Over 32 years ago I bought my condo in the Kirkland Totem Lake neighborhood. One buying consideration was the condo’s proximity to Evergreen Hospital and Medical Center (now EvergreenHealth), which is located within a mile of my home. Soon after my purchase in 1984, Pacific Medical Centers (PacMed) opened a Totem Lake clinic. I received almost all of my health care needs at one or the other of these two facilities, except for some specialties. When I retired from the University of Washington in 1993 to care for ailing parents, I continued to receive primary care at PacMed, my HMO, under the Secure Horizons option of my health plan, UnitedHealth.
As you may be aware, state retirees’ benefits are managed by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB), and insurance premiums are deducted from my state pension.
Everything worked fine for me until PEBB ended its contract with Secure Horizons. I had to choose another health plan, and the only one which would offer Medicare Advantage coverage was Group Health Cooperative. So I now get my health care at Group Health facilities. It’s a good organization, and I’m getting good care… but eight miles from home at the Bellevue main facility and six miles away at the Redmond clinic, instead of next-door.
However, just 2-1/2 months under the new arrangement (but before I was established with a primary care doctor), I fell at home and injured my thigh. In great pain, it was a struggle for me to reach a phone to call 9-1-1 for help and a neighbor with an extra key for my condo to let the medics in. They asked me who my insurer was, and put me on a stretcher and into the medic van. I had to go eight miles into Bellevue to Urgent Care at Group Health, rather than next-door to EvergreenHealth. The medics dropped me off, and I had to wait for X-rays. By the time the X-ray was read, indicating no bone fractures, and I could be discharged, I had been given narcotics for my pain and could not take a taxi home alone. I was unable to reach my daughter in Seattle by phone, and my 86-year-old neighbor didn’t drive after dark, so I had no way to get home. Never mind that I could not manage the entryway stairs without assistance! My condition did not make it possible for me to stay overnight in the hospital. It took some pleading with the Urgent Care staff, but finally they allowed me to sleep there until morning when my neighbor could drive me home. I was trapped at home for three weeks, while (very competent) Group Health aides helped me to manage with showering and restoring my ability to walk somewhat normally, including up and down stairs.
With universal, single-payer health care, I could simply have been taken to the nearest emergency room at EvergreenHealth. My neighbor could have driven one mile after dark to pick me up.
When insurers make our health care decisions for us–where to get care and from whom–unnecessary cost and effort can be incurred.
So much for my careful consideration of choosing a new home in the vicinity of a hospital and thriving medical community! And, yes, I continue to pay real estate taxes which support EvergreenHealth’s expansion, and I vote for its management and development, rather than for GroupHealth, since it is in my hospital district. Go figure!