Health Care is NOT Recession-Proof


I’m home on a Tuesday, one of two usual work days. The census was already falling–the peaks and troughs not clearly related to any one thing except perhaps after an ice storm sends wrist fractures and other winter traumas our way in January. So with things slowing down, I was looking ahead at less than full days that typically consist of my seeing eight patients at the physical therapy clinic.

But the scheduler’s email yesterday apologized: there were only FIVE patients originally on the schedule for me today–worth the 18 mile drive over; I’m paid by the hour. Three canceled; the other two were picked up by another therapist. So I stay home and make nothing–at a time when I’ve been thinking if anything, I need MORE work–another day a week at least–to offset the stupendous loss of our nestegg, now hummingbird-sized and not enough for our so-called golden years. The metal ahead looking more like lead.

People still have needs for therapy. But there’s the rising co-pay. There’s the increasing reluctance of insurance policies to approve enough treatment visits to be efficacious. And there’s the cost of transportation (per gallon rates in a temporary lull for now). So a spate of cancellations in good weather is probably a wave of the future, and I’d best be thinking about a Plan B. Something done from home would make the most sense. Exactly what, I have not the foggiest notion.

So, with rain expected later this week, I’m out to the woods with the chain saw to begin working on next year’s firewood stacks. I figure a truck load of wood for the day is a pretty good return for effort, at least as satisfying to see as an improved gait pattern or normalized range of motion or stronger muscle group or improved posture.

Will I work today? Yup. Will I be paid? Yeppers.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I hear you! I hope you come up with an idea/ steady work soon. I’m thankful for the drop in pump price. For however long it lasts.

  2. Your nest egg will revive before you are too much older, I predict. Hang on, Fred! A more effective government next year will make some difference for the better, too, I also predict.

  3. I should think it would be rather simple for you to switch into nursing; which, I am guessing is more recession-resistant than PT. You have a resident expert, I believe.