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Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

A penny for your healthcare.

So, this guy walks into a clinic and dumps 2,500 pennies onto a counter to pay a disputed $25 medical bill and ends up getting fined $140.  No joke.  Authorities and the staff at the Utah medical clinic where this actually happened were pretty cheesed at him, but he’s kinda my hero this week.

 

With all of the talk about healthcare in America and who should be paying for it, I sort of feel the need to vent about healthcare (they call it health care – yet somehow, it doesn’t always feel like they do).  More specifically, I want to rant on my tiny soapbox about the healthcare I’ve already paid for and am still paying for.

 

When my son was about three years old he dislocated his elbow and had to be taken to the hospital.  In an effort to position the wiggling, whimpering toddler into place for the x-ray, the radiologist inadvertently rotated the arm just right and everything popped back into normal alignment.  A happy humerus made for a happy kid who just wanted to get out of Dodge, but a doctor’s examination was needed before he could be released.  When the doctor arrived, he saw a smiling child on his father’s shoulders and signed some forms from across the room sending everybody on their merry way.  Four weeks later a bill arrived, itemized to show costs for triage, x-ray and $500 in doctor’s examination fees.  Excuse me?  I’d even pay for new subscriptions for the dingy gray waiting room, but I was not paying that.

 

You know what happens when you don’t pay?  They send large, hairy goons