Monday, December 10, 2007

The U.S. Healthcare System: Works Just Fine

Another reason never to go to the doctor is that you end up on a mailing list where they send you a whole bunch of incomprehensible paperwork.

Take what arrived in the mail today. "COVER SHEET," it says in big capital letters.

No, well, I understand what that means, although I'm not entirely clear why an otherwise blank piece of paper labeled "COVER SHEET" is necessary. It doesn't seem very environmentally friendly, but okay, I guess I get it. What confuses me is the following page, which says, "This letter is in response to a request for service(s)/procedure(s). The following service/procedure has been approved as medically necessary as defined by the member's Health Care Benefits booklet or Summary Plan Description." Then it says I can have an "ADMISSION" in a "PHYSICIAN'S OFFICE."

Whatever! I'm not admitting anything without an attorney present.

What this is presumably in regards to is that the doctor I went to see about my leg, who drew on years of highly specialized training and experience to arrive at the conclusion that I should maybe stretch before exercising, actually referred me to a physical therapist to show me how. It's hard to tell, but I think this is my insurance company's notice that they might not deny all the charges if I do.

But I'm pretty sure it's a trap.

It's not the first incomprehensible mailing I've received, either, since my office visit not two weeks ago. There was another procedure approved - I think - and there was a notification that my co-pay was adequate to meet my financial responsibility for the office visit itself. I think.

Frankly, I'm glad I can figure out stretching on my own, because I can't afford any more pre-approved procedures. Earlier this year, Katie went to the doctor for recurring stomach-aches that were causing her to miss a lot of school. The doctor recommended a battery of tests, and some weeks later, we received a $279 bill (somehow, the invoices are never quite so difficult to make out as the approval notices). Katie - on my friends list on MySpace - posted a response to a survey bulletin a bit later. "When was the last time you were sick?" read the question. "I fake sick all the time, but I can't remember the last time I was really sick," responded Katie, serving as an object lesson in the dangers of an active Internet presence.

She's not in traction; that would cost a fortune.

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