Archive for friends

Guiding the sick through the system …

kv

My friend Karen Vogel just published a piece called “The Accidental Advocate.” It starts:

Like many patient advocates, personal experience transformed me into a new career. I was prepared and motivated. I had a professional network and confidence that I was smart enough to figure it out as I went along. What I didn’t include in my business plan was ironic shock.

One of my champions was my neighbor Laura, who lived next to me for 20 years. For a while she listened to me whining about my work in health insurance management, my aging parents, the screwed up healthcare system . . . and challenged me to stop complaining and take action. And so I did. The main impetus was my mother’s death. It forced me to become a long distance caregiver for my father, which turned out to be a wonderful adventure for both of us. I quit my soul-sucking corporate job, went back to school and retrained. I started my own company 3 years ago and worried about finding clients. “No problem,” said Laura, “my aunt Jane is sick and needs someone to figure out her insurance.” Client #1.

Four months into my new occupation, on a Friday evening in April 2016, I got a call that Laura was in an emergency room. She had been struggling with memory issues and a coworker dragged her to the hospital under protest. I rushed over yelling “I’m an advocate! Let me document everything!”

Laura had glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) Grade 4, the worst kind of brain cancer, usually terminal within 18 months. On Sunday morning a surgical team was in place to make sure she got a lemon-sized mass removed from her head. Laura became client #7. …

Read the entire thing.

Here is an interview Karen did last year with Vice News on HBO.

“patient advocate”

karen

On my way out the door after my first appointment with my new doctor up in Vancouver – this would be in 1996 – a clerk at the front desk noticed that I seemed puzzled. “Mr. Basil, in Canada, doctors offices don’t have cashiers.” I heaved a brief sob, I was so relieved and surprised. 

When I lived in the United States, my insurance was sporadic and when I had it often shitty. That fact touched every one of my days with real and awful anxiety.

Vice.com says my dear friend Karen Vogel is at the vanguard of a new profession in the United States – the “patient advocate”:

Karen Vogel, an insurance and administrative advocate, spent 29 years working in the insurance industry and became frustrated at the missed opportunities to really make a difference in patients’ lives.

“It was hard to come to terms with what was I doing and was I creating any good in the world, and who was I really serving?” Vogel told VICE News. “Because our healthcare system is so fragmented it’s so broken and there are so many opportunities to get into it to make it work for people. And I just wasn’t satisfied with the path that I was on.”

Over the past two and a half years of working as a patient advocate, Vogel has helped her 45 clients wade into the specifics of the insurance claim and reimbursement process.

About a quarter of what she finds are simple errors; the rest of her work is advocating on behalf of patients for out-of-network coverage or special considerations. Her biggest save was $109,000 by appealing out of state care to count toward in-state benefits.

I am very proud of my friend, who’s on the side of the angels.

July 4

On this day five years ago I wrote:

After American Thanksgiving, July 4th – American Independence Day – was always my favourite holiday when I lived in the States. There were no obligations beyond conviviality and bringing bean dip and the like to pot luck BBQs in your friends’ back yards or in the park nearby. Friends always seemed to bring someone new to these happy events, and sometimes frisbees, too.

I’m blessed to be back in the States for the summer, among cherished friends, and for today’s celebrations of what is good in the nation in which I was raised. “To be with those I like is enough,” said Whitman.

This year I’m gazing over the border from my home in British Columbia, and I’m imagining the lives of “those I like” in the States. I can feel their alarm.

The opposite of talking

A friend called me a good listener the other day. I was happy to get this compliment; I work hard at listening. Not being clueless is a full-time activity for me.

I was reminded of the Fran Lebowitz quote: “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting.”

“Individuals” – a critique

An ongoing one from our friend Clarissa.

The Questionnaire, part 1

If there were an end-of-life questionnaire – and there might be! – here is how I would answer two questions:

Do you wish you were smarter? No. Intelligence did not make me happy. Getting older I have lost some and then some more, and have won eons of easygoing delight because of that. I always used to tell my therapists that I would give up a ton of IQ points for a little mental relief. That happened. Yay.

Do you wish you were kinder? Yes and No. I once told my late & beloved friend Kat Kosiancic that I hated hearing people say that they would have changed nothing in their lives if they had had the chance. Ugh! “There is never a good reason to be unkind,” I said. I quoted Henry James: “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” My friend Kat was very kind and plain in her response: “Being unkind taught you about kindness in a way that you never could have learned about otherwise.”

“Party Bus”

Shannon Raymond died in 2008. Her sister and her Mom are friends of mine.