No. 596



While I have been lucky enough to escape the medical condition called shingles, I know many people who have had them, including my wife and mother, and from all accounts they are really painful.

Having knowledge of this painful ordeal, I really got a chuckle out of something a friend from North Arkansas sent me the other day. It's titled, "Bubba Had the Shingles," and there is an underlying message here that I would like to briefly discuss with you after I share it.

The story begins, "Bubba walked into the doctor's office and the receptionist asked him what he had. Bubba said, 'Shingles.' So she wrote down his name, address, medical insurance number and told him to have a seat. Fifteen minutes later a nurse's aid came out and asked Bubba what he had. Bubba said, 'Shingles.' So she wrote down his height, weight, a complete medical history and told Bubba to wait in the examining room.

"A half hour later a nurse came in and asked Bubba what he had. Bubba said, 'Shingles.' So the nurse gave Bubba a blood test, a blood pressure test, an electro-cardiogram, and told Bubba to take off all his clothes and wait for the doctor. An hour later the doctor came in and asked Bubba what he had. Bubba said, 'Shingles.' The doctor asked, 'where?' Bubba said, 'Outside on the truck. Where do you want them?'"

Unless you have had perfect health all of your life, you can see the underlying message in this story, without me going into great detail. Over the past several years as I have gotten older and experienced some medical problems related to high blood sugar and cholesterol, I have found myself going back for a doctor's appointment on a regular and ongoing basis. Because of this fact I could really empathize with Bubba's story. What I am going to say from this point forward is not a put-down of the medical profession, because like everyone else who has ever had any serious medical problems, I'm grateful the hospitals, doctors and nurses were there to take care of me when I needed their help.

This is not to say there is not room for honest dialogue with those in the medical field and the health-care industry. My concern is this, and I bet you have said the same thing many times as well. Are all the tests and procedures that patients are required to have really necessary? In my mind, this is where each doctor's personal integrity really comes into play. In most cases, he or she is the one primarily responsible for this call. When you think about the sky-high cost of malpractice insurance, you cannot totally fault doctors for basing their decisions on the side of caution.

Again, without being critical, my concern is for the future, and especially for future generations. For the past several years, health-care costs have grown at double the rate of inflation. Another factor to consider is when an industry grows so fast, with new equipment and the latest technology, the number of people required to staff a 24-hour operation grows right along with the trend. These people must be paid week in and week out.

Most of our senior citizens, including Baby Boomers, are really concerned about our nation's Social Security system. In reality, our Social Security can be fixed without too much difficulty, and extended on out into the future, but not so with our nation's Medicare system. The reason is obvious. Social Security benefits are paid to the individual, based on what he or she had paid into their own account, but Medicare is paid by the federal government from money paid by taxpayers.

When we have abuses in the health-care industry, compounded over time it becomes a greater burden to a federal government, already deep in debt from runaway spending in other areas. The real question becomes, who can fix this problem? ---

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")