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November 11, 2009

Thoughts on Health Care After the Swine Flu

Surgical mask

I'm scratching my head over the state of health care, but I'm not talking about insurance exchanges, the Stupak Amendment or the "public option."  I'm wondering why we are in a country where you can't get a flu shot, some doctors are holding back Tamiflu and you're treated like a criminal for a box of decongestant tablets.

I had hoped against hope that the swine flu would bypass our house.  I was still on the fence about whether we would get the H1N1 vaccine, but we were diligent about hand washing and sanitizing. Our pediatrician's office had received only a small supply of the vaccine and it had gone to the high risk patients (Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore hardly received any of the vaccine, but I guess if I worked at Citigroup or Goldman Sachs, I could have scored at least one dose for our daughter).

Despite our best efforts, shortly before Halloween my daughter and about 20 of her classmates all got sick with what we assume was the swine flu based on symptoms and fevers (even a negative flu test isn't proof that you don't have it).  By the time I got my fourth-grader to the pediatrician (using the special back door flu entrance!), the doctor said she wasn't a candidate for Tamiflu, even though she'd been struggling with a nasty allergy-related cough for about two weeks. 

A day later, I felt the symptoms coming on. My only glimmer of positivity was that I was catching it early and would be able to nip it in the bud with a prescription for Tamiflu. When I called my internist, I figured I was early enough in my symptoms to be a candidate for a nice quick dose of the flu miracle drug, but she, too, said "No."

In the meantime, families all around us were scoring Tamiflu prescriptions for everyone in their families, whether they had symptoms or not.  Needless to say, even with fever, aches and chills, I was mightily peeved. How, I wondered, do I find a doctor willing to give us the meds we needed, the ones that might have helped ward off my current post-swine flu cough that, for some, morphs into pneumonia? (I'm still waiting for the chest X-ray results).

On top of that, we were out of Sudafed to help clear up our stuffy noses.  But you can't get that decongestant anymore without having photo ID and getting put into an online registry that tracks your Sudafed buying habits because of the risk of some turning it into methamphetamine.

So if we live in a country where flu shots are rationed, medicine that can help prevent or lessen the effects of a pandemic flu is doled out without rhyme or reason, and the process for getting even a decongestant at the pharmacy is akin to that for buying a gun, how will we ever sort out the really big things?

I wish I had an answer.  But for now, I'd settle for a Tamiflu prescription in case we get hit with the seasonal flu later this winter.

When she's not wondering when her swine flu cough will take its leave, Joanne is at her place, PunditMom, pondering the political aspects of health care and much more.

Original 50-something Moms blog post.

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