September 17, 2013

Chance friendship sparks health care talk

By Christopher Smith

— When Dee Quinton called the Looper Speech and Hearing Center in Dalton to follow up on her hearing aids, she was shocked when she thought she was referred to her daughter, optometrist Denise Q. Shepard of Fort Oglethorpe.

It seemed Shepard was suddenly working at Looper as an audiologist.

But it wasn’t her daughter.

It was audiologist Denise R. Sheppard, who met both Quinton and Shepard (with one P) Friday at The Spiced Apple — brought together by their almost identical names and their similar medical professional.

The two immediately set off as friends, they said.

“I just think people around here are warm and generous,” Shepard said of how Southern culture can create instant friendship.

Perhaps their most common ground — something all medical professionals in the country are facing — is the forthcoming Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) set to begin on Oct. 1. The Obama administration is pitching the new law as a means to offer medical insurance to all Americans while reforming national health care in a myriad of ways.

Some critics have denounced the bill as something that will force people into health care plans they don’t want, raise medical costs and increase the national deficient, while several supporters say it will make health care more accessible and affordable without forcing a specific plan on anyone.

“We (medical professionals) are probably not even aware of all the changes that will come with it,” Sheppard said of the list of changes in the law.

Shepard agrees.

“It’s new,” she said. “We’ve never done this before.”

But both think the key to dealing with the ups and downs likely to come with the change is finding a peace of mind.

“I’ve been doing this for such a long time I just don’t get worried like I used to,” Shepard said. “People need to see and need to hear and I think it will all work out find. There will be headaches and things that don’t work well, but overall, I think it will be a good thing for a lot of people.”

Sheppard and Shepard both remember a time when medical records become electronic. Both said it brought “headaches,” but added that change — good, bad and in different — is just part of life.

Quinton echoes those thoughts and said “peace” comes with age.