American Medical Costs

 

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Have you ever asked how much a medical procedure will cost before you have the procedure? I have, but the person performing the procedure was never able to tell me the price. That leaves me to make a decision. Do I sign a form saying I will be responsible for this unknown charge or do I stop the procedure until I know how much it cost? How much will my insurance pay? How will my health be affected if I do not have this medical procedure? It is the only area of my life where I sign up front for unknown expenses. Not only that, I know that I am signing for high priced items. It is scary.

I just received a statement for a three day hospital stay. There was no explanation for the charges. I called the billing office and asked for an itemized bill. When I received the bill, most of it was in code. I asked for the code breaker. I was told there was none. I would just have to look the codes up in the dictionary. That helped somewhat. I am not sure why I was charged $15,307 for a patella (the knee cap) because I still have my own original. The dictionary explanation of stem fem leaves me wondering. That cost $8,100. I have no idea where they used $6,646 worth of cement. The Skryker Knee Replacement video mentions cement being used. I just can’t imagine $6,646 worth of cement being used.

I was surprised to see that the Prilosec like tablet I received cost $79. More surprising was the Topiramate tablet that I pay $.03 for cost $128.00 at the hospital.

I thought about contacting Medicare to discuss these charges, but they already approved them. If they unapproved them, that means I could be left owing thousands of dollars. I guess it is best I shut my mouth and pay the bill.

A friend of mine had a similar experience with high costs. She was in the hospital overnight, but did not stay the full 24 hours so she was an outpatient. She did not qualify for Medicare inpatient care. That meant she was charged in full for all of her medicine at the same rate the hospital would charge Medicare. She is paying off the bill at $25 per month for the next four years.

From the Facebook comments to that posting I learned that we have laws that keep the prices of pharmaceuticals outrageously high. Yes, Congress passed laws in the middle of the night that require hospitals to charge high prices for drugs. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but it’s the law. Check out this video from 60 Minutes.

It seems we are all doomed to pay the higher prices until the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. I tried to find a nice neat explanation of the ACA. After reading until my eyes burned, I can only tell you that we should be better off when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented. You may be interested in this article about the business end of Obamacare.

What is your experience? How do you feel about health care in America?

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Springtime Beauty

Photo Apr 03, 3 45 59 PM

Every time we go to the Bellagio Gardens, we are amazed at the beauty presented to us. During our last visit we talked about how difficult it must be to come up with new ideas year after year for each season. In this picture, notice how the over-sized watering cans provide water for the over-sized tulips and daffodils. The other amazing thing about the gardens is how fresh they keep the real flowers that grow everywhere. Steve and I so love the Bellagio Gardens, we take all our Vegas visitors there as a “must see” place when they come to visit us.

Photo Apr 03, 3 38 09 PM

The sign says: “Our friendly caterpillars, made of fresh cut green spider chrysanthemums, are feeding in the garden before it’s their time to metamorphosize and become graceful butterflies fluttering above.”

Photo Apr 03, 3 37 09 PM

The 28 foot tall hand spade was a bit difficult to get into the picture, but it is so outstanding, I wanted you to see it.

Photo Apr 03, 3 42 50 PM

From the sign: “GREENHOUSE – Measuring 13.5′ wide x 36.5′ long, our authentic greenhouse embodies the beauty and splendor of nature in flight. Antique tools, potting benches and wooden accents housed inside and out make this truly a planter’s paradise.” It is also full of butterflies.

Photo Apr 14, 7 43 29 AM

At the center is this beautiful tree that has been carved out to let visitors pass through. The pool outside is full of Koi fish. You can see the Koi fish inside the tree through the under water camera.

Photo Apr 03, 3 42 01 PM     Photo Apr 08, 1 24 29 PM

Photo Apr 14, 7 42 29 AM

Giant butterflies are everywhere. Natural flowers are beautiful and for a while, all is right with the world. Everyone seems happy in the Bellagio Gardens. Maybe that is why I enjoy going there so much. People are very polite and considerate of others trying to get the best shot of a particular photo. We highly recommend you visit the Bellagio Gardens in Las Vegas.

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Art and Health

 

Health South at Valley View is a superior rehab hospital. They also pay close attention to detail, such as using outstanding artwork in their facilities. Walking the halls is often a part of rehabilitation. At Valley View the pictures are so amazing; the mind focuses on the artwork and not the painful part of the body.

There are pictures of country scenes, Vegas hotels, the Vegas strip and pictures from days gone by. Steve and I had a wonderful time viewing the pictures.

