Last week, I told you my favorite scary story. Since Halloween approaches, it’s time to pull out all the stops and tell you about the absolutely worst nightmare of all. Obamacare.
Just kidding. In fact, I love Obamacare. Since I’ve been a contractor for much of my career, I can’t rely on the Corporate Teat to be providing endless medical care. No, I must provide the family with health insurance since I chose a husband who was diagnosed early on as being Artistic.
For the bean counters out there, here are the stats:
Pre-Obamacare: $2300 per month. Yes, per month. This got an excellent family plan with dental, vision, low deductible, and doctors who had medical degrees from actual US universities.
Post-Obamacare: $1100 per month. I was delighted. Saving big bucks for the college fund. Unfortunately, I was about to launch into the world of MetroPlus Gold. This is a horror story that you may not be ready for, so please take a seat.
MetroPlus Gold was one of the first health marketplace plans that was an expansion of Medicaid. They are also as well-run, forward thinking, and client-focused as jury selection, or the DMV. Actually, the DMV is lots better. The first thing that happened was they I got a paper bill. No website to pay – send us a check. OK, I can step back into 1989 – no problem.
The next thing that happened was that all my doctors fired me. They sent me letters and had their receptionists call to say “sorry, we don’t take MetroPlus Gold”. Why not? As one doctor told me, “they don’t pay.” Undaunted, I started to look for doctors that were in-network. How do I search for these doctors? In a big, thick, block of dead trees called “A Directory”. On paper. Right there, you know you’re in trouble.
The first doctor I found in the directory was at the East Harlem Podiatry Center. I needed him to take a look at the tootsies. After waiting the required 35 minutes, I was shown in to see someone who looked like he could have been Bernie Sander’s disaffected cousin. Same hair style, but with a sad, faded, disgruntled look upon his face, bushy eyebrows, tobacco-stained teeth, and perpetual scowl lines. This was a face that said “my career hasn’t gone well”. I’ll call him “Dr. Sanderson”.
“Doctor, I just want to get some inserts. Support the arches, that kind of thing. Something better than those gel-things at CVS.” He grunted once, then said “wait here.” Within 5 minutes, he had ushered in three frightened interns who were quaking in their boots. “These guys will do some tests,” he said over his shoulder as he headed out the door for a cigarette break.
The oldest and hardiest amongst them, a solid young lady who was clearly over 16, took a deep breath and spoke. “Right. Take off your shoes.” She looked positively radiant when I complied without argument. They all breathed a sigh of relief. “Are you residents here?” I asked. “Oh no, we’re summer interns! From Canada!” said the second one. The third, who had been hiding behind their Leader, peeked out and nodded vigorously. “Welcome to New York. Go ahead and practice on me.” After a short whispered conference, the leader said “we’re going to do some tests.”
They did many, many tests and it took a long time. At one point, they held a conference to decide whether or not to do a “stability evaluation”. “Sure, go for it.” I said. The boldest of them said “but…we’re not sure if Dr. Sanderson would approve.” “He yells at us,” said the one hiding behind the Leader.
Apparently, the Stability Evaluation is used to determine if the patient knows how to walk. “Just stand by Kaitlyn and then walk towards Justin…no, slower! Slower!” squeaked the youngest, who was finally getting to do a test of her own. I walked slowly towards Justin, as all three scribbled furiously onto their clipboards. “OK, you passed the Stability Evaluation” said Kaitlyn.
After they had finished marking up my knees, ankles, and toes with a sharpie and ruler from Staples, Dr. Sanderson made his reappearance. “Is it true you yell at these fine young interns?” I asked him. “Only if they do evaluations they shouldn’t do,” he said, shooting them an evil glance. “Without asking me.” At this point, the smallest one lost her nerve completely and bolted into the bathroom.
“OK, Doc,” I said. “I’ll cut to the chase. I came in here at 4:30 and it’s now 9:45. I just need a prescription for those fancy custom-made inserts so my feet are happy. Can you give me that?” “Do you have diabetes?” He asked. “Um, no…..why?” “Because MetroPlus won’t pay for anything having to do with your feet unless you have diabetes.”
And, with a loud CRACK and a cackle of maniacal laughter, he disappeared on the spot. Well, no, he really just walked back to his office. The interns went off home for some warm milk and a half hour of Blues Clues before bed, and I Stability-Evaluationed myself out of there.
The next encounter was with my assigned Primary Care Physician, who was conveniently located not two blocks from where we live. His name seemed strangely truncated, like something that gets cut off in an email header. Something like “Dr. Insu”. Insurrection? Insurance Fraud? The minute I walked into the office, I got a bad feeling, and not just because it seemed to be someone’s apartment. Maybe it was because they snatched my credit card from my fingers even before asking my name.
Before seeing Dr. Insu, I met his peppery nurse, who had just had a shouting match in a non-Russian Baltic language with someone unseen in the next room. She briskly took my vitals, then turned me over to the good doctor, who turned out to have the kind of oily, ingratiating smile that is most often seen on people who were war criminals in their native land. “Doctor, can you give me one of those allergy shots that are good for the whole season?” “80 bucks,” says the doc. “Plus it’s a c-note for this visit. My nurse says you didn’t meet your deductible yet …” (accusatory glare) “…so it’s going on your credit card.” “Fine.” I snapped. “Just give me the shot.” “How about a cardio test? Special today – only 75 dollars!”. “No thanks, just the shot.” “Blood work? A hundred and fifty?”. “No, just the shot, thanks.” With a resigned sigh, he left the room.
Soon, someone I hadn’t yet met came in, probably because they’d kept her chained in the basement until now. “How are you?” asked Igor’s twin sister. “ No blood work today? Cardio? No? OK, just the shot….” She pulled a small sealed vial out of a cabinet. “Oooo look! You’re getting a new one! This is the good stuff! Pull down your pants.” At this moment, the peppery nurse reappeared and attempted to cram a new patient into the same cubicle that Ms. Igor and myself were using, resulting in more shouting. Ms. Igor won. “She’s so rude,” says Ms. Igor as she jabs “the good stuff” into my butt cheek. Needless to say, I pulled up my pants, retrieved my credit card and checked it later to see if anyone had booked a flight to Latvia or Albania with it.
P.S. Now I have Hi Oscar (Magnacare), which is a bit more expensive than MetroPlus Gold, but at least I’m back to seeing First World doctors.