Category Archives: medical news

Far from persuaded that Medicare for All is worthy, practical

I will need some additional persuasion, perhaps a lot of it, to be sold on the idea of Medicare for All, the pet project of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the newly anointed “front runner” for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

She now says it’ll cost “trillions of dollars” over the next decade, but she won’t raise taxes on middle-class Americans to pay for it.

I must stipulate that I am an elderly American. I am nearly 70 years of age. I am enrolled in Medicare, but also am enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care program. My VA membership trumps Medicare, given that if I need acute medical care, I am going to rely on the VA to take care of my needs.

So this Medicare for All notion is out of my wheelhouse. Or my wife’s wheelhouse. My sons, though, would be eligible for this program that Sen. Warren is pitching, along with our 6-year-old granddaughter.

I don’t want them to go broke looking for medical care or trying to find insurance that would pay for it.

I am just trying to wrap my noggin around how our federal government — which already is gazillions of dollars in debt — would be able to foot the bill on a government-financed medical plan that by definition would cover “all” Americans.

Warren says, if she’s elected president, she wouldn’t push for a middle-class tax on all Americans to pay for this package?

I need to figure this one out.

VA medical care: still top notch

I am happy — indeed, delighted — to report that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical care system is still tops in my estimation.

Now I will explain why.

I had an appointment at 10 a.m. today way down yonder at the VA’s Medical Center in south Dallas. Why mention that? Because I live about 40 miles north of the medical center in Collin County.

That meant I had to leave my house in Princeton at 8 a.m. to get there in time to check in and prepare for a medical examination I had scheduled. The VA told me to get there 30 minutes before my appointed time, which meant I had to leave extra-early.

Hmm. Eight in the morning driving along the Central Expressway through Dallas is dicey, yes? You bet it is! I got caught in morning rush-hour traffic. It became obvious to me around 9:15 that I wouldn’t get there 30 minutes early. I took a moment while stopped on the highway to call the office. I informed the voice mail machine that I would be late, that I was stuck in traffic; I’ll get there when I get there.

Right around the LBJ Freeway, the traffic jam broke up and we sailed along the Expressway, then on to Interstate 45 toward the exit I needed to take.

I pulled into the VA parking lot at 10:10, parked the car and rushed to the clinic where I was to be examined. I checked in. Then I waited for about, oh, 15 minutes before a young resident doc called my name.

We went to the exam room. He asked me a few questions. Then he got started. The exam took all of about 50 minutes. Then he said his “boss,” the attending physician would come in to go over the results of the exam.

She did. We chatted. I got a reasonably clean bill of health and was on my way.

I walked out of the VA medical center at noon. 

They could have pushed to the back of a long line. They didn’t. They could have asked me to reschedule, given that I didn’t get there 30 minutes beforehand. They didn’t.

I waited just a few minutes, which has been my experience dealing with my pre-paid medical plan.

I have been blessed since enrolling with the VA medical plan with good health. I have suffered no medical emergencies. My visits in Amarillo, where I enrolled initially and in Bonham, where I go now for my routine checkups have been routine. In and out just like that.

Today, though, presented a situation that could have turned out differently. It turned out just fine.

And the young resident, as so many of his colleagues have done whenever I have been examined, thanked me for my service to the country.

By all means, ban those ‘flavored’ vape devices

Get ready for it. I am about to say something positive about the president of the United States.

Donald J. Trump is absolutely correct to call for a ban on the sale of those “flavored” e-cigarette devices (I think that’s what you might call ’em) in an effort to stem the use of vaping among youngsters.

The president today spoke of his own vested interest in the banning of them, noting that he and first lady Melania Trump are the parents of a teenage son who is part of the generation that is drawn to those weird flavors.

Actually, the president referenced the first lady exclusively, saying “she has a son” and, thus, has skin in the game.

Whatever. He is correct to demand stricter prohibitions regarding vaping, which is producing serious illness and death among youngsters all over the country.

My wife and I are in Bellingham, Wash., tonight and local news reports referred extensively to the state’s first vape-related death.

It’s an epidemic. Its most vulnerable victims are gullible youngsters, boys and girls, who are lured to try this new fad. I always thought e-cigarettes and vaping were somehow safer than the old-fashioned cigarettes I used to smoke.

Now this vaping craze has produced flavors: cotton candy and other assorted scents that I guess young people find appealing.

Honestly, I don’t quite yet understand the vaping craze … other than I want no part of it. I quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey nearly 40 years ago. It is one of the things I’ve done in my life of which I am most proud.

If we can dissuade young people from vaping and exposing their lungs to the hazards of nicotine, then I’m all for that, too.

To that end, I applaud the president for using his high office for a noble cause.

Cure for AIDS and childhood cancer on tap?

Donald Trump went way overboard in handing out grand promises during a political rally this week in Cincinnati.

First, he said he intends to find a cure for HIV/AIDS “very soon.” How soon? That remains to be seen and perhaps how the president defines the term “very soon.”

Second, he announced his intention to cure childhood cancer.

