Admitting: “Your ID and insurance card.”
Me: “Here’s my ID and I’m self-employed. I will cover any costs today.”
Admitting: “You’re what?”
Me: “I’m self employed.”
Admitting: “So you don’t have insurance?”
Me: “That’s right. But I can give you a credit card to cover today’s services.”
Admitting: “Hmmm…..how about you pay $50 today. Then, in about a week, you’ll receive a bill from us. If you pay within thirty days, you receive 40% off your bill.”
That’s how my morning started at the urgent care facility. What began as a sore throat grew into a sinus infection, and I needed to get on antibiotics.
I showed up at 7:30 this morning and finally saw a doctor at 9:30.
The wait turned out to be entertaining. One women was curled up on the floor with a barf bag in her hand. Every ten minutes she’d sit up, clear her throat, and hock loogies into the bag. I felt bad for her as she was the only patient in the waiting area who appeared near death. She was in such bad shape that two other patients approached admitting to see if she could be seen by the next doctor.
An elderly couple entered urgent care about fifteen minutes after I arrived. The husband helped his spouse get checked in, and everything seemed fine. About an hour later, the woman was called up to the front desk. The mysterious LCD screen showed that something was wrong with her insurance.
And that’s when I learned the only thing worse than trying to see a doctor while self-employed is trying to see a doctor when something isn’t quite right with your insurance.
The woman working admitting told the couple they would need to resolve the problem because she was busy and didn’t have time to fix it herself. I gathered that the patient has signed up and paid for COBRA, but her paperwork had not been entered into the computer. So she’d need to pay for the services and submit receipts for reimbursement.
But the busy woman at admitting wasn’t having any of that.
“If you need an x-ray they may not do it because you don’t have insurance”, she told the woman.
The husband pulled out his cell phone and began making calls. He finally tracked down his wife’s paperwork. Still no luck. She wouldn’t show up in the system for at least a week.
Again, the woman approached admitting and explained the situation. She asked if she’d be able to have x-rays taken if the doctor decided she needed them. (Makes sense given she FELL THE DAY BEFORE)
“Well, that’s an entirely different department so you’d need to ask them. But I doubt it.”
Dejected, the women returned to her seat where she discussed the situation with her husband. The woman had fallen the day before and explained how much her knee and wrist was hurting. Given her age, I wouldn’t be surprised if she broke or fractured something.
Nearly 90 minutes had passed since they entered urgent care. Finally, they approached admitting one last time and asked to have her name removed from the waiting list. They would call her primary physician to see what could be done. I watched as the husband held his wife’s arm and slowly walked her to the car.
It’s hard not to believe that such a scenario plays itself out time and time again all over America. Every ounce of humanity has been stripped out of the process of seeing a doctor today.
The waiting room is covered in signs warning everyone what not to do. Don’t use cell phones. No service without ID. No immunizations. Don’t ask to use the phone. No changing channels or increasing the volume on the TV.
Just sit there and shut up till your name is called, OK?
I wanted to run after this couple and apologize for how they were treated. It made me sick to my stomach.
Can you imagine your parents or your grandparents being treated in that manner?
The system is broken when our neighbors are being turned away for care they critically need.
We should demand better than this.