Healthcare – the American System at its Finest
I get back pain every so often. To keep it at bay, I do sit-ups every day, and try to keep my weight down. I also do back and stomach exercises at the gym. But every so often, its not enough and I end up going to a chiropractor. I have a session or two, and they set me up so I don’t have to come back for a few years. For what its worth, the insurance company has never paid for any of these chiropractor visits, though they’ve worked.
Now, a month or so ago I had horrible back pain… and after a day or two of walking around like Cornelius from the original Planet of the Apes, I decide its time see a chiropractor. Having recently moved, I looked around for a new chiropractor. One always has to be careful – there are a heck of a lot of charlatans who call themselves chiropractors. (Not as many as there are that call themselves economists, I might add, but that’s a different story.)
My wife gets a recommendation from someone she met, and off we both (she too gets episodic pain and by coincidence was having some then too) go to see Dr. M_____ as Poe would put it. Very quickly, my charlatan sensors go off. When they had me watch a DVD, my keen charlatan-sensors went off, and I told my wife it was time to get up and go. She had me stay put.
Long story short… there was much mumbo-jumbo, and then another Doctor, not Dr. M___, shows up and has us take X-rays. He tells us we have to come back on Saturday to have the X-rays read.
That evening, I told my wife these guys are charlatans for sure. My wife is not cynical enough for her own good, and on Saturday she dragged me back to the
vet. Long-story short – the other Doctor points out all sorts of back problems, tells us physical therapy will take a few months (we have to come in daily for a few weeks, and then three times a week for a few more months), and gives us a lot big words.
So I’m thinking – OK, I ain’t coming back, but maybe he’ll “lay hands” on me, so to speak, now. Instead, he hustled us into a big room with assorted machines. We (my wife and I) each spent six minutes lying on this auto-massager, and another six minutes on this thing that was essentially a bag of water sloshing around. Meanwhile, a number of the regulars were coming and going, getting their six minutes in and (I guess) going home. We did get a short massage – I’m pretty sure that was less than six minutes.
But I’ve never been back. And I’m still walking like Cornelius. Now, for a few interesting facts:
1. The insurance company covered most of the cost of the visit. (Remember, no insurance company has ever paid for a chiropractors visit for me before! And the previous ones I’ve seen were clearly not charlatans as they got the job done.)
2. Looking at the bill, I can tell you that for the privilege of letting me sit in front of a DVD, the insurance company got charged over $300. There wasn’t even any popcorn, but I was offered water, and no doubt there would have been an extra charge for internal aqua cleansing therapy had I taken them up on the offer. Lying on a massage chair type thingie qualified as rather expensive physical therapy. On the bright side, there was no charge for breathing the air – the insurance company drives a hard bargain.
3. On a hunch, my wife called up the place and, when she found herself speaking to a receptionist whose voice she didn’t recognize, asked what it would cost to have a consultation. She claimed not to have insurance… and was quoted a price just a smidge less than our co-pay. So having insurance doesn’t really make any difference, except to Dr. M____’s billing machine.
And by the way – before anyone tells me I should call my insurance company about this mess, who do you think will get stuck with the whole bill if the insurance company does come to its senses?
So to anyone who wants to tell me the American medical system works, I guess agree more or less. Mostly less. See, the system does work very well for Dr. M____. The insurance companies are doing well too – what other business is there in which such hapless creatures can make so much money with a business model best described as “being ripped off by crooks?” However, it isn’t working for those who provide quality service, nor for those who need it, whether they are willing and able to pay or not.