When Steve and I visited the Neon Museum, a place we highly recommend you see, we saw Aladdin’s Lamp. We were excited to see a picture of the Aladdin Resort Hotel and Casino before it became Planet Hollywood.

The Flamingo Hotel has a lot of history. There is the history of the hotel and the history of how it was associated with the mob. The Flamingo has received many renovations since it first opened. This is an early picture.

I am not sure what the young lady is advertising, but this picture is quite something. I am sure the photo setup was difficult.

The Thunderbird Hotel operated on the Vegas strip from the time it opened in 1948 until 1976. It then operated under the name of The Silverbird from 1977 to 1981. It closed in 1992 known as El Rancho per Wikipedia.

This is a view of one of the nearby mountains, perhaps Red Rock Canyon.

The Dunes hotel operated from 1955 to 1993 per Wikipedia.

The Stardust hotel has a 48 year history from 1958 to 2007.

Some of the newer hotels, such as my favorite, are the Bellagio.

The Bellagio Fountains.

 

Caesars Palace

 

The Luxor with it’s great beacon of light that can be seen from everywhere in Las Vegas at night.

 

The Paris hotel was where Steve and I spent our first night in Las Vegas. It has the most beautiful ladies room. We make it a must see place for people who come to visit us.

There is so much to know about Las Vegas. Check out Wikipedia to learn more about each hotel. It is an interesting town.

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Me and My New Knee

 

Continuous Passive Motion

Continuous Passive Motion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five weeks ago today, I had my knee replaced. I had intended to keep you updated about the recovery, but all that didn’t happen the way I planned.

On the third day after my knee replacement, I went to the Health South Valley View Rehab Hospital in Las Vegas, NV. They treated me like a queen. I think it is the best hospital treatment I have ever received. If you need to go to rehab, I highly recommend this facility.

I am totally amazed to say that I was up and doing assisted walking within 24 hours of having my knee replaced. Within a week, I noticed I didn’t have any pain in my knee. I only had surgical pain.

There was a lady in rehab with me who had one knee replaced on a Monday and the second knee replaced on a Tuesday. I didn’t even know that could be done. Her approach to therapy was amazing. She always had a smile on her face.

Rehab is different than a regular hospital. We go to a large open room called the Gym. The Physical Therapist starts a patient doing exercises and then instructs the next patient. Patients encourage each other with smiles and encouraging words. There was a great feeling of support.

Physical therapy in the gym lasted one and a half hours a day. I also had occupational therapy for an hour and a half. I preferred the physical therapy because I wanted to regain my strength and get back in the swing of things. Back in the room, I used a machine called a Continuous Passive Motion (CPM) machine. It bent my knee back and forth. The goal was to continually increase the bend of the knee until I reach 120 degrees.

As of this writing, the machine is home with me. I am at 118 degrees. The machine is heavy, but portable. It provides steady, constant movement as it bends the knee. It is a clever piece of equipment and I am happy to have the use of it. It is much less painful to use than manual manipulation.

After nine days in the rehab hospital, I was discharged to go home. Steve did an outstanding job of having safety grab bars installed in the bathroom. He bought me a walker and other things I needed at home. Everything was perfect. I just felt guilty having him wait on me all the time. Thankfully, that only lasted a week and then I was more independent.

Sixteen days after surgery, I started “out-patient rehab” at the Health South Rehab center in Henderson, NV. I go three times a week for a 45 minute one-on-one session with a personal Physical Therapist. He has everything timed down to the minute. We cover many different exercises in the time we spend together. Every time I go, he adds something new to my list of exercises to do at home. In addition to the four plus hours I spend on the CPM machine, I am using a goodly portion of my day doing therapy. But that is OK, I am making progress.

Before surgery, I was told that recovery would take six to twelve months. That is probably true for complete recovery. At five weeks, being about to walk unassisted, makes me feel very blessed. The word is that the more physical therapy that one does right after surgery, the more successful one is at regaining full use of the knee. That sounds good to me.

I learned that healing takes a lot of energy. My body required, and still requires a lot of rest. I don’t get emails answered immediately. I missed a lot of Facebook information. I missed Tweets and Instagram pictures, but I am gaining more energy every day. Life is good.

It is good to be back.

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Knee Replacement Today

Cowboy

I am very excited to announce that I am having my right knee replaced today. According to what I have read and been told, my new knee should provide pain free reliability for many many years. Watch out world, here I come. Maybe I’ll take up horse back riding.

