Early Experiences With Medical and Dental Care

Today’s topic for Throwback Thursday is doctors’ or dental visits. I have many early memories of medical care, probably because I, being multiply-disabled, often had to visit the doctor. Until I was about nine, that is, when my parents, my sister and I moved across the country and my parents stopped taking me to doctors altogether except when I had everyday ailments.

An interesting question Lauren asks in her original post, is whether your parents were scared of doctors or dentists. Well, truthfully, yes, mine are. My mother had her own fair share of traumatic experiences involving doctors, among which a situation that would’ve been considered medical malpractice had it been in the U.S. surrounding my premature birth. My father, I don’t know. He probably feels he’s smarter than most doctors and hence considers spending time with them a waste of his own time.

All that being said, up till the age of about nine, I was taken for medical care when I needed it. I don’t think I was really taken for health checks except those part of preemie follow-up. I don’t remember most of these visits, except the ones to the eye doctor. My eye doctor was always, and I mean literally always running at least two hours behind schedule. Waiting in the waiting room for her was the worst. Well, no, the second worst: the absolute worst was waiting for her to come back after she’d put dilation drops into my eyes.

I don’t think I was very afraid of needles as a child. In fact, when I needed to be put under general anesthesia for my various surgeries, as soon as my parents allowed me to make the decision myself between the anesthetic mask and the injection, I always chose the injection. I remember being horribly afraid that I would get the mask when I had to have cataract surgery in 2013, even though I’m not even sure they do this on adults.

One thing I did always remember was that the hospital staff would stick me in my toes rather than my fingers for finger pricks, because the nerves in my fingers should not be damaged because of the fact that I read Braille. I had to have a finger prick last year and told the medical assistant that she was supposed to stick the needle in my toe. She explained that she couldn’t, so I reluctantly agreed to have her stick the needle into the side of a finger I hardly use for reading.

As for dental care, I think I did have proper dental check-ups when I was young. I didn’t have problems with my teeth until I was about eleven and fell and a bit of one of my front teeth broke off. That was the first time I started worrying about my teeth. I did need braces, which was quite an ordeal as the orthodontist never explained properly what I could and couldn’t eat, so there were always parts of my braces getting loose.

I am not very scared of doctors. Dentists though, well, it’s complicated. I am scared of dentists, but also scared of losing my teeth. This has led to some rather odd situations in which I sought out dental care that I might not have needed and didn’t seek out dental care that I did need. Thankfully, now that I live in long-term care, I do get regular dental check-ups and the staff and dentist do try their best to make me feel as comfortable as possible.

Five Things I Take for Granted #5Things

Yesterday, DrTanya’s topic for the #5Things challenge was things you (sometimes) take for granted. I realize I take a lot of things for granted that I really shouldn’t. Here are just five.

1. My intelligence. I don’t take it as much for granted as I used to when in school, but i still feel that I pretty much consider my high IQ a given. Not only that, but I usually find that I’m surprised when others aren’t as intellectually capable as I am. Of course, I don’t mean my fellow clients at the care facility. In fact, they have taught me quite a lesson in humility.

2. My access to medical care. I don’t take my access to long-term care for granted, because that was a fight, but my basic health insurance coverage, I certainly do take for granted. Of course, it is mandatory here in the Netherlands and even those who don’t pay their premiums can’t be refused insurance for at least six months while the insurance company tries to sort things out with them.

3. A roof over my head. I’ve never been without shelter, although in a sense I’ve often felt “homeless”. In the psychiatric hospital, I knew several ppatients who had no home other than the hospital and who were regularly suspended from the ward into the homeless shelter. In this sense, it is really surprising that I never even considered this would happen to me, since I too for several years had no home other than the hospital. I think this signals how secure I felt, in a sense, at the ward I resided at back then.

4. Electricity. I never had to pay my own electricity bills, at least not directly. I mean, even when my husband and I lived together, my husband paid the electricity bills. As a result, I’m hardly aware of how much energy really costs. My husband did tell me how well we did compared to other households and we were always relatively frugal. Even so, it all seems a bit abstract to me.

5. Access to a computer. I don’t take Internet access for granted, but access to a computer, I certainly do. Even in my early days at the locked psychiatric ward, I had my laptop with me and there was no way anyone could take it from me, regardless of what the rules said about only certain electronics being permitted. Thankfully, my nursing staff did understand.

What things do you take for granted?

Right to Health

In his daily prompt yesterday, Scott Andrew Bailey asks us about the “right to health”. I purposefully put that between quote marks, as obviously no-one has a right to health. We all get sick and die eventually. Okay, that was my autistic brain’s literal thinking acting up again. What Scott means is the right to medical care.

Scott asks whether medical care is something the government should provide for the people or whether it’s best left to the private sector. Are there drawbacks to your choice?

The answer to that last question is, of course, yes. Any system has its drawbacks. My answer to the first question, on the other hand, is: I’d like it to be a little of both. For my Dutch readers, the answer can be short: I like my own system best, despite its drawbacks, such as the mandatory copay and the diagnosis-treatment combinations which dictate that you’ll get care based on a diagnosis, not your needs. Those were a particularly problematic thing in mental health. I believe they’ve been altered to something else this year, but I don’t know whether it’s better or worse.

For my international readers, here is a little explanation of how the Dutch system works and why it has the best of private and public healthcare combined. Basically, what is called basic health insurance is more or less public, even though it is covered through the same insurers that will cover your additional insurance should you get it and the insurance companies are private. The government decides which care is covered under basic insurance and insurers must accept every Dutch resident for this package, regardless of health status. The basic package covers visits to your GP, hospital care, most medications, specialist mental health services (ie. services for people with more severe mental health problems), etc. Things that are not covered include physical therapy, dentistry for adults over 22 I believe, contraception (even though Christian parties have been demanding it gets put into the package to prevent women needing abortions), etc. When I lived with my husband, I had mostly just the basic package (I did have some physio coverage but didn’t use that) and I didn’t have to pay a lot of extra money for things that weren’t covered.

You can decide to get additional coverage for things like dental care, physical therapy, alternative medicine, etc. However, insurers can refuse you for those. They usually don’t for the cheaper packages, but then again getting these hardly outweighs the cost of paying for care out-of-pocket.

Basic health insurance currently costs about €133 a month if you want to have free choice of healthcare providers (I do). You can opt for a cheaper policy where the insurer has contracts with only certain providers and you have to pay 30% of treatment costs if you go to an uncontracted provider. Like I said, there’s a mandatory copay of €385 a year on your healthcare. GP visits do not count towards this.

Like I said, I think our system has the best of both public and private worlds. Before the current system was put in place, low to medium income people were covered under the sick fund, which was similar to the UK’s NHS, including its problems of extreme waiting lists and bureaucracy. People with higher incomes would need to get private insurance, but I don’t think it was much better for them, in the sense that those with private insurance would be treated favorably. That’s a good thing.

A note about those who cannot afford to pay for health insurance at all: as a general rule, basic insurance is mandatory and there are several ways in which the government aids low-income people, but ultimately if a person doesn’t pay at all, insurers have the ability to stop insuring them. In that case, hospitals can refuse care, but not in acutely life-threatening circumstances such as when someone has a heart attack. In that sense, you have a right not to die on the health system, but not an ultimate right to medical care.