HBB: Insurance and doctors

There are times when I’m reminded that the medical world is a business. As all businesses, making money is important. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this. If practicing medicine didn’t provide money for doctors, hospitals, labs and research facilities, then who would get into the business? I know there is the argument of state-run medical care, I won’t touch that debate. And, I also don’t want to discredit that EXTREMELY caring nurses, technicians and doctors I have met in the medical community. But, if the facility these caring people worked for didn’t make money, these people wouldn’t have a place to provide their care.

But, I have found that I can get lured into a kind of comfort that the medical community is out for my wellbeing. They are. Just so long as they make money at it.

Of course, the same goes for health insurance. Only double.

As much as we might complain, what’s the choice? I don’t see another immediately available choice but to work with these two groups – the medical providers and the insurance companies.

Today, I was reminded of the money aspect of healthcare. I have the fantastic fortune of going to a good, very respected medical clinic near my home. Because this clinic is so well respected it even draws people from around the country. Unfortunately, this makes this clinic expensive. To be exact, most procedures at this place are around three times what the insurance company is willing to pay. NO, this isn’t some wildly exaggerated amount. Really, 3 times the “usual and customary” that my insurance will cover 80% of. So, doing my math, that means insurance covers about 27%. I talked to this clinic about their high cost. And, I kid you not, the business office person replied “well, we are three times BETTER than everyone else”. That could well be. I’ve checked that out and it likely is true.

I withheld some payments to this clinic to get their attention so they would help me work with the insurance. The woman in the business office agreed that I had not withheld these payments, I probably wouldn’t have gotten their immediate help to work with insurance. It was to no avail. The insurance company did not back down. The only change was that I had to go into a little room before every appointment and pay for the procedures before they were done. It was humiliating.

Finally, I tired of the expense and abuse and I contacted the insurance company. I asked who they would have me see in place of this renowned place. I went to the doctor they suggested. I have to breathe deeply before I start a spew of strong words against this medical experience. This doctor’s arrogance and incompetence wrecked a price on me that was phenomenal. My brother, a surgeon, heard my experience with this doctor. He suggested “quack” was too kind.

So, I decided to do whatever necessary to return to the good, expensive, effective place. I did. With a little work I have it up to insurance covering half the expense. On some seemingly random occasions, insurance has covered all the billing from this place.
So, this is the background to today’s story. Today, I got a call from the business office from this cutting-edge clinic. They told me that they had just gotten off the phone with my insurance company and my insurance company told them that I was losing my health insurance in two days.

Maybe your healthcare costs aren’t similar to mine. So, maybe this wouldn’t stop your heart quite the same as it stopped mine. I was shaking. I could hardly dial the phone to call the insurance company. I got a very nice, very helpful woman. She told me that sure enough the screen showed my insurance expired in two days. She asked if I had paid last month’s bill. I was already on the computer finding my cleared check online. Yep. Paid. Nothing else had changed.

Did I have a heartbeat? I don’t think so. She said she would go check something and she put me on hold.

She came back on and explained that the expiration date didn’t mean the same thing in my type of insurance and all was well and I would continue to be covered.

My heart started. I had no idea if I should be angry or grateful or relieved or annoyed or…. Had I not been at work, I likely would have let out some kind of yell – joyous or angry or otherwise.

I must say, both the person at the clinic and the person at the insurance company were very professional and helpful and kind.

Somewhere along the line, someone made a mistake. Mistakes happen. I’ve probably made a dozen in the last half hour.

I know I am amazingly lucky. I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I DO have insurance. I DO go to very good clinics. I AM doing better than anticipated. I do understand how many there are who are not so lucky.

But, it was still a scary view into how much I rely on this whole infrastructure of insurance and medical community, and these two getting along, and that all will work reasonably well where these are intertwined.

As of today, it appears there isn’t any unraveling going on for us. I think I’ll go eat some carrot sticks to celebrate. I guess the best way to avoid these hassles is to avoid the need for doctors. That's what I'm told, anyway.


