The real story is how millions of families are impacted by a system that is rife with corruption, paradoxes, and legislation that may have been enacted in an effort to help people - but their utter ignorance of how their beast of a system actually works (or doesn’t work at all) is a sad commentary for what once was the richest nation on earth.
We used to live in Pensacola, Florida, and after being hit three times in one year by hurricanes - we were ready to move inland where it appeared that our family would be safer and not have to bear the after-effects of constant hurricanes we witnessed several years ago. A few weeks after I arrived, I found out that my mother had an emergency operation and she was diagnosed with colon cancer, and even though her Dr. stated that he got all of the cancer and saw no spread of the disease, he still - without the consent of the family, gave my Mom a colostomy which he assured us would be reversed in approximately three months. My sister was taking care of her, and because of my Mom’s inability to receive proper pain medication for other medical conditions she had prior to the surgery, I went to Florida and moved her to Georgia. She was a long-term chronic pain patient and suffered from Fibromyalgia and deep-muscle spasms in he legs that kept her walking the floors most of the nights for the last 20 years. After you’ve been through major surgery, it’s almost impossible to “walk the floors” to help alleviate pain and muscle cramping, but if you’re poor in Florida and live off Social Security, getting proper pain medication is close to impossible.
This is where the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (hereinafter referred to as the DEA) plays into this story, and what they have done to chronic pain patients throughout the nation is a disgrace to our entire society. Several years ago, in Milton, Fl., was the case of Doctor James Graves; this was a Doctor who had no scruples in selling Oxycontin prescriptions and profited to the tune of 500K per year by and through his illegal/unethical use of his profession to make huge profits, and in doing so, several people died from Oxycontin overdoses. I don’t remember the year it happened, however his trial was in February of 2002 - and he was found “guilty of four counts of manslaughter, one count of racketeering and five counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.” Obviously, he was a disgrace to his profession if the allegations were true, and to this day, I don’t know if he was truly guilty or not, and I’ll explain why I have some doubts as to his actual guilt later in this story.
The DEA used Dr. Graves’s conviction as a springboard to go on a witch-hunt that began in the Panhandle of Florida and spread throughout the nation. DEA agents descended “en masse” upon local Doctors and clinics, demanding to know - in great detail, why they had prescribed narcotics for their patients. The DEA hounded any Doctor that didn’t give-in to their demands - and I personally interviewed several of them myself who stated they had to make a decision - either keep their practices open, or give-up large swaths of their time justifying each and every narcotic prescription they wrote. Some of the wealthier Doctors rightfully ignored the DEA, and for the patients that had excellent insurance and were treated by physicians with adequate legal representation - those who had the money were still able to receive adequate pain medications for the variety of medical conditions that justify treating chronic pain patients.
The poor and disabled were in an entirely different situation; Doctors who treated those patients were ordered to quit prescribing narcotics or face losing their medical licenses. In order to control what the DEA perceived to be a “menace to society”, they effectively created another industry within the medial community of physicians that were called “Pain Management Specialists” - and none worth going to would accept Medicaid and some even refused to take Medicare without huge co-pays, effectively forcing patients that were poor and disabled to scrape-up the money to pay for a Dr. that was totally unnecessary. The effects upon those with little or no money became misery and going deeper into the rabbit hole of debt - and many began to buy illegal drugs off the street in an attempt to alleviate their pain.
Now, over 17 years later, most Doctors (In Florida, Georgia, and Utah - which are the only states that I possess first-hand knowledge) advise their patients that they cannot prescribe pain medication - and if they do need it, must have a “referral” to a Pain Management Specialist, most of which do not accept Medicaid, so the poor and disadvantaged in America simply suffer or spend money that would be better spent on food and rent in an effort to achieve a decent quality of life. The DEA refuses to allow extremely well-trained Doctors from practicing the medicine they attended college and medical school to learn, only to find out in the United States, some clown with a badge is making medical decisions rather than addressing real crime in our country. This isn’t a “War on Drugs”, but a “War on Second-Class Americans” - and as everything else in this nation, those who can afford it can find proper medical care, but the poor and disadvantaged are treated as if they were all drug addicts and criminals - and Congress refuses to address this issue. (It would almost seem that the DEA, in collusion with the CIA, is purposely creating a market for the heroin that is flowing out of Afghanistan. Black-ops have to be funded if Congress doesn’t provide the money, and the CIA’s drug trafficking has been well documented; see the footnotes for the appropriate links.)
My Mother was recovering well from her surgery with no evidence of the cancer resurfacing and looked forward to getting her colostomy reversed. She was a proud woman, and having her son changing her colostomy bag constantly drove her into depression and despair. She never had a heart condition until a Dr. prescribed Lunesta because she was having trouble sleeping at night, which resulted in an adverse reaction and her first heart attack as she experienced a panic attack that lasted seven full days in ICU with her blood pressure hovering at 185/140.
