Here is an example of why America’s medical care system is more screwed up than you even realized. There is a great debate in this country about healthcare, health insurance, and who is going to pay for it, but here is a new wrinkle for you.
I have a small, federal insurance carrier that does not have a lot of care providers “in their network”, but as you know, you simply go to a doctor OUT of network and pay the difference. Insurance pays the out-of-network doctors the fees they have contracted for the in-network providers and the difference is on you.
This option allows you to continue to go to a doctor of your choice even if they are not a member of your insurance plan. I have been going to an out-of-network dentist for three years now, paying an additional $200 a year for me and my daughter simply because I like them. And I’m scared of dentists.
So I need to see a particular medical specialty and knew that there were none in my network in over a hundred miles. Since I was free to choose whoever I wanted at that moment, I got some recommendations and called the office to make a “New Patient Appointment”, three words that strike dread into your heart.
“New Patient Appointments” are made a minimum of three months away, so if you need a specialist and aren’t already the patient of one, and have an immediate medical crisis, you are up a creek of crap without a paddle.
So I called Dr. Dead’s (not his real name) office and said, “Hello, I would like to make a New Patient Appointment, please.”
“Are you a smoker?” “Yes.” “You are a smoker?” “Uh, no, I thought you asked if I’m a non-smoker. No, I do not smoke.” Next question please.
“What insurance do you have?” I told her: “Insurance Known By No One(not their real name).”
And she click-clacked a minute on her keyboard and said, “We don’t take that insurance.”
“I know,” I said. Silence.
“If we do not take your insurance, then we cannot see you as a patient” she said calmly as if speaking to a dim-witted bulb.
To which I cheerfully replied, “Oh, I’ll pay for it myself.”
“No, we do not take self-pay patients.”
More Silence as I process this.
“You mean, even though my insurance will a portion of it, and I will pay the rest, you will not see me?”
“No, you need to call Physician Finders (their real name) to find a doctor who accepts your insurance.”
Silence with mild sputtering noises coming from me as I tried to form a coherent sentence.
Finally, in a hollow ghostly voice, I weakly say, “So you can’t take me as a patient?”
“Okay, I say,” still speaking in that breathy voice of stunned disbelief, “I don’t understand how money doesn’t work anymore but okay.”
Now, I know I have encountered a lot of stupid things in my lifetime. We take for granted that someone who is uninsured, poor and without resources will get the medical shaft of dismissal, but to hell with that, it’s even WORSE, ‘cause if you HAVE actual honest-to-God, American dollars, printed and backed by the mighty army of Uncle Sam, you cannot see a doctor.
I am not rich, but let’s just say for the sake of discussion, I was a BILLIONAIRE. I mean Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey kind of money. Obviously I wouldn’t have private insurance when I had more money than God. No, I would simply pay my medical bills, even catastrophic ones, because I was RICH. But in this scenario, I could have been somebody… I coulda been made of money, and my money is no good here. MONEY is NOT ACCEPTED.
Since there is not a doctor in the field I require within the state I live in, I sure hope this isn’t somehow become standard policy with everyone while I wasn’t looking. And if it is, hopefully, the funeral homes still take cash these days.