Friday, October 10, 2008

An Allegory of the Mortgage Crisis: In Which I Know I Am At Fault But Am Nevertheless Irate

We've been getting bills from the pediatrician.

We never get bills from the pediatrician. We go to the pediatrician, pay whatever fee our current insurance mandates, and that's that. So I don't worry too much about going to the pediatrician. Rash that would be better off checked out? Pediatrician. Fever in its fourth day? Pediatrician. Green stuff coming out of nose for going on two weeks? Pediatrician. Am I a crazy outlier? I think not.

But then we started getting the bills. The first bill I kind of understood, and I thought it was the doctor's fault. During E's first bout of impetigo, when we finally went the oral antibiotic route, she got a rash. We've got a lot of minor antibiotic issues in this family, so I gave the doctor a call. It was Sunday and I wasn't too worried. She'd taken the antibiotic for eight of the ten days, and the impetigo was cleared up, so I knew I was going to stop the medicine, and I figured if the rash got worse, I could take her in on Monday, but I just thought I should check in. The doctor on call (not our beloved doctor) said it sounded like she was having a reaction, and did I want to bring her in to the office, since he was there. I thought what the hell, we went in, nothing much happened, and the next day the rash started clearing up.

End of story, I thought, until we got the bill with the weekend charge that I had no idea existed. Well, it turns out that all doctors charge for weekend visits, as the billing person at the pediatrician's office informed me this morning when I finally called, two bills later. I got a little annoyed, but felt a little stupid when she told me that nobody had ever complained about a weekend charge before. I did point out that I had had no intention of bringing her in until he suggested it, but, OK, it's only 50 bucks.

But then we started looking at the bill more closely, because now it was up to about $260, which was a lot more than the weekend charge. There were charges for the second impetigo visit, which was on a weekday, and for the impetigo culture. Well, it turns out that we now have a $1,500 deductible which apparently includes routine office visits and tests. Wow.

How did this happen? When I started consulting and lost my work health insurance, we bought our own health insurance: Plan Mediocre. It was about $700/month with a big catastrophic deductible, but the copay for doctor's visits was $25, I think, and, being relatively healthy, the only time we noticed that Plan Mediocre was not great was a $250 emergency room charge when M was at camp which ended up being taken care of by the camp insurance.

Then, sometime around June, we got a letter saying that our insurance was being discontinued as of July 1 and, if we didn't sign up for a different plan, they would automatically switch us to Plan Suck. THIS IS WHERE IT'S MY FAULT. I should have looked into Plan Suck. I should have researched plans, like I did when we signed up for Plan Mediocre. Only, I didn't really have time, and all of a sudden it was July 1, and I assumed Plan Suck must be basically comparable to Plan Mediocre, even if it was about $75 more a month, and basically I trusted in the machine.

Well, not so fast, sucker, because now we've got Plan Suck which, let's face it, SUCKS. And I am irate. But what can I do? I didn't read the fine print, and now I'm not making an appointment to have E's eyes checked. This month at least.

Because this story actually ends happily. Due to various legal and financial issues, S's work is finally providing health insurance to its employees! So as of maybe this month but definitely next month (S is the conduit here, so everything's a little hazy at this point), we will once again be regularly insured Americans, and our premium will be less than half what we've been paying! Apparently this is good health insurance, real health insurance, not Suck health insurance for people who are stupid and loserly enough not to have jobs with health insurance like regular good Americans. But I've told S that he has to bring home home the binder so I can read every single word of that fine print.

So you want to blame people for their bad mortgage decisions? Fine, go ahead. As someone who always thought balloon-rate mortgages were insane (because, being lazy and hating to make major purchases, we buy houses to live in), I've had that urge myself. But you know, sometimes that fine print is hard to read. And then you're screwed.

And the idea that giving everyone some money to buy their own health insurance will solve the problem? I think not.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Oh, I feel your pain. We have plan mediocre from my work, which is not quite as good as plan mediocre from Mark's work last year, but which feels better because it costs more on the front end (where I don't see it) and not on the back end, where we always did get those weird bills for the lab tests, etc., that came under the new weird deductible. Sadly, I fear even President Obama won't be able to fix health insurance what with the current financial crisis. But he'll still be better than what's-his-name.