A Grand Metaphor From a Small Event

Most of the available seasonal flu vaccine in our area was distributed to private pharmacies. Unfortunately, pharmacists can’t administer vaccines to kids under 15. This policy wasn’t even lifted in the face of a global pandemic. Since very little vaccine was distributed to pediatricians, it ran out quickly and few kids got it. My wife, after a legion of phone calls to various places found out that Target was hosting a clinic and had vaccine for the kids. Target also accepts our insurance. My wife got to Target and a snippy RN told her the following:

Rent-a-nurse: “We aren’t taking insurance you’ll have to pay.”

Mrs Pliny: “ I called as was told that you took our insurance.”

Rent a nurse: “Well, they told you wrong. We aren’t with Target. You can call around if you want but nobody else has any vaccine, we have plenty, so we can do what we want.” (that is verbatim)

Later, Mrs Pliny asked. “My daughter is coming off a probable H1N1 flu about 2 weeks ago. Can she still get the vaccine?

Rent a Nurse: “you’ll have to ask them at the pharmacy. Make sure you do before you pay because we don’t give refunds.”

Mrs Pliny filled out the paperwork and stood in line to ask her question and pay. She asked the pharmacist who, and you can’t make this stuff up - walked over to rent a nurse and asked her. She said sure.

Mrs Pliny got back in the vaccine line where rent-a-nurse rudely gave her a hard time about who she was in reference to our daughter (Mrs Pliny and my daughter do differ substantially in ethnic appearance, but to my knowledge there is no black market in paying to get kids immunized...)

Rent-a-nurse: “She can’t get the vaccine if she’s been sick! Who told you she could?”

Job-patient Mrs Pliny: “You did when you sent us over the pharmacist who came over and asked you.”

Egg dripping from face Rent a Nurse: “Oh, well I guess it’s ok.”

Such a small event but such a grand metaphor for bureaucratic intransigence, short sighted guild policies and problems with for profit medical care. GUT help us when one of those avian bad-boys comes a calling.


Michael Lockridge said...

Hey! That's the world I live in!

I recall the worst I met. We were jumping through hoops to get authorization for fostering a child, and had to talk with a social worker. She was nice, and seemed competent. It was also easy to see that the idealist that sought a public service position had been ground fine and stuffed into a small office to die a slow death.

It made me sad. Perhaps rent-a-nurse had once been an idealist with a longing to serve humanity through healing.

Then again, she might just have been an asshole.

Hey! That's the world I live in!


pboyfloyd said...

Seems to me that this nurse was on 'medication' herself.

Either that or she badly needed some.

Richelle said...

kudos to your wife for keeping her cool and not bitch slapping that woman into a coma.

i really don't understand why people have to be such dicks about everything.

your story reminds me a little of something that happened to me while i was still a single mother living on government assistance.

i was a full time student working two part time jobs to barely scrape by every month. i went down to department of family services to renew the paperwork for my son's medicaid. while i was there i picked up an application for myself. i had never qualified in the past, but at this point i was making less than $3,000 a year when before i had been making about $11,000 so i figured i had to be poor enough for their standards.

filled out the application, turned it in, got a letter back a couple weeks later, they said i made too much money.

about 6 months later i went in to do a review for my food stamps. my case worker was on vacation so my review was with a woman i hadn't ever dealt with before. she was very friendly and pleasant and as she was looking over all my paperwork she asked me, "do you have health insurance?" i replied, "no, i haven't for several years. i don't qualify for medicaid and i don't have a job that offers benefits."

the pleasant woman then informed me that i had qualified the whole time and she was shocked they had sent me letters telling me otherwise.

and that's why i hate dfs. you have a few nice people like that woman, but for the most part it's a bunch of incompetent pricks.

Jared said...

Richelle, I like computer systems for handling administrative tasks for this reason. I would prefer it to be absolutely impersonal. At least then, you know it wasn't human error, human stupidity, or utter incompetence which resulted in an error.

As for Mrs. Pliny, it is unfortunate such situations arise.
If she did have influenza, that doesn't play a role in the immunization since influenza mutates so rapidly and has so many strains; she didn't catch all of the ones in the vaccine. I'm not sure what I should be more upset about; the lack of knowledge from someone actually administering these vaccines or that they refused insurance...

While I am all in favor of scientifically derived pharmaceuticals, I find the profit motive quite disquieting as it does provide massive payoffs for data manipulation and price gouging.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Thanks to all for the comments and more than a few chuckles.

I don't know if it's comforting or scary to others that people well versed in the peculiarities of healthcare still have such problems navigating the system.

Mike - hard at this point to know which was her origin ;)

pboy - pharma often helps doesn't it?

Richelle, I have wondered about the seemingly excessive level of dickery evident in human interchange for a long time.

Some of what you have experienced falls into my definition of liberal elitists - those that feel utterly contemptuous of the people they feel compelled to help.

Jared - for me - it's the insurance thing and the tude that went with it. Effectively she was saying "we have effectively cornered the market on this vaccine for kids so pay what we want"