Being an ardent progressive in election year 2020 means that I'm prone to view everything through the lens of what it means for the prospect of making Trump a one-term president this November.
Yes, even being tested to rule out a blood clot in my right leg -- which occurred yesterday.
A bit over a week ago I had a physical therapy visit to get some advice on what to do about annoying leg pain. When Michael, the therapist, asked me what caused the pain, I gave this 30-something guy my 71-year-old perspective on health problems like this one.
"Michael, when I was your age, I could figure out why something hurt. Like, playing too much tennis with my questionable serving technique led to tennis elbow pain. But now that I'm the age I am, aching body parts happen mysteriously. I get out of bed the wrong way, or lift a bag of groceries weirdly, and -- bingo! -- pain. Except the pain doesn't occur right away, so I can never be sure what caused it."
Which is typical for us Medicare folks, based on lots of conversations I've had with people about my age regarding their bodily afflictions.
Anyway, yesterday the pain in my right leg was so bad, I kept thinking about what a nurse at my family physician's office told me a few days ago when I talked with her about my leg pain. Her main concern was a blood clot, so she told me that if my leg is swollen and feels warm to the touch, I should seek medical care right away.
After some Googling of "blood clot leg" and measuring my calves to see if the right one was the same size as the left one (it was), and feeling that both legs were the same temperature, at first I was reassured that I didn't have a clot. Until I read one more article that said sometimes a blood clot can be present with none of the usual symptoms.
Then I got a second leg warmth opinion from my wife. She spent way more time comparing my lower legs than I did, eventually concluding, "Maybe the right one is a little bit warmer."
That tiny maybe got me to thinking that I should go to Salem Health Urgent Care to rule out a blood clot. However, that didn't turn out to be as simple as I expected, even though it was easy to make an online appointment for 2:40 pm with a Nurse Practitioner. And I was seen close to on-time.
She felt my legs, questioned me about the pain I'd been having, and did her own measurement of my calves. She also prescribed a topical NSAID that could replace the oral Advil I'd been taking, but seemingly with less risk of side effects. Somewhat surprisingly, though, she also strongly recommended that I get an ultrasound to make sure I didn't have a blood clot in my leg.
Yes, I was worried about this possibility, as low as the chance was that I had a clot. And it made sense to rule out a potentially fatal problem, like a clot breaking free and heading to my lungs, or maybe even heart.
But having been a health planner and policy analyst in my pre-retirement life, I also was aware of how legal liability concerns can affect medical care decisions. I'm not saying that occurred in this case, but just now the Great God Google did reveal a number of law firms who have web pages along the lines of "Medical Malpractice for Failure to Diagnose Deep Vein Thrombosis."
The symptoms of DVT can be missed or misdiagnosed. This can be extremely dangerous because a person may think that they have something simple like a leg cramp or strain when they actually are experiencing symptoms of DVT.
I was fortunate that the Cardiac/Vascular center at Salem Hospital could perform an ultrasound on my legs later in the day, which avoided an E.R. visit. The "lower extremity venous duplex unilateral" procedure went smoothly, and I enjoyed chatting with the technician who explained what was being shown on a large screen which, pleasingly, didn't include a blood clot.
This gets me to Trump.
Health care is super-important for everybody. When you're hurting, sick, or needing medical attention for whatever reason, getting that care with a minimum of fuss and cost is Job #1 on your mind. I'm fortunate to be on Medicare, which I like vastly more than the private health insurance I had before.
Medicare For All makes a lot of sense. So does Medicare For All Who Want It. So does the Affordable Care Act.
What makes zero sense is Trump's unceasing effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare -- undoubtedly in part because of that word "Obama," which fills Trump with irrational anger (and maybe envy, since Obama was a much more popular president than he is).
Trump has no interest in making our nation's health care system better. He simply wants to destroy the most conservative approach to providing health care to all Americans, the Affordable Care Act. Since it relies on private health insurance, Republicans like Trump should be embracing the Affordable Care Act instead of trying to demolish it.
The plain fact is that, like me, most people feel good about their doctors and other health care providers, while being indifferent (at best) about their insurance company. So if somehow Trump, or the Supreme Court, succeed in killing the Affordable Care Act, that makes Medicare for All much more likely, given that Republicans have no viable health care plan of their own.
Lastly, Trump's health care incompetence is on full display as he stumbles through a response to the coronavirus crisis. It's evident that Trump cares much more about how the stock market is doing (horribly) than overseeing a fact-based, transparent approach to dealing with the coronavirus.
One big problem that Trump faces is that his incessant lying makes people automatically believe that whatever he says isn't true. Thus his efforts to calm people down about the coronavirus are having the opposite effect, as Catherine Rampell says in a Washington Post opinion piece, "With coronavirus, Trump's lies and his reassurances backfire."
Trump clearly understands that government messaging can move markets; he blames the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for issuing warnings that may have unnerved traders. At his news conference Wednesday, he also scolded Democrats for allegedly “trying to create a panic.” Trump seems not to realize that saying everything is fine when no one trusts you to assess the situation honestly can cause people to freak out, too.
...In this context, it’s clear how Trump-delivered reassurances might backfire — and already have. While Trump spoke Wednesday from the White House, telling Americans that the government has things under control, stock futures fell. Ordering government scientists to clear comments with Vice President Pence’s office, as has been reported, threatens to dilute the value of any soothing words such experts might offer, too.
There is a corollary to the Goolsbee rule on crisis and credibility. It’s one that Goolsbee told me he learned from the late, great former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker during the financial crisis a decade ago, when Goolsbee was advising President Barack Obama. Volcker said that the only asset you have in a crisis is your credibility. Hence this other rule of thumb: All normal, non-crisis time should be spent establishing the credibility you’ll need when a crisis inevitably hits.
Would that the Trump administration had done so, instead of fibbing about crowd size and so much else that followed.