The Walk of Life Part 2
See how I did that? I didn’t have a story for today, so I just continued the story from yesterday! And here’s a secret: I actually wrote the story today, because I didn’t have time to write it yesterday. Brilliant, right? This story-a-day project is going to be easier than I thought.
So, to continue:
The nurse in the nurse’s station told me the earliest they could see me was 3:30.
“But you’re seeing me right now,” I said. “I’m right here. There are tongue depressors in that jar right behind you. If you want to check my throat yourself, I can walk you through it.”
I didn’t really say that. If I’d said that, I would have been the king. What I actually said was, “Fine,” in a very passive-aggressive way. I declined his appointment offer, knowing that I could return to the Urgent Care office at 2:00 and presumably get in more quickly. Then I asked him if he could direct me to an ATM where I could get some cash to pay for parking. Because another awesome thing about being a member of the Kaiser Permanente healthcare cruise line is that they make you pay for parking. Sad smilies.
I left the building, walked 2 blocks in the wrong direction, walked back, and got my money. The ATM machine charged me $3 because it was not my bank. My bank charges me $2 for using the machine from another bank. Parking cost me $2. I was now down $7 and one hour of my life and I had not yet seen a doctor.
Adding insult to injury, the first place I went after leaving the parking garage? My bank. I had to deposit some checks. It is located approximately 1/8 of a mile away from the hospital.
I went home to find Sarah and the baby engaged in our normal daily routine of farting around and waiting for the baby to get pissed off about something. I sat with them for a few hours, feeling unmotivated to accomplish anything, and then headed back to Kaiser at 1:30.
I arrived about 5 minutes before the Urgent Care “opened.” I put it in quotes because the Urgent Care had been open for several hours, they just hadn’t been interested in helping me.
I waited in front of the front desk, as I had before, until someone called me up.
“Can I help you?” the woman at the desk asked me.
“I was here at 10:30 and they told me to come back at 2:00,” I said. “I have a sore throat and I’d like to see a doctor.”
“Do you have an appointment?” the woman asked me.
“No!” I said, frustrated. “I was here at 10:30 and they told me to come back at 2:00!”
“They didn’t take your name down for an appointment?” the woman asked.
“No!” I said. “They didn’t do anything!”
In retrospect, what I should have said was, “yes, they took my name down.” Then, when they looked at the list and did not see my name, I might have been able to play on their sympathies and gotten in more quickly. But my damned honesty gene took over, as it always seems to when it’s least useful to me.
“There are 13 people in front of you,” the woman said.
Having no idea how many doctors were on duty or what the average traffic was at the Urgent Care facility, the number meant nothing to me. Maybe she just told me in case I was superstitious. I told her that 13 seemed like a fine number.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asked.
“I have a tailpipe stuck up my ass,” I said. No, not really. “I have a sore throat,” I said.
She handed me a surgical mask. “Wear this,” she said. “And have a seat.”
It took 50 minutes for the doctor to see me. During that time I moved twice on account of loud children, apologizing in my head each time in case my child grows up to be so loud that people move because of her. In my final destination, a 250 pound woman came in and plopped down next to me, lifting my chair off the ground. She smelled like cigarette smoke and I hated her.
I tried to wear the surgical mask but it made my face hot and fogged up my glasses. Also, I was in a hospital and it was ridiculous that they would make me wear a surgical mask to hang out with other sick people, none of whom were wearing masks. But I was afraid they were going to yell at me, so what I did was I slid it down discreetly just under my nostrils and tilted my head down so it would look like I was still wearing the mask to any mask police who were viewing me from afar.
When the doctor finally called me in, he performed two strep tests, then told me to wait in the waiting room for the results. “It will only take 5 minutes,” he assured me. I waited another 40 minutes for him to call me back and give me the results. And the results were negative, meaning that I had no strep throat, nor any other disease that could be diagnosed by a medical professional, and I had just wasted approximately 8 hours to learn that I really would have been better off staying home and resting.
Also, another little note for my Canadian friends: after all this, the doctor’s visit is not free. My $355/month merely subsidizes the care I receive. I still have to pay $25 every time I see the doctor. Grand total for the day, including another $4 for parking: $36. That seems pretty low, until you also factor in the amount of money I would have made if I had been able to work today. And also, the amount of money that I toss at KP every month without getting any medical assistance in exchange.
Last year, I went to the doctor’s once and the dentist twice. Each dentist’s visit cost me $100. That’s with insurance. (I have since switched dentists.) Let’s say that’s 50% of the cost of a cleaning, so there’s $200 Kaiser has spent on my behalf. The doctor’s appointment was a normal old checkup, for which I paid $25. With lab tests included, let’s be generous and say that cost Kaiser $300. So total paid out by Kaiser on my behalf in 2010: $500. Total paid by me in insurance costs: $3660. If I am doing my math correctly, that means Kaiser made a 77% profit on me in 2010. And with rates going up by $50/month in 2011, they are looking to do even better.
So, good on ya, insurance industry! And also, good on ya, President Obama, for rejecting Medicare for All before anyone was allowed to debate it. This for-profit system we have right now is clearly the best in the world. Our hospitals have some pretty fancy equipment. Kaiser may have done a terrible job managing my healthcare, but they have really fast computers in every room in that place. And an instant check-in machine for people with appointments! In the end, I am a truly satisfied customer. *
* More sarcasm.