Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Another Day, Another Doctor
Today Gary and I both went to see a new dermatologist. Gary has a mole I've been worried about; our primary-care doc gave Gary a referral to the skin guy, and since he's on our insurance, I made an appointment for myself, too.
Gary's mole is nothing. The dark blotch under my big toenail is probably just a bruise, but the doc said he's a "little worried" about it and wants to look at it again in three months. My sense was that he'd have gone ahead and done a biopsy without the recheck, if taking a biopsy of the skin under a big toenail weren't such an unpleasant procedure. ("Not fun," was how he described it, and when doctors say that, you know the real translation is, "horror and agony.")
Two remarkable things about this doctor visit, though: first, although my appointment was at 9:30 and Gary's was at 10, we pulled out of the parking lot at 10. And the waiting room was mobbed, too. Gary said, "That's the first time in my life a doctor's seen me before my appointment time."
Second, it turns out that our rapidly-vanishing insurance nonetheless has a wellness benefit that allows us one skin-cancer screening per year, so neither of us had to pay anything today. I'll have a co-pay when I go back in three months, but still, it was a very nice surprise.
Yesterday at the orthopedist's office, an older guy in the waiting room was grousing about having to pay for insurance for the first time in his life. He said he can't afford to come to the doctor anymore. I said, "Just be glad you have insurance," which sent him on a rant about people on welfare who get everything for free. (Um. Didn't you just tell us that this is the first time you've paid . . . oh, never mind.) Turns out his wife has been having heart problems, and he sounds worried sick about her, so my inner chaplain managed to win out over the exasperated liberal.
After he'd gone back to see the doctor, a woman sitting a few chairs away, with two small children in tow, shook her head and said, "I hope one day he will appreciate that he has insurance. I lost mine on August 1. I'm terrified."
I asked her if her kids are covered. They aren't. There's no safety net (except, of course, for overburdened ERs which then produce whopping bills for problems that often could have been prevented with much less expensive primary care).
What kind of country doesn't automatically provide healthcare for children?
I asked that question of the orthopedist yesterday, and he said, very gently, "Countries that have done that successfully have about one-tenth our population."
Okay: I have no idea how to fix this. I'm glad other people are working on it. I hope somebody can come up with an answer in time to help the mom in the waiting room with her two kids.
Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that beginning next summer, state-employee insurance will be cut to, essentially, disaster coverage: office fees will have to be paid in full, there will be huge deductibles, and so forth. So many rumors are swirling around right now about our terrifying state budget situation that I don't know what to believe, and I've decided not to worry until I know for sure what we're looking at. There will be plenty of time for panic when the time comes, and letting each scenario push my buttons before then will only be dangerous for my health.
Y'know, I could deal with disaster-only coverage if it meant that kids were getting coverage and anybody in disaster mode was covered by some medical entity other than an emergency room. I really could. I'm willing to pay more if it means that other people are getting better care, but that doesn't seem to be the system.
At any rate, Gary and I have agreed that the small amount of money I'm getting from my mother's estate will be put into an emergency medical fund. If we want to do anything fun, like another cruise, we have to be able to swing it out of income. In the event of a real medical emergency, this modest inheritance would evaporate in roughly fifteen seconds, but one does what one can.
On a brighter note, my knee's been doing very well today. I did forty-plus minutes on the elliptical at a fairly brisk pace -- burning 300 calories and covering three miles -- and the knee held up nicely. Yay! (mbj: Thanks for your comment on my last post. Actually, I do have arthritis in my right knee; that was diagnosed many years ago. The orthopedist's reassurance just meant, I think, that the recent acute pain hadn't been caused by anything new and alarming. At any rate, he didn't tell me I didn't have arthritis, and we'd talked about arthritis before the x-rays, so if he hadn't seen any, I'm sure he'd have mentioned it.)
Tomorrow: No doctors! Huzzah!