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I went to the doctor for the first time in three years the other day. Unless I sustain a gun shot wound I do not plan on going again any time soon or they’ll have to commit me to the nuthouse. Why was I there? I threw out my back (what a wuss I am!) last Saturday, and after a few days of hoping it would heal itself my left leg became numb and my wife forced me to the doctor.

After checking in and being called back to see the doctor, a nurse takes my height, weight and blood pressure. I wait. When my doctor comes in (it’s the first time I’ve met him), he first asks if I am married. I say yes. He next asks if I am allergic to anything. I said no. Then … he asks if I hurt myself on the job. Seriously. The second he heard it was my back, he was asking if it was an on the job injury. I suppose I should have answered yes – after all I think I tweaked it (start laughing now) while reading a book in preparation for my Money and Banking class. Seriously. I managed to contort myself into a bowling alley chair and stay there for an hour or so, and couldn’t get up after an hour of reading. He asked that question before asking exactly how I injured it or what I thought happened or how it felt or anything like that. Are medical practices for treating backs any different if I hurt it while shoveling snow in my yard or shoveling snow while on the job? Are doctor reimbursements higher if it is a possible workers’ comp case? Lower? Is there more paperwork to file? I tried to ask him why he made this his third question to me … but before I could get my question out, he was onto his next one …

“I know you are married. But if you are having sex with other women, you should wear protection.” He mumbled something after this, but I was too busy retrieving my tongue after it rolled out on the floor in astonishment to have paid much attention to that. And before I could ask what the heck that was for, he was onto yet another couple of questions which are surely going to make my back heal up quicker …

“Do you have a working fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector in your house?” Seeing the apoplexy building in me caused my doctor to finally chime in that, “New York State now forces me to ask these questions.” I asked him what the clinical purpose for these questions was and he quickly went to his computer to log in my answers. Yes – big brother in New York State is using my doctor to make sure I have a working fire and carbon monoxide detector in my house. If my doctor does not log these in for each patient he sees, he is at risk of losing his medical license one supposes.

Finally after finishing his examination, I proceed to the check-out desk to pay for my office visit. Remember, I have a high-deductible catastrophic plan coupled with a health savings account, presumably so I would be price sensitive to my medical purchases. When I asked what the total bill for the visit would be I was told $180. Fine, sounds fair (does it?) so I took out my card to pay it from my health savings. The clerk told me however that I am not allowed to pay the entire bill for the office visit. She said she could, at most, let me pay half ($90) and that she had to submit the visit to the insurance company for review, and that I would receive a bill for the remainder of the visit in three weeks’ time. It would not have mattered if I had $500 in cash to pay her at the desk she told me, the visit still had to be submitted for review to Excellus, and then they would actually decide (in concert with the doctors’ office) how much ultimately my visit would cost me.

There were some other gems uncovered during this visit (which lasted a total of 17 minutes – 6 of which was doctor time with me, 6 of technical assistant time with me, and 5 minutes of waiting for the doctor and doing paperwork to check in and check out), but we’ll leave those for another day. I present the above information without comment.

4 Responses to “Imagine Needing to Fix a Leaky Faucet and the First Thing The Plumber Asks You is What Color Shirt You Had On When You Discovered It Was Leaky”

  1. sherlock says:

    Why does this fall upon the doctor? Why don’t they require grocery store clerks to ask these questions? Surely more people buy groceries than go to the doc.

    New York State is the worst where I work. I registered products with them and the entire application weighed 2.05 lbs.! Typical weight for other states is around 6 ounces.

  2. Speedmaster says:

    My doctor, and the kids’ doctors now routinely ask me if I have guns in the home, regardless of what I am there for.

  3. Michael says:

    The government is just concerned about our health. The fine folks at the TSA will give a complementary prostate exam with each flight!

  4. Joe says:

    Incredible. I recently visited the doctor. No smoke detector questions were asked, however the visit was $105, with a $25 copay. The result was a prescription for an inhaler ($50). So my expenditure was $75, and my insurance company was billed $80, all for an inhaler that can be purchased over the counter in Canada for about $20.

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