Disaster

My kids love their pediatrician, Dr. Harris. They are almost as excited to go see him as they are to go to Train Town. They are excited merely to drive past his office. “That’s my Dr. Harris!” Archer exclaims, pointing through the car window. They love him so much that they put on their bravest face when getting painful vaccinations. Archer, age 2, even thanked the nurse after his last one.

Of course Andrea and I love him too. We first met him when he delivered a lecture to the parenting class we took, back when Andrea was pregnant with Jonah. The best advice we got in that whole class came from his lecture: namely, that it’s pointless to obsess over the birth, which after all is just a day out of your life, more or less. Possibly a difficult one, but one when you’re surrounded by a team of professionals. All you really have to do is show up. No, said Dr. Harris, the right thing to obsess about during pregnancy is every day for the rest of your life after the birth, when the development and well-being of a whole new person is your sole responsibility.

Now the disaster: Dr. Harris’ practice, Mill Valley Pediatrics, is about to close. He and one of his partners will be joining the HMO, Kaiser Permanente.

This follows a string of medical retirements and closures that Andrea and I have suffered through in the past 10 or 15 years. First my GP, Dr. Cumming, got out of the biz, although she was yet a young woman. I switched to another doctor at the same practice, but within a couple of years the entire practice folded, scattering to the four winds some eight or ten doctors in all and probably thousands of patients. (My medical records from that practice are still in limbo.)

Halfway through Andrea’s second pregnancy, her OB/GYN, Dr. Toton, who’d delivered Jonah, retired. More recently, my new GP‘s partner, Dr. Cummings (not to be confused with Dr. Cumming above), has had to institute new limitations on her practice. And now this.

I don’t know the reasons for all these events (well, Dr. Toton was of traditional retirement age), but the Marin Independent Journal blames tight-fisted insurance companies for the demise of Mill Valley Pediatrics. Dr. Cummings’ new rules appear designed to improve her bottom line. And shortly before Dr. Cumming retired (back in the days of Hillary Clinton’s abortive health-care reform effort), she once complained to me of the byzantine rules and payment mechanisms of the American health care industry.

We will make every effort to continue seeing Dr. Harris even though we are not Kaiser members. And from now on we will be voting against the health-insurance industry and in favor of anyone with the balls to set up single-payer healthcare.

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