Monday, May 09, 2005

The American Medical System is BROKEN.

So, M. broke his arm again. Yup. Third time in two years, same bat arm, same bat place. This is convenient, since, as we know, I'm going through bankruptcy, I'm kind of between health insurance plans, and several doctors offices in WNC do not like me now. However, the kid called yesterday and said he thought his arm was broken again, so home he came and today we embarked on a journey into the wonderful world of American middle class health care circa 2005.

Our journey begins at the family practitioner's office, where the scary office drones are perturbed by the fact that my insurance has changed and that I went there instead of the emergency room. I do have insurance (as of a week ago) but I'm not in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield computer yet. I have the plan number. I can't go to the emergency room; I can't afford it. I was hoping that the family doctor would tell me his arm was okay. Nope. Go get it xrayed, he said. Meanwhile, the office drones tell me I will have to pay for this visit in full, then when I get an actual insurance card I must bring it to them, they will xerox it, and then they will apply to get paid from Blue Cross, and then when they get paid, they will pay me back. Goodbye $55. They call the xray place for me and tell me to get on over there.

At this office we read Highlights, Parenting, National Geographic and Reader's Digest.

Off to the giant radiology clinic. The radiology clinic is full of old people, and, no surprise, they have M in the computer right there from the last two breaks. I go into my spiel about the insurance and they say, fine, we'll bill your old insurance. You can't do that, I say. Sure we can, they say, the old insurance will send it back and by then you'll have your new insurance and can bring it in and we'll bill the new insurance. If I had no insurance at all? I wouldn't be allowed through the door, I guess. So this is very nice of them. We're there for about 2 hours. M gets xrayed, then we sit and sit and sit, reading Car and Driver and Southern Living. Finally someone shows up to read the xrays. I crane my ears and overhear the word fracture, then there is a phone conference with the family doctor to which I am not invited, then they finally put me on the phone. Well it's broken, he says. You need to go to an orthopedist. Do I find one? I ask, or do you? He hems and haws and then allows that his staff will find one and call me.

By this time we're both starving, it's like 1:30. We get in the car, there is a brief flurry of phone calls; we go to the orthopedist we went to before. I still owe them money. We are flagged in the computer; the receptionist reacts to our presence with horror. I am eventually ushered in to see the financial manager. She is pretty nice while she tells me, no, I cannot come here ever again. She whispers a recommendation of another orthopedist.

I call the family practitioner again; his office staff are tired of me; they do not want to make more phone calls. I make them do it. They make an appointment at a big orthopedic clinic for tomorrow at 10:45. I go back to work, exhausted.

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