I hope you don’t mind these smaller throw-away posts. They are not great writing, but little diary entries for my sanity. Maybe they will get me off of Twitter.
Over the winter in New York I developed this cough that wouldn’t go away. My mother kept on insisting I see a doctor, but since I had an HMO in California, I could only see my primary doctor 3000 miles away in Los Angeles. Considering that I was paying for health insurance out of pocket, it seemed like an incredible waste of money, but I am too much of a nervous-nelly to go without insurance.
I called my insurance company in California asking for advice on seeing a doctor in New York, and they told me that I was covered in New York only if I went to the emergency room or an urgent care center.
I had never gone to an urgent care center, but I read up on it and learned that it was a place where you could walk in and see a doctor for a non-emergency medical problem.
I found a urgent care center nearby in Queens that was associated with a major hospital. After waiting an hour in the hallway (the waiting room was filled), I was called in to see the frazzled doctor, who seemed exhausted jumping from one patient to another like a frog in a white coat. I told him about my persistent cough, and he looked inside my mouth. He noted that there was no infection in my throat.
“You have a bad cough,” he said, giving his professional opinion.
He prescribed a stronger cough medicine, one with codeine.
If you followed me on Twitter at the time, you might remember me making several jokes about me taking this codeine cough medicine and ultimately seeing Jesus in my tea cup.
Two weeks later, the cough disappeared.
This morning, my mother called me from New York. She was upset. She just received a letter from the urgent care center. The entire fee was paid by the insurance company.
“That’s great,” I said. “So why do you sound so angry?”
“Do you know how much your visit cost the insurance company? A thousand dollars! Six hundred for seeing the doctor and four hundred for the presciption!”
“Jesus. What a rip-off. But at least WE don’t have to pay for it.”
“What do you mean we don’t pay for it. We DO pay for it. That’s why your medical insurance is a thousand dollars a month!”
She was right. Why was this five minute visit to a doctor costing the insurance company a thousand dollars? And why was the insurance company paying such an outrageous amount?
I mentioned this to a friend in the medical field, and he said that it is unlikely that the insurance company paid this amount for my measly visit. The urgent care might have asked for a thousand dollars, but the insurance company paid a reduced amount.
“So, if they didn’t pay that amount, why did the urgent care center send me a receipt saying that the insurance company paid them a thousand dollars for my visit?” I asked.
“So you don’t leave your insurance company,” he said. “It’s all a shell game.”