HBB: A new toy leads to old pictures

I'm having one of those nights.
It doesn't help that I didn't leave work until 9 tonight.
But, now I'm caught up in fun that could keep me up really late.
I've got a new toy. I bought a device to create jpegs from our old negatives (I'm afraid to say HOW OLD some of these are).
Many of these negatives have been stored in unheated/non-cooled storage for years in a severe climate. I have some negatives that have travelled several states and maybe countries. So, the quality of the negatives aren't great.
But, still, it's fun to turn these old pictures into jpegs.

Several down, thousands more to go. I just thought I would share a few.

First, Keri and I at an awards banquet. Back then, work was still a "formal" event. My small rebellion against the formal was long hair and the occassional pony tail.

Next, this is the three of us at our first Easter. Again, things were way more formal then. I think Keri and I had only been going out for two months here.

Then, the amusing thing is, this is our wedding photo. Really. It is. Casual. As in, wedding was held in 4-wheel-only-and-hike location above a glacier lake. July, but we got to have a snowball fight during the wedding.

This last is a really great memory. I'm happy to say this is my daughter. It's been a bunch of fun years being dad to her. I'm really, really happy I got that chance. I'd do it again in a second.

So, the negatives might be a little scratched and bent and faded. They've been through a lot. We have, too. But, they're clear enough to bring up memories.

With that, I am headed towards bed while I can still stop.


HBB: Happy New Year 2 - The List

Okay, so I just said that my list of gratitudes for 2007 was too long to be started.

I lied. I am sure I will miss some major things that I am grateful for as I enter 2008, but here is a partial list.

1) I am overwhelmingly happy that Keri and I are back together and so close. This still feels a bit like a dream. It's wonderful.
2) I am extremely grateful that Keli and I are seeing each other so much and that I am able to spend some good dad and daughter time with her.
3) I am grateful for my good friends and family. So many have been there and haven't given up.
4) I am grateful for the work I have. I'm glad the work hiccups from last year seem behind us.
5) I am grateful for the good health. I am so glad that the concerns the neurologists had turned out to be nothing. I am so grateful for improvement of neurological functions.
6) Along those lines, I'm thankful for the determination by a certain doc to help get my seizure meds corrected. I can't tell you how much better life is with that improvement.

The list could go on and on...


HBB: Happy New Year

Happy new year!!!
I wish well to all in 2008.
I feel good about 2008. I start New Years 2008 in a much happier, healthier place than I've been the past couple of January firsts.

In past years, our family spent some time on New Years writing down gratitudes from the year past. This past year, I've had too many to even begin.

But, as I've thought about gratitude, I think about how things can work out. I've been lucky. Experiences I've had that seemed bad at the time sometimes ended up setting me up for something good. Lately, looking back and seeing how the good and bad experiences have been related has really helped through any new challenges.

There is this fable that has helped me keep this in mind.

So, as the start to 2008, as I sit here feeling grateful for how things have all worked out, here's my version of this story.

There was a poor rancher who owned a horse. One day, the horse ran away into the hills. The rancher’s neighbors came to console him. “You must feel terrible”, they said, “What bad luck for you that your horse ran away.”

The rancher answered, “We shall see.”

The rancher had treated the horse well, so the horse soon returned home. When the horse returned, it was followed by several wild horses from the hills.

The neighbors returned. This time they said to the rancher, “You must be so happy. What good luck you have to have these new horses.”

The rancher answered, “We shall see.”

A few days later, while working with the new horses, the rancher’s son was thrown and broke his leg. He could no longer help on the ranch.

Again, the neighbors came to the rancher. They said, “You must feel so sad that your son broke his leg. This is such bad luck for you.”

From the rancher, “We shall see.”

Several weeks later, war broke out. The military passed through the rancher’s town. They took all the young men of fighting age to join in the battle. Because of the son’s bad leg, he was skipped. He stayed on the ranch.

The neighbors returned. This time they said, “You must feel so good that your son was skipped. This is such good luck for you.”

The rancher answered, “We shall see.”

Many years later, after the rancher had seen many things in his life, as he had experienced many fortunes and misfortunes, he had become quite old and frail. One day he sat outside his home.

A new neighbor dropped by. This neighbor saw the aged, ailing, nearly blind rancher. The neighbor said, “Old man, you are so old and so ill. You must feel sad that you are no longer young, that most of life is behind you. This is such bad luck for you.”

The rancher nodded and answered, “We shall see.”