I've just been invited to an exclusive club. It's not the Soho House. It's not the Illuminati. It's not even Costco. For $250, I can get a membership into the hottest club in Los Angeles -- my primary care physician's patient roster.
My invitation outlines all the perks of paying to be a patient of my doctor -- refilling new prescriptions, ordering tests, maintaining my medical records, and answering the phone when I call. Until this invitation, I was not aware that picking up a phone and speaking to another human being was so expensive.
It's called a "concierge fee" and according to my cursory Internet search, other doctors are charging way more than my guy. Which fine, but I only see my doctor once a year for a physical. And it's just not worth it to me to pay the additional $250 on top of my insurance premiums and meeting deductibles to find out I have a Vitamin D deficiency. Even if I paid the fee, it wouldn't guarantee me same-day appointments. The one time I was able to get an appointment the day I needed to see him was when I couldn't see out of my eye and was in a lot of pain and he magically pulled a fourteen inch hair from my head out of my eyeball socket. Now, I sleep with my hair in a ponytail.
When I'm really sick, like with a sinus infection, I go to an emergency clinic in Beverly Hills, recommended to me by my primary care doctor when he could not see me on a Friday. The place is one part emergency clinic and one part weight loss center. The inside looks like Skittles on LSD and I prefer to go there rather than even try to get in same day with my primary care doctor. The service is fast, my insurance covers the visit 100 percent, and I like being the person blowing mucus into an overly saturated tissue while a Kardashian-esque woman sits next to me, waiting for her B12 cocktail injection, pretending she doesn't see me as I hack loudly, for dramatic effect.
Is $250 a lot of money? Sort of. It breaks down to $20 a month,which doesn't seem like a lot, but I am tired of paying for the opportunity to pay for things. For example, It used to be free to be an Arclight member. I would rack up rewards by seeing all the movies at the Arclight, and in return, every four months, I would get free popcorn. Now, they want me to pay them to reward me for buying their tickets all the time. Why is this a trend now? Did the Monopoly Man start doing financial strategy consulting?
I don't think my doctor is greedy. I think he has legitimate expenses he can't cover using just insurance reimbursements and co-pays -- a Porsche, Italian socks, Oliver Peoples frames. Just kidding (not really). He spent a lot of money to go to medical school and learn about Vitamin D deficiencies, and I think he should be paid handsomely. He also spent his twenties studying and doing whatever doctors do in medical school (gurney pushing? clipboards? scrub fashion shows?) instead of having fun like I did -- working at The Gap and getting blackout drunk 80 percent of the week. He deserves six figures.
I don't want to find a new doctor. It's very hard to find a doctor in Los Angeles who is not a total clown. My old gynecologist removed an IUD I was experiencing complications with and to prove it was out, held it between my legs with those extra-large salad tongs and in a high-pitched voice said, as the IUD, "I'm out! I'm out." Then he smiled, as if what he did was part of his hilarious Catskills comedy routine. The insertion of the IUD wasn't much better when he accidentally hit the top of my uterus with the IUD, a pain that is indescribable to anyone who hasn't been, well, punched in the uterus from the inside. When I left his office, I was determined to switch doctors. That was four years ago, and I just found someone I like LAST DECEMBER!
The American health care system is like Jem -- truly truly truly outrageous. But the solution isn't to charge the people at the bottom more money. In comedy, the rule I follow when writing social criticisms is to punch up, not down. Tear down the people doing the oppressing, not the oppressed. The same should apply to healthcare.
For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield made 684.3 million dollars in profit in 2013, which was down from 1.1 BILLION in 2012. That's NET PROFIT. AFTER COSTS. Unless you tell me how many continents that covers if you line that amount up as dollar bills end-to-end, I have no concept of how much money that is. But I know it's a lot more than the paltry $250 dollars I can't afford to go towards something for which I am already paying.
I'm not an expert on health care reform or policy. I'm not a doctor. I'm a lady in her thirties who makes her living writing jokes and sometimes get highlights that are too blonde and make me look like I'm trying too hard to trick people into thinking I surf. But seeing these insurance companies' profits compared to what I'm paying to find out I have a Vitamin D deficiency, makes me so fucking mad, I just want to hit something. Something soft, but hit it real hard. I'd like to take a baseball bat to a marshmallow Peep.
Doctors, you don't want to lose patients and I don't want to lose my doctor. I can take a physical punch in the uterus, but I can't take a financial one.
Is there a solution? I dunno. I really don't. Maybe American doctors and patients could go to the headquarters of these companies. But then what? Chants? Banners? Bull horns? Nude bike rides like they do in Seattle? I'm just barely able to convince people I might surf, how can I convince thousands of people to spend money traveling to a city just to complain at a company's doorstep?
The only thing I can do is write my doctor a farewell letter. Hopefully I'll see him again once some genius/hacker figures out how to get insurance company profits into the hands of the people doing the actual medical work. Until then, I am off on the impossible journey to find a doctor who is a normal person to help me stay healthy and full of Vitamin D.