The healthcare industry has thrown yet another obstacle at American consumers, and it has me seething.
Here’s some background.
My primary physician recently sent me to a specialist for a healthcare concern I’m having. I had never been to this specialist’s office before.
So, a couple days after my doctor made the recommendation, I received a call from the specialist’s clinic. A time was arranged for an office visit, followed by questions about my insurance.
Count me among the nation’s elderly, so my insurance is Medicare and a secondary insurance.
Next, I was hit with a demand that I’ve never experienced from any hospital, clinic, doctor or healthcare specialist. I was required to provide a debit or credit card number for the provider in advance of the office visit.
“We require all of our patient’s to have a credit or debit card on file,” I was told.
I was angry as I mulled over the requirement well before the appointment.
But I showed up for the doctor’s visit, filled out required paperwork and then was confronted by the request for the debit or credit card.
So, I hit the innocent receptionist with all the GET OFF MY LAWN fury of an over-the-hill 69-year-old man.
This is a first, I told her, loudly. So, if I have a balance after the insurance portion is paid, you will draft it out of my account?
She told me that the clinic implemented the requirement because of one-time patients who refused to cover the out-of-pocket portion owed the physician.
I get it. We’ve had some pretty big out-of-pocket expenses over the years that we’ve slowly paid off over time to providers. At times, we’ve even had our balances turned over to collection agencies.
But they all got paid, eventually.
That’s just a hazard of the American healthcare system, since we are one of the few developed countries in the world that does not have universal healthcare for all.
I didn’t ask to be sick. No one does.
Anyway, I told the nice young woman that if I DID have a balance after insurance paid its portion, I would promptly cancel the card they have on hand before they had a chance to draft it from my account.
She said I had the option of requiring the clinic to contact me first and ask to draft the amount before actually doing so.
My old-man fury was slightly diminished.
But my anger is not on my behalf. It’s for the millions of Americans — working or not — who don’t ask to be sick but are victimized by a system that saddles them with humongous healthcare costs when they do become ill.
When folks can’t pay their healthcare bills and are turned away from medical providers, they end up going to the emergency room for their healthcare. And that’s the absolute most expensive option.
But that’s the American WayTM.
So, what’s the purpose of this diatribe? I’m ranting because I consider healthcare a basic human right, and our system treats it like it’s a Mercedes that we can’t afford.
Let’s join the rest of the world and implement healthcare for all.
I know, I know. Fearmongers claim it would bankrupt the country or severely diminish healthcare coverage for the average American.
That’s an old argument that I used to hear on my grandmother’s radio as she listened to the H.L. Hunt-sponsored “Life Line” shows in the early 1960s. And that’s before Medicare was even implemented.
Medicare has been an incredibly successful lifeline for elderly Americans.
We could slowly implement universal healthcare as an option in place with private health insurance for those who choose to keep it. Or lower the qualifying age for Medicare to, say, 60. Or 55.
We can make it happen. It’s going to happen.