flickr photo by stopnlook
Today was my first experience with an institution which strikes fear in the heart of many Americans: a health maintenance organization.
Since I’m a freelance worker, I’ve paid thousands of dollars each year to purchase one of those “gold-plated” health insurance policies we heard so much about during the last presidential campaign. And even though my premiums went up almost hourly on a policy with a sky-high deductible (I basically had to fall down an elevator shaft to get my money’s worth), at least I didn’t have any government bureaucrat telling me which doctor I could or couldn’t see. No bean-counter in Washington denied any of my health care claims. I had a cadre of guys and gals down in Oxnard, California denying coverage for me instead thank you very much.
After years of paying all the costs of private health insurance though, my spouse took a job which offered health benefits, and I ditched my plan shortly after selecting a new plan. After looking through the choices on offer, I selected an HMO. Now, I know what you’re thinking. How can I go from my “gold-plated” free-market health insurance plan which will limit my freedom of choice and cares only to push the maximum number of patients through the system quickly and cheaply. Believe me, visions of having my choices limited swirled through my head as I approached the building housing my HMO. This is what happened next.
After paying my co-pay, I was called from the waiting room by a nurse who weighed me, asked me how tall I was, measured my blood pressure and heart rate, checked my body temperature, escorted me to a room, and left me to wait for a doctor. The doctor arrived, asked me a few questions about my health, looked down my throat, felt for my lymph nodes and thyroid, otherwise examined me, and recommended some labwork.
Shocking. I know gentle reader. Compare that account to what happened the last time I visited the Physician’s Assistant-Certified (the doctor must have been too busy to see me) from my pricey freedom-of-choice loving health plan.
I was called from the waiting room by a nurse who weighed me, asked me how tall I was, measured my blood pressure and heart rate, checked my body temperature, escorted me to a room, and left me to wait for a doctor. The doctor arrived, asked me a few questions about my health, looked down my throat, felt for my lymph nodes and thyroid, otherwise examined me, and recommended some labwork. Oh, and then I paid my co-pay.
Now, I know I’m lucky since I’m still relatively young, and I’m in pretty good shape. I haven’t had a lot of experience with using the health care I pay for, and I’m sure the HMO will figure out some way to steer me toward high priced drugs or deny me coverage in due course. But right now I’m not seeing the difference between types of health insurance, and I’m beginning to wonder a little bit more about what those politicians mean when they say government-run health care will take away my freedom to choose a doctor and get the care I need. Is that really what they’re worried about?