Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hello, here is yet another story.  Hope you enjoy it.  I blog later.  Is it a verb?  Well, I'll journal later.  CM

10/31/84, 6/10/85, 2/25/86         AND NOW 1/29/13

            I had never had insurance in my life; I was 38, and it was 1984 in New York City.  I worked at a health-food store in the East Village, and through the boss’s father, we were offered a Blue Cross-Blue Shield Health Plan, under the auspices of B’nai Brith.  His father had connections, it was said.  Quarterly payments for  each of the workers would be $250, of which management paid half.  This included the fee for joining B’nai Brith, and entitled us to certain coverages.  Some of us decided to try out the Plan, said to be a great deal.
            The year before, I had injured my feet, and they still bothered me.  More recently, I had torn a tendon in my knee, which kept me on my back for six weeks.  I had been shopping around the local hospitals for a knee procedure, once I’d been able to return to work.  I was likely to need an arthogram and an arthoscopy.  The arthogram involved injecting dye into the tendons so they’d show up in an x-ray.  The arthoscope was a long metal needle with a camera at the tip, which let the doctors see inside my knee.  Whoa.  I wasn’t truly looking forward to these two procedures, because the arthogram alone would cost $250, and since under the Plan I could get complete coverage for both of them, I was in.  We were joining B’nai Brith and the West Park Medical Center.
            The Center was up at 79th Street and Central Park West, right by the Museum of Natural History.  I made my first appointment right away, and a few weeks later was stepping out of the subway to cross the street and enter the bright, modern offices of the West Park Medical Center.  Its corridors were grand and tasteful, and the air resonated with efficiency.  Three young receptionists greeted me, and gave me some forms to fill out in the waiting room.  I could only assume that sometimes it was much busier.  It was pretty big for doctor’s offices.
            I was then interviewed by a woman named Dr. English.  Her smile was cool with science.  She was tall, imposing, authoritative and calm as a pond.  She invited me into her office and sat behind her desk with folded hands, as she listened to my tale.  She said the first step was to get the reports and x-rays forwarded from my previous hospital, the Hospital for Joint Diseases, on 2nd Avenue and 17th Street.  She said I’d be seeing an orthopedic surgeon on the East Side.  She’d make an appointment for me when she received the records, and would call me the following week.
            The call did not come, and the week after that I called to find that the reports were in, but not the x-rays.  I was asked to come in and sign a release form, so they could send the reports to the orthopedic surgeon.  I wondered why they hadn’t had them sent where they were needed, but agreed to their insistence that I come up and sign the form.  They made an appointment for me, saying I had to sign by Wednesday.
            Wednesday came, and I hadn’t been up there yet, and it was pouring rain, so I called again to ask if there wasn’t some way I could avoid a 2 hour trip in the rain.  The phone person said they’d already forwarded the records, and that I did not have to sign anything.  I was glad I’d called.
            That month, I saw the orthopedic surgeon she’d recommended, and he thought my knee was doing pretty well.  I didn’t need an arthogram yet – I should wait and see if it improved.
            So far so good.  I was satisfied, glad I was covered even though I didn’t need any further help at the time.
            Then I came in for my Physical.  I hadn’t had one in years, so at my first appointment I’d signed up for a complete physical examination.  There had been a three month waiting list.  When my turn came, I went up and there once again was Dr. English.  I was starting to wonder how much of a staff they had.
            In the waiting room, I filled out a 5 page form, answering many questions about my medical history and my present state.  One part of the form listed about 50 common complaints, to be checked off when relevant.  Some were quite unclear, others very direct.  I had been wondering if anything was wrong with me, and checked off 15 or 20 of them.  These were all sorts of observations I’d made about my physical and mental condition.  I wanted them all checked out, now that I had the chance to ask a doctor about them.
            Dr. English took my form and looked at it a minute as she stood in the doorway, then invited me into her office.  She offered me a chair, and sat behind her desk, and folded her hands.  She said, “You know, all these things are just part of being alive.”  She leaned back and looked at me.  Then she got up, to give me my physical examination.
            She didn’t tap and prod me in odd spots, as other doctors had done when I got a physical.  And very notably, the most memorable moment in any of my physicals (consisting of the doctor pushing one ball back up into your body and asking you to cough) didn’t happen.  She had me take my shirt off, but that was it.  I got the impression she was not being thorough – that she was sort of faking.
            She declared me very healthy, and I left wondering if she was trying to fool me, or fool with me.   She made an appointment for me to have my feet x-rayed at the clinic a week later.  I came in, got x-rayed, and the nurse said she’d call when the results arrived.  The following Monday, Dr. English called to say, about the x-rays, “I don’t see anything very interesting.”  She said that if I liked, she would send them on to the orthopedic surgeon.  I said I’d like that.
            Around that time, the second quarterly payment was due.  I was quite disillusioned with the Medical Center, and told the boss I was not continuing.  I told him of my concerns.  He shrugged.  I didn’t blame him – his Dad had vouched for the place, and the plan.
            Soon after, I got a call from a Blue Cross agent who told me their rates had gone up, effective retroactively for 2 months.  I owed them another $14 for the period now elapsed.  I said I’d sent it right off.  But, I didn’t.
            She called the following week, to say that if I didn’t send the $14 in 2 days, they’d have to charge me a la carte, so to speak, for all the services I’d received so far.  And I’d also owe the $14.
            I told her I’d do it, just to make her happy.  I said it was right in line with their process so far.  It appeared that all they were interested in was the money, and they seemingly hoped to give as little service as possible for that money.
            She started to let me have it, as she replied, “Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Messing!” 
            I said, “Sure,” and as she started to whale into me, I hung up.

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