There you go. Two deadly diseases are headed for extinction on this president’s watch. Naturally, the crowd cheered. Hey, who can blame them? I mean, it was their guy making the dubious boasts, although the subject of the prediction certainly is worth cheering, no matter how serious one should take the claim being made by the miracle worker in chief.

What will happen, though, if we don’t find a cure for HIV/AIDS or childhood cancer by the time Trump leaves office? I am presuming he means in January 2025, at the end of his second term. Oh, the humanity, if he gets re-elected next year.

I suppose he’ll blame Democrats in Congress for however short he might fall in that grand prediction.

I am going to hope that Trump delivers on the grand effort, although I have about as much confidence in his delivering the goods as I do on his insistence that “Mexico will pay for The Wall.”

Still an ardent fan of the VA medical services

You might have seen on this blog that I have received marvelous service from the massive U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical operation.

I enrolled about a half-dozen years ago at the Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo. It took me about 20 minutes to get signed up, after which the admitting officer said simply: “Welcome aboard.”

I received great care there. It was timely. The medical staff is always courteous. I rarely had to wait for anything.

Here is what I wrote shortly after enrolling at the VA in Amarillo:

Better late than never

Then we moved to the Metroplex. I have switched my enrollment to the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Center in Bonham. The early verdict? It’s still great.

I went for a routine checkup this past week. The doctor asked me if I had any concerns. I mentioned that I have these “skin tags” on my neck. I told her I want them removed.

“You will have to go to our VA clinic in Dallas,” she said. Fine. I’ll do it.

As I checked out of the Rayburn center, a young secretary took my information and said I should expect a call to set up an appointment in Dallas. Great. Have a good day. I got the call later in the week. I set up an appointment for this morning to have those annoying “tags” removed.

Here’s where it gets really stellar.

They told me to report 30 minutes prior to my 11 a.m. appointment. I drove this morning from Princeton to south Dallas … via McKinney. I got to the massive VA complex in Dallas. I blundered my way around the chaotic complex, parking finally in a covered garage. I walked into the main entrance and asked the receptionist: “Where is Building Two?”

“You are standing in Building Two,” he told me. Well, OK, then. I am living right.

I took the elevator to the clinic where I was told to report. I checked in. The young man behind the counter said I’d be called in for blood pressure testing prior to the doc’s visit. Fine. I waited about, oh, 8 minutes.

They called me in. The nurse took my BP, weighed me and escorted me to an exam room. At this point it was about 10:45 a.m., 15 minutes prior to my appointment.

Then a young man in physician’s scrubs walked in and said, “I’m sorry, I have another procedure to do before I get to you.” No worries.

He returned at 11:10 a.m. Dang! My appointment was for 11! He was 10 whole minutes late! He took care of the issue I had. He told me to call if I had any problems. Roger that.

I walked out of the building at 11:25 a.m. and headed straight for the house.

With all of this reported to you, I hereby declare categorically that my pre-paid medical plan obtained through the Department of Veterans Affairs remains a stellar benefit.

Trump takes demagoguery to shocking level … even for him!

Donald Trump’s shamelessness knows no bounds.

He exhibited it yet again this weekend in Green Bay, Wis., when he accused women and their doctors of committing criminal acts.

The president got all fired up and then told his adoring crowd of Trumpkins that women and their doctors deliver babies, talk about how to care for the baby, wrap the child up — and then decide how to “execute” that child.

Oh, the throng loved it. They cheered the president and booed the scenario. Except that he lied. What he described does not happen!

Yet for this president to continually demagogue the issue of abortion, of whether a woman should be able to choose whether to carry a child to full term simply astonishes many of us beyond our ability to declare our revulsion.

It’s illegal, Mr. POTUS.

The nation does not allow the “execution” of babies. Such a crime would be produce at minimum a life sentence in prison in most states. Yet there he was this weekend, spouting even more outrageous lies.

Donald Trump is the most indecent human being ever to occupy the nation’s highest office.

Happy Trails, Part 156: Change coming in health care

I learned a while ago that I am not crazy about change. At my age these days change can be a bit problematic.

This latest change chapter, though, seems a good bit less so as it approaches.

I’m hitting the road Thursday for Bonham, Texas, a few miles northeast of our home in Princeton. I am going to see a new health care provider at the Sam Rayburn Veterans Center.

The Thomas Creek VA Medical Center in Amarillo had been my health care provider since I enrolled in the Veterans Administration program a few years back. I have been impressed with the care I received at the Creek center.

Now it’s time to relocate to a more conveniently located VA center to obtain my pre-paid health care.

I managed to transfer all my medical records from Amarillo to the regional office in Dallas. Modern technology allowed me to do all of it via the phone. No sweat, man.

Well, now comes a bit of a test. We’ll see if I can get in and out of the Bonham VA center with the same timeliness I was able to do when I reported for my regular checkups at the Thomas Creek center.

The Department of Veterans Affairs came under intense criticism during the final years of the Obama administration. The DVA had that scandal involving patients who were dying while awaiting medical care in Phoenix. I’ve been fortunate to date in that I have been relatively healthy. My visits to the VA medical staff have been routine. I know that eventually my luck is going to run out, given that I am approaching my 70th birthday near the end of this year.