We made it through the gauntlet of pre admissions. I think the whole deal is a test. If you can’t do all the work required before the surgery, you will not be strong enough for the surgery.

Of course there is the regular blood work, chest x-rays, and ekg that every surgery requires, but knee surgery requires more. Or maybe all surgery patients in Las Vegas go through much of this and I just don’t know about it.

I have a phone app to check in with the doctor and his assistant following surgery and for two months after. We can chat back and forth and I can attach pictures of my knee.

The equipment people have already made arrangements to deliver the equipment 48 hours after my surgery – even though I may not be home at that time. The nice man on the phone told me those are the rules – and they must be followed – per the insurance company. Yes sir, I said.

The home health care nurse and physical therapist are all set to come the day I return home. They will call me the day of my surgery to set up a date and time. I told them they may want to wait a couple days until I know when I am coming home.

It is early morning. All I have left to do is go to the hospital, sign in on the clipboard and go to the computer kiosk. At the kiosk I will enter the proper information that will allow me to proceed to surgery.

Say a little prayer for me.

Have you had knee replacement surgery? What should I know or be aware of?

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Death Valley

 

Dante2

Prior to visiting Death Valley, the largest National Park in the United States, 3.4 million acres, I thought it was a dry arid waste land that maybe contained an animal skull or two. (Click on the picture above. It will give you a full view of what we saw when we were standing on Dantes View.)

I am here to report that Death Valley is a beautiful place, or at least all the wonderful places we got to see when we visited on Valentine’s Day are outstanding. We went with our friends Debbie Drummond and Michael Pettit.

The picture above was taken at Dantes View. The twisty turning hairpin ride to the top was so worth the view. At 5,475 feet above sea level, Dantes View is not the tallest point in the park, but it made me feel like queen of the mountain when I was there. The tallest point is Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet. The lowest point is Badwater Basin salt pan at 282 feet below sea level.

Death Valley, located in California is open all year and people are encouraged to visit during the winter. The air temperatures average 120 degrees in the summer. The highest air temperature recorded was 134 degrees.

In the official park information guide, I was surprised to read that ground temperature can be 80 degrees higher than air temperature. The guide has a wealth of information.

Road1

Several times we stopped by the road side to take pictures of the beauty along the way. The day was cloudy for the most part, but when a ray of sun peaked through, the rocks shown like diamonds. Oh so beautiful.

Other facts taken from the guide: “There are 1,042 plant species, 51 species of native mammals, 346 types of birds, 36 classifications of reptiles, six types of fish and five species of amphibians.” Wow! I’m glad I read about this as I didn’t see hardly any of the animals.

We did see plant life and wondered how any vegetation could survive in the salty earth with rainfall less than two inches a year. Some years have no rainfall.

Inn-Rocks

The Inn at Furnace Creek is a AAA four-diamond resort. They have used stone to highlight the existing rock as shown in the picture above. Rock walls and walk ways are beautifully done.

Inn-Better Gardens

The Inn is set among green trees and beautiful flowers with running streams. After coming in from the hot desert, it is an oasis of exceptional beauty.

Inn-Pool

The oversized pool with all the amenities is inviting. The barbecue and spacious facilities provide lots of space for fine dining under the stars.

There are several lodging options available in the area including campsites and RV hookups. The best thing to do is plan ahead. What we like most of all is that Death Valley is only two hours from Las Vegas and makes an excellent day trip.

Artists Palette

One of the highlights of the trip was the Artist’s Drive. It is a nine mile, one way drive through some of the most beautiful sparkly rock I have ever seen. The picture above is just one of the many color combinations we saw. There was periwinkle blue, green, onyx, brown, white, gold, yellow, pink, crystal, orange, red, cranberry, purple, and many other colors in the rocks.

The road is one car narrow and does not allow for stopping. The twisty turning road, often on a down hill slope, gave us a new palette at every turn. The sun brought out the sparkle in the rocks and the joy in our hearts. It was a wonderful adventure.

Road leaving Golden Canyon

As the sun was setting and we were on our way home, we received one last gift as we passed by Golden Canyon Trail. The scene in the picture above was so brilliantly beautiful, it was like a good bye gift as we left Death Valley.

We will be returning for another feast of beauty provided by nature. If you haven’t been there, treat yourself with a visit. If you have been to Death Valley, tell me about your experience.