We were apprised that it was a “minor” heart attack, but that turned out to be false. She went downhill from there, and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease - an incorrect diagnosis. My Mother would experience periods of severe dementia - which was always blamed on Alzheimer’s Disease, but before she died, we found out that was never the case. She was usually OK, but when the dementia hit, and I would find her naked in the bathroom covered in her own feces, or her colostomy bag came loose while she was sleeping, the subsequent mess and issues in attempting to help a woman that was apparently “out of her mind” was monumental. In the times that I found her to be her old self, I became suspicious, as Alzheimer’s Disease gets worse, it doesn’t go away. I took her off a huge quantity of Alzheimer’s medications that cost Medicare a fortune - and within two or three days off of the medication, she returned to her normal self. Her memory was crystal clear and she begged me to refuse to allow them (her Dr.) to place her on medications that were literally making her sick.
Suddenly, the dementia returned; the home health care corporation that was visiting her twice weekly insisted that it was Alzheimer’s Disease and insisted that she take her Alzheimer’s medication. From that point forward, she went downhill, and I never had another logical conversation with her. One day last October, the head nurse came to our home and stated that she was no longer in need of home health care; I insisted that she was getting worse, and rather than checking her Oxygen levels or even taking her blood pressure, they ignored me and discharged her from their care. The next night, she was taken to the hospital via ambulance, and within a week, she passed-away. The hospital found out that her “dementia” was caused by silent heart attacks she had been having at home which no one in the medical community took the time to properly diagnose - especially the ill-trained nurses that often shoved a thermometer in her mouth and left after a ten-minute visit…
During this time, I was a constant visitor to Dr. offices and emergency rooms. I spent hundreds of dollars per month in gas taking her to various Dr. appointments and going back and forth to the hospitals she was constantly in, had to buy her colostomy bags at $50.00 a pop when the nursing service forgot to order more, and the cost of her care, not covered by Medicare or Medicaid was enormous. I was told that the pain clinic she was attending was too far for her to travel in her condition (It was 45 miles away), and I was ordered to find one closer. I did, and they were a new clinic which hadn’t yet been approved for Medicare, so for my Mom and I, we had to pay $100.00 per month each for over a year - money we didn’t have.
Two months before my Mother passed-away, my sister and her one of two special needs children became homeless; I already was caring for my niece, and then my sister and her son joined our household, and the Medicaid nightmare increased in its absurdity. She had a crushed right foot from an auto accident that Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, Fl., refused to operate on because she had no insurance. She hobbled to work anyway, was injured in two separate robberies where she worked, and at night, her leg and foot swelled-up like a balloon. I immediately got her on Medicaid, and then there were more Dr. appointments; her teeth were so bad that she developed MSRA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in her jaw and all of her upper teeth had to be extracted, and thankfully, Medicaid covered the charges for the extractions and the medications. Here’s the “Catch 22″ - Medicaid does not cover the cost of dentures. The Dentist charged her $1,380.00 for her dentures, which we paid $250.00 per month - a total of $1,000.00 so far, and now we’re broke and almost homeless. She suffered a motorcycle accident a few years ago, and her Dr. in Salt Lake City stated he was experiencing early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and in her case, the diagnosis is likely correct. She has to write herself notes to remind her do do the most mundane of activities, and her eyesight is terrible! Yep, Medicaid paid for the eye exam, but not the glasses; they are still at the Optometrist’s office, and if it rains $125.00 - she may be able to read her own notes!
My sister is also in severe pain; the Pain Management Clinic we go to is excellent, and during her exam, the Dr. discovered that she had very serious problems with her female organs and he felt she needed to see a gynecologist immediately. More Dr. appointments, and even though the Dr. wanted her to have an immediate hysterectomy, Medicaid rules required him to try alternative methods before he could perform surgery - so she was put on birth control pills and bled for a solid month. Her gynecologist was excellent, and after the birth control pills proved to be ineffective, he scheduled her for surgery. Approximately a week and a half before the surgery, one of the cysts on her ovaries burst, and the pain and misery she suffered through was agonizing. Her surgery was two weeks ago, and she’s beginning to recover, but still needs surgery on her foot. (Some teeth so she could eat properly wouldn’t be a bad idea, and being able to see well enough to drive is also important.)
No, the outrages of a broken system doesn’t stop there; her son, who is eleven years old has a defect in his gastrointestinal tract and has to take huge doses of Miralax every day of his life, which is about $30.00 per month. Since it’s over-the-counter, Medicaid doesn’t cover the cost. He also has to wear pads for the constant leakage of fecal matter like a woman would wear during her period - and he goes through another $30.00 per month of those - and since they are over-the-counter, Medicaid doesn’t cover them either…
My sister’s total income per month is $340.00 she receives in SSI for her son. She hasn’t been able to work for over a year and a half, and has gone through three (3) surgeries in the past eighteen (18) months, plus the massive amount of dental work she’s had done, and to add insult to injury, the county we moved into cut-off her TANF benefits (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) - which was a measly $212.00 per month, but it helped. The case worker stated that she had to have a Doctor’s excuse - even though she had documentation from the hospital that she would be disabled 100% for at least sixty days, otherwise she would have to do volunteer work. The case-worker - with a note of contempt in her voice told me that TANF wasn’t free money, that she had to work for it. I had to pay the Dr.’s office for the excuse, but they didn’t complete the form in time, so the benefits were stopped. Besides, driving her to “work” would require that most of the TANF funds were spent on gas - so I refuse to go back to that division of family services, as I’m positive I’d wind-up in jail.