I might be retired, which gives me a lot of time to think about “things.” I have no particular concern as I change the place where I receive my regular medical checkups and care.

My experience with the Department of Veterans Affairs has been trouble-free. I intend to ensure that it stays that way for as long as I possibly can.

ACA repeal effort pushed back . . . to what end?

Donald Trump thinks of himself as a master political strategist, the consummate dealmaker, the toughest guy on the block.

Of course, he is none of that.

He is the president of the United States, who also keeps changing strategies, his mind, his goals. He confuses me to no end.

Now he says he wants Congress to withhold plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act until after the 2020 presidential election. This comes after he declared — with the most conviction he could muster — that he wanted it done now. He didn’t have a replacement plan, but he damn sure did promise that the Republican Party would become the “party of health care.” Yep. That’s what he said.

How will that occur? That’s a mystery. To Trump. To congressional Republicans. To the White House staff. To the Department of Health and Human Services.

The strategy du jour is to wait until after the election next year. Trump says the GOP will retake the House of Representatives, strengthen its control of the Senate and, let’s not forget, re-elect him as POTUS.

There you have it. Trump predicts that the GOP will regain total control of two of three co-equal government branches.

But wait! They had that control before. They couldn’t repeal the ACA, let alone come up with a suitable replacement. Why do you suppose that happened?

I think it’s because the ACA has become more popular with Americans, the folks who are the actual “bosses.” It ain’t Congress and it certainly isn’t the White House.

Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing.

GOP secretly rooting against Trump on ACA repeal effort

Psst. This isn’t really a secret, but I’ll treat it like one anyway.

Republican congressional leaders are “secretly” rooting against Donald Trump’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Why? They don’t have a replacement ready to go. They aren’t even close to having one on the back burner.

Plus, they got roasted in the 2018 midterm election because Democrats made enough of an issue of ACA repeal to give them control of the House of Representatives.

ACA fight scares GOP

GOP officials are scared, man. They don’t want the president to succeed in his effort to toss aside President Obama’s signature legislative triumph.

It’s not as though they like the ACA. They don’t. Reasonable Republicans see ways to improve the ACA with their own repairs to make it better. Wow! What a concept! Legislating improvements to landmark laws to allow it to deliver on the promise that its sponsors made when they enacted it in the first place.

They did that with Social Security in the 1930s. And with Medicare in the 1960s. Republicans linked arms with Democrats and improved both of those groundbreaking laws to make them suitable for most Americans. Now, who can live without either of them? Uhh, that would be no one.

It’s being argued that the president didn’t think about the follow through when he announced this past week that he intends to seek judicial rulings to toss aside the ACA. Gee, do ya think? Trump tends to avoid thinking about anything before acting on impulse.

But, there he was. Flush from a victory of sorts with the conclusion of Robert Mueller III’s investigation into The Russia Thing and he steps on his own applause line. Trump trumpeted “no collusion!” and “total vindication!” and then gave Democrats a gift by declaring war on the ACA, giving Democrats loads of ammo to launch at Republicans as they prepare for the 2020 election.

Don’t tell anyone, but I’m kind of thinking that the president doesn’t know what he’s doing, doesn’t know with whom he is dealing and doesn’t understand the consequences of his impulsive behavior.

Hodgetown: a fitting name

I have been known to speak disparagingly about naming structures after living humans, fearing that the person being honored might do something down the road that would embarrass himself or herself — and the community that honored them.

However, I also have been known to make exceptions, holding to the belief that the individuals honored would never do such a thing.

The picture attached to this blog post illustrates one of the exceptions I have made.

Hodgetown is where the Amarillo Sod Poodles are going to begin playing AA minor-league baseball in a few days. It also is going to be a venue for other community events in downtown Amarillo.

Its name honors a former city mayor and a business tycoon who has devoted much of his adult life to improving the community he has called home. Jerry Hodge is the honoree. I should note that he is so willing to share the spotlight with his wife, Margaret, who also is a force of nature in her own right.

I’ve known Jerry and Margaret Hodge for many years; I know Jerry Hodge better than I know Margaret. I’ve known Jerry Hodge as a hard-driving pharmaceutical company mogul who built Maxor into a worldwide concern. He had left the mayor’s office by the time I had taken up my post in early 1995 as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News, but he never really has stepped completely out of public view.

He has been an outspoken advocate for the city and for the Panhandle. He and Margaret used their influence and their financial resources to lure the Amarillo Sod Poodles from their former home in San Antonio to the High Plains. They also have been big hitters in bringing the Texas Tech Pharmacy School to Amarillo — which, given the Hodges’ ties to Maxor was a no-brainer. Most recently they donated $10 million to Tech toward its planned construction of the school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo.

So, you see, my aversion to naming structures after living human beings isn’t ironclad and all-inclusive. The Hodges have given much back to the community that has enriched them. It is only fitting that the ballpark formerly known only as the “multipurpose event venue” would carry their name over the main entrance.

I am proud to know them.