Today I received a white envelope in the mail, the sparsely marked kind that just screams BILL. My heart sank. I didn’t want to open it. Even though I prayed to tiny baby Jesus in the hay fever manger that the amount due was not high, I knew it would be. Why? Because my health insurance covered none of it. I owe $500, just like that.
By the way, this blog post is sponsored by First World Problems, International. It’s my blog and I can kvetch if I want to. You’ve been warned.
I am blessed enough to have health insurance and I am grateful for that. But, frankly, my insurance kind of sucks. I have one of those High-Deductible Health Plans where I pay about 80% of my non-preventive health costs out of pocket until I hit about $3,500 in expenses. I understand the concept; it’s supposed to reward you for not using the doctor frivolously.
Normally, I don’t get sick and the heavy deductible is fine because then I pay neither a high premium nor co-insurance costs. This year, (you may remember) I have been sick enough to warrant doctor visits at least 5 times. I only went to the doctor 3 of those times because, well, I was trying to dodge my deDUCKtible. It is December 19 and I am nowhere near $4K, which means I’ve shelled out some money.
Having the type of insurance I do makes me want to avoid going to the doctor even when I am sick, and that is a problem.
Maybe it would be better if I felt like the doctor’s visits were worth it. However, it’s impossible to establish rapport with a person you are encouraged to only see once a year. We are strangers to each other. It also totally pisses me off when I 1) make a 2:00 PM appointment and don’t get seen until 2:45 PM (seriously, just tell me to come at 2:45!) and 2) see the actual doctor for 5 minutes and 3) end up paying $600 for said 5 minutes.
Call me silly, but I don’t intrinsically trust doctors. I sit down, they spit out a few lines, I stick out my tongue, they write a prescription and send me packing. I interject all the questions I can possibly think of, but I can never halt the rapid-fire process where I’m left wondering if I imagined the whole visit. And once you get test results, you have to make another appointment just to pay the doctor $200+ for 5 minutes to “discuss” what the results mean. You can’t even call and ask. My doctor is not a fount of information but a walking checklist on an invisible timer. Visits are so dissatisfying I’d rather not go.
So I Web MD myself into a tizzy (do I have SARS? or maybe it’s Restless Leg Syndrome!) I wait out my symptoms hoping they pass, hoping I do not worsen. Anything is better than hauling myself back into that sterile exam room. But then my mom worries and my husband worries. Isn’t it true that we often go to the doctor at the behest of our loved ones? I go more for their peace than for my own.
If I have to return to the doctor for the same issue next year, it will mean tests (i.e., bigger bills). It makes me question how much money it takes before physicians admit they don’t know what the hell is wrong with you. I don’t know if I can afford their uncertainty.
This month, I had my annual OB/GYN appointment. While that counts as a preventive exam covered under my insurance plan, I still didn’t want to go. There is something so impersonal about spreading your legs for someone who has to glance at a sheet to remember your name. I felt like a random vagina. I asked my OB/GYN if her practice allowed vaginal births after Cesarean sections and I sensed her lying through her cheery smile.
It made me sad that I found her words unbelievable. But I understand impersonal care is the nature of the American medical system. Your doctors do not remember your face, much less your name, and your condition? Forget about that, too. Your insurance company exists to make sure you pay out more than they do. What good is health insurance when it leaves you weighing health against finances against dignity against discomfort against begrudging gratitude?
Maybe my health is worth the $500 dollars I owe. No, scratch that–I know it is. I just wish I felt my doctor was, too.
What’s your relationship like with your doctor or insurance company? Or, if you are uninsured, how do you deal with health issues?