â€œHi my name is Nicole Sullivan, Iâ€™ve just moved to the Bay area and Iâ€™d like to make an appointment with Dr. X, is she accepting new patients?â€
â€œWell, Dr. X is a man, are you comfortable with a male doctor?â€ Well, no, duh that is why I looked up â€œfemaleâ€ in my insurance companiesâ€™ doctor directory, but with a name like his and an oh-so-rarely-updated-database it was an easy mistake. That said, I was new to the bay area and scratching like mad from a yeast infection so I simply didnâ€™t have time to change PCP (apparently a well known abbreviation for primary care physician, or doctor as the rest of the world calls it).
â€Ok, that will be alright, I have a â€¦.â€
â€œYeah, so can you tell me what insurance company you are with?â€ followed by rapid fire inquiries into who was covered? By which employer? Policy numbers, social security numbers, birth dates for my husband, and driversâ€™ license numbers. Only when she is satisfied by my responses to her invasive questions am I allowed the honor of an appointment.
I can only guess that his fees are prohibitively expensive, were I to pay more than my twenty dollar co-pay. To be fair, she is protecting my from my insurance company who might consider my chosen doctor out of plan, which means that, despite him being a well qualified experienced doctor, recognized by all certifying boards of the United States, they can refuse to pay for my visits. After four years in a country where people protest in the streets if they are asked to pay one Euro for their doctors visits I am unprepared for the money-focused rather than care-focused approach here. The French claim, and rightly so, that fees are a slippery slope.
When I went to my appointment the secretary asked me to fill out a ten page form of personal information, most of which would be used for debt collection in the case where I or my health insurance fail to pay their fees. In a world, and country in particular, where identity theft is so prevalent, or believed to be, I find it both upsetting and unnecessary that they require so much detailed personal information, but hell, I was scratchy and I needed this man.
While filling out the forms and waiting for the doctor, an hour and ten minutes total, not one, two or three drug reps stopped by, but four. Four drug reps in an hour. These salesmen, essentially marketing experts (read prostitutes) for different drug companies deliver free medicines, pens, and clipboards in an attempt to influence which medicines a doctor prescribes for his patients. The secretary told me it is always like that, that they have a sign-in, visits every day, and never have to buy their own lunches. The doctors are courted, and effectively bought, every single day. If drug prices werenâ€™t completely inflated this kind of marketing investment could never be worthwhile. When I think about the number of people, both insured and not, who donâ€™t seek treatment when they are sick because they canâ€™t afford to pay for medicines I find our priorities a bit confusing.
Hillary save us!