Thursday, 16 August 2007

VA shortchanged me, says diabetic

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Kingman, Arizona, resident Joseph Zarate made it into his local newspaper recently. Zarate was in the US Marines for four and a half years back in the day. He now depends on the US Veterans Administration for his health care services. Right now he believes he's being shortchanged.

Zarate has type 2 diabetes. The VA gives him Metformin and testing strips to do blood sugar tests. However, he says he thinks it's a double standard that he only gets fifty testing strips per ninety day period. He says he needs 180 per month so that he can test himself three times daily. He says his VA doc told him he should be testing himself that often. That's why he's upset. In the meantime, he's been buying extra testing strips from a local pharmacy at his own expense. Meanwhile, a VA spokeswoman says it's VA policy: type 1 patients get 200 testing strips per ninety day period, while type 2s get only fifty per ninety day period.

Check out the mean comments from readers responding to this article. Some readers criticize the VA, others Zarate, and one guy even takes the time to criticize the journalist who did the story. Why all this anger, people? I'm mystified. In the end, it looks like a simple case of institutional ineptitude. Does Zarate, a type 2 diabetes, really need to test his blood sugar three times daily? Probably not. And if not, why did his doctor tell him to do that? Or maybe he misunderstood his doctor's instructions. In any case, the VA has a responsibility to communicate better with patients about what their medical needs are. This guy was obviously trying to take care of his health, but was having a hard time getting answers. I felt sorry for him.

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