THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Do You Mean My Doctor Is Dead?

Anyone who claims the government can't handle health care as well as private enterprise hasn't yet been assigned a dead person for a doctor. But that's exactly what happened this week to Monica, an employee of mine. When Monica opened her Anthem/Blue Cross health insurance packet on Monday, she expected to see the name of her own doctor, who she had verified as 'in network' by telephone with Blue Cross before she left for the holidays. Instead, she saw the name of a doctor who she had never heard of, and who had died in early September of 2008 (that second tidbit was only revealed after a series of phone calls with the deceased doctor's office, some barely-English speaking Blue Cross representatives and some cursory Google searching).

It wasn't until Monica directly asked the deceased doctor's office staff if the information she had seen on the internet was true did they confirm it and apologize to her. To date, no new information has come from Blue Cross following her calls on Monday. She is left to fend for herself and find another practitioner. This being said, Monica is more likely to find a doctor with a pulse as well.

I have friends without employer-provided health insurance who tell me they want to come work for me just for the benefits. As a small family run business, we've always made sure to care for our employees as best we can, which includes providing health coverage (the cost of which rises every year). But now I'm forced to ask myself: what "benefit" is even being provided? Is the jumping through rings and over hurdles, only to learn that the doctor you've been assigned is six feet under, a benefit?

Despite its faults, the federal government (certainly) at least knows when you're dead, be you a loyal taxpayer, an employee, a ward of the state, or anything else. If private HMOs can't even keep track of the sentience of their 'in network' doctors, how can they ever be relied on to be there for you when you really need them? And moreover, why does a service that is mediocre at best (really it's closer to being completely worthless) become more and more exorbitant each year. What the hell are we paying for?

Taking care of those around us is a great responsibility, one that we take seriously. I would expect the same from those providing services to us in this area. We are the customers in this situation, but who do I have to go to when I have a lack of service? I don't believe that my public representatives will take this any less seriously when it is their turn to provide us with health care.