This blog post has been sitting around for a little while, but seeing as how I just got another bill, I’m angry again and the post goes public.
Where I Stand
I’m self-employed and I don’t have health insurance. Anyone out there with me? Basically, it means you’re SOL if you need a doctor and aren’t stupid enough to go to the emergency room for something that doesn’t require the ER, like I hear so many people do. So here’s where I stand during the last year or so.
Primary Care Network
Apparently, I’m poor enough to qualify for assistance. PCN opened enrollment and I was accepted. PCN is a state-run, sub-standard version of Medicaid. Every time I tried to find out about Medicaid, the results came up with only PCN, UPP, and CHIP, with only the first showing any chance for my qualification. If there’s any kind of Medicaid in Utah not in one of these programs, they don’t want you to know about it.
The first thing I learned about PCN is that they have no concept of linear time. I applied March 24th. On May 2nd, I received a letter dated May 4th saying that I was approved beginning on March 24th. In other words, I got a letter from the future telling me that I had coverage in the past.
The second thing I discovered was that with PCN I could go to three clinics in the Salt Lake Valley and they all had about two month waiting lists for appointments. By chance, I found one that had a walk-in clinic during certain hours, so I went there for two walk-ins to try to cure myself of a couple minor things I’ve dealt with for years, while making an appointment two months out for my new patient check-up. The doctor they sent me to humored me, but everything I told her, she basically ignored or said I needed a specialist. (On PCN, right? There are no specialists. I already stated: sub-standard coverage.) So she humored me with prescriptions twice, but neither cured me of anything.
My third visit was my new patient check-up. I expected, I don’t know, a check-up of some kind? She checked my pulse, blood pressure, asked me what else was wrong with me, and sent me to the nurse to draw blood. A week later, I had to pay for another appointment (co-pay was low, but still not worth it at this place) to get the results. I told her to test me for everything and she ran just the basic blood tests and one extra test. Apparently my health is absolutely “perfect” except that my bad cholesterol is bad (but my good is good).
So after four visits, I wasn’t cured of any of the problems I told her about and still hadn’t had an actual medical check-up probably since I was about eight. One specialist worked at that clinic and I made an appointment for four months out. They soon called to push it out another month and after another month or so, cancelled it entirely. Nice.
India Is Better
For the bigger, long-term issue I had, the anti-biotics she prescribed almost cured me, so I ordered more from India and cured myself with a course and a half of them. It’s so much easier to cure myself that way than try to go to a doctor. The trick is just knowing which drugs I need.
Before PCN Expired
Almost a year later, I had another problem come back. This is something I had mentioned in previous visits and if she was a good doctor, she would probably have dealt with it. (Then again, maybe PCN just didn’t pay her enough to bother.) Possibly the one time she listened to me was when I assumed that this problem was related to or caused by the other one. So I had to go back to the clinic. I went to another doctor, who seemed friendlier and also seemed to listen to me. He prescribed something and insisted on no refills of anti-biotics no matter what even before I had left.
Guess what? I wasn’t cured. The pharmacy that day was so busy that my 15 minute wait was closer to an hour and they gave me twice what they were supposed to. So I took a course and a half because that’s what it took to cure me of the last problem. I thought it worked, but a week later, it came back and I took two more pills, which lasted a week, then I took two more pills, and a week later I took two more. Then I was out of pills. It came back again the next week. Unlike the other problem which was annoying, this one involved pain. I should have planned ahead because it takes a month to order from India.
Enter Intermountain Health Care
This is when I went to Intermountain Health Care. I know Obama said good things about them during the healthcare reform debates and speeches, though I didn’t hear that part myself. There’s an IHC Insta-care clinic two miles from my house and they were open late.
I printed out the forms on the web site, filled them out, and brought them in so I wouldn’t have to do that. The receptionist had never seen the forms before and gave me more to fill out. Then she asked a lot of questions to type into the computer of which the answers were already filled out on the forms. She told me it would cost $131 or $75 if I applied for financial aid. I took the aid forms and wrote a check for $75. All paid for now, right?
There was no wait; no one else was there. The doctor checked my temperature and blood pressure. Then he listened to my heart, lungs, and a couple other things. So, for this quick visit, I just had more of a check-up than the clinic where I waited two months for such a thing. They were off to a good start. He prescribed two pills, one was for pain (didn’t get that at the other clinic either).
I went over to the pharmacy in the building. They told me that both drugs were on the $4 list. But Walmart’s pharmacy was closed, so they suggested Walgreens. Guess what? Walgreens doesn’t have the $4 drug list and wanted twice what the IHC clinic wanted.
I don’t think the pain killer drug worked, but the side effect was kind of interesting. The anti-biotics took their time but eventually cured me. It’s been well over a month and the problem hasn’t come back, so I consider that a good sign. I brought back the financial aid paperwork and the receptionist said I’d get a letter, suggesting they would tell me what kind of coverage they would offer or how much I would have to pay for future IHC visits.
IHC Was Mostly Good Right Up Until Here
Eventually, I got a letter saying that they were waving the remaining $65 fee. That was it. No other indication of what a future visit might cost me. And I had been considering going back there.
Two weeks after the fact, and twice more, I received another bill from them. Apparently the receptionist at the clinic has no idea that other departments at IHC bill anything and they wanted another $75 for lab work. Oh really? I was told it would cost me $75 for the visit. Do they really think I’m going to pay for something when I was given no indication there would even be a bill for it?
Really, when I go to the store to buy something, it has a price, I pay it, and I own it. When I take my car to a mechanic, he tells me how much it will cost, fixes my car, and I pay for it. If I hire someone to do work around my house, he tells me either the fixed rate or hourly rate and I pay him either half up front and half when it’s done or when it’s all done. None of these businesses or people has the right to randomly send me a bill two weeks later and demand that I pay for something that was never previously mentioned or even hinted would cost me. Why does IHC think they have the right to bill me without advance notice that there would even be a separate bill? I told the receptionist exactly what I was there for. If they were going to bill me separate lab fees, she should have not only known that they would bill me for it, but she should have known how much it would cost and told me.
So why did Obama think IHC was so great? Because it’s a network of hospitals and clinics that take health insurance? What’s so great about that? Doesn’t every city have that? They still try to rip off their customers without insurance just like everyone else. Except they do it in deceptive ways. Only the health care industry thinks they can get away with this kind of thing.
And some people wonder why so many people hate the health care industry in this country.