As we celebrate Independence Day, I ask that you consider taking care of a few TRICARE patients as a way of thanking our service members for their sacrifice. I must admit I originally avoided taking care of any TRICARE patients because of the low pay. When one of the surgeons I work with first talked about caring for some of the military families, I gave a large internal groan as I choked out that I would be glad to help. I have since been surprised and very pleased with my decision.
Despite filling some of my schedule with fairly low paying work, I have yet to be unable to pay my bills or to feed my family. Even though it would be really bad for the economics of my family if all of my work had low pay, taking care of some TRICARE patients has been a very positive experience for me. Now when I thank our service men and women for serving our country and making it possible for my family and me to have such a nice life, I say it not only with my words but also with my actions in caring for their families.
It sounds too sweet to say that there is more than one way to be paid for our work, but I truly feel the fulfillment I get from taking care of military families more than makes up for the decrease in money I have in my bank account. In a very small way while never leaving the safety and comfort of my family, am I doing my part to help defend the United States? Not really, but it feels like I am at least now doing something tangible to personally help. TRICARE patients have great difficulty finding a doctor and they could really use your help.
I have been told that good feelings don’t pay the bills, but I know that the good feelings I get from taking care of our military families is one thing that helps make it easier for me to get up each morning and take care of patients. I can’t promise you that every one of the military families will be as polite and grateful to you as they have been to me, but I would be very surprised if you feel taken advantage of by this group of patients. It is very hard to blame the TRICARE patients for not having a better-paying insurance. They have no control over the terms of their medical insurance. You are probably not going to get rich in US dollars from taking care of our military families, but if you approach it from the standpoint of doing a little to say, “Thank you for your service,” I don’t think you are going to be disappointed by how rich you feel.
Robert Luedecke is an anesthesiologist.