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How to Cheat a Dragon’s Curse

Curse

While on a skiing expedition, using bows and arrows, Fishlegs begins whacking some Hysterics, a tribe of crazy Vikings with his ski. Hiccup shoots an arrow at the leader of the Hysterics, Norbert the Nutjob, to distract him. Norbert stumbles and knocks down all the Hysterics. That gives Hiccup and Fishlegs the opportunity to run away on their skies.
Hiccup is worried about Fishlegs. He takes him to Old Wrinkly, who does the doctoring in the village. Old Wrinkly thinks Fishlegs has Vorpentitis as a result of being stung by the Venomous Vorpent. The only cure is the potato from America which no one believes in except for Norbert the Nutjob and the Hysterics. Who ever heard of America? Every Viking knows the world is flat.

Hiccup wants his father to go back to see Norbert the Nutjob with him, but his father refuses. Hiccup has to sneak out and lead the quest himself.

He takes Camicazi, of the Bog Burglers, and his dragon Toothless with him. One Eye, the Saber-Toothed Driver Dragon, pulls the sleigh for them after Hiccup reminds him that Snotface Snotlout will be a terrible master if he becomes the leader of the Hairy Houligans.

The children sneak into the house where Norbert and his clan are celebrating Freya’sday Friday. When they are discovered, Hiccup tricks Norbert into showing him the potato. Mayhem follows and Hiccup leaves with the potato. Norbert and his warriors follow in hot pursuit.

One Eye and the children get attacked by the Doom Fang, who lives under the frozen river named the “Wrath of Thor.” With everyone watching, the Doom Fang eats the potato.

Hiccup returns home in failure to learn Fishlegs was only suffering from a cold. Hiccup goes stiff as a board and falls over on to the bed Fishlegs just vacated. Oh no, it is Hiccup who has the deadly Vorpentitis. Only able to gesture, Hiccup instructs Fishlegs to shoot him with the arrow that was in the frozen potato all those years. Fishlegs shoots the arrow into Hiccup and Hiccup returns to life.
The arrow is buried and a tiny seed sprouts and grows a potato that is used to grow other potatoes. Everyone is protected from the deadly Vorpentitis forevermore. The tasty potatoes also provide good food for all the islanders. See our review below.

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How to Speak Dragonese – A Book Review

Dragon

The greatest part of the book is that our hero, Hiccup can speak the language of all dragons. That makes it especially good for us, the listeners, because Hiccup can tell us what the dragons are saying.

In How to Speak Dragonese, we meet many more kinds of dragons from very tiny ones to giant ones and they all have different attributes.

The young Vikings are supposed to be boarding a peaceable fishing boat, but they get lost in the fog and board a Roman ship. A fight in-sues. Hiccup and Fishlegs escape, but Toothless is captured.

Hiccup tries to get his father to send a war party to rescue Toothless, but his father refuses. After a sleepless night, Hiccup hears someone signing and follows the voice to his jacket pocket. He discovers the tiny dragon he saved. The dragon identifies herself as Ziggerastica, the Living God. Because Hiccup saved her life once, she will save his life once.

During a Frightening Foreigners lesson, Hiccup and Fishlegs are kidnapped by Romans, dressed up like Bog Buglers and taken to Fort Sinister. Several battles and all kinds of fighting happens. Hiccup and Fishlegs are put in the dungeons and find Toothless who is barely alive.

There is so much action in this book, one has to listen carefully to hear all that is happening. In the end, the heirs to the Bog Buglers and the Hairy Hooligans are saved to fight another day. See our review below.

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How to Be a Pirate – A Book Review

Pirate

How To Be A Pirate is the second book in the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell. The young Vikings are learning sword fighting at sea when the boat tips over and bumps into an object that turn out to be a coffin. When they open the coffin, Alvin the Treacherous wakes up and tells them stories of where to find the secret treasure of Grimbeard the Ghastly.

Grimbeard the Ghastly was the great-great grandfather of Hiccup. The young Vikings encounter many dangers along the way such as the Skullion dragons on the Isle of Skullions and the cannibalistic Vikings known as the Outcasts.

Hiccup, Fishlegs, Alvin and Toothless sink into the ocean and find an underwater cavern filled with air. They open a door and discover a room full of gold and riches.

Alvin is ready to kill Hiccup for the treasure when Hiccup realizes he is left handed and is rather a good sword fighter. During the fight, the mountain of riches starts to move. They learn they are on top of a Monstrous Strangulator that eats Alvin.

Just as the Monstrous Strangulator is about to inject Hiccup with poison from his lethal tentacle, Hiccup redirects the tentacle back into the Strangulator and kills him.

Hiccup and Toothless return home victorious.

We highly recommend this enjoyable tale of dragon lore for the young and the young at heart. See our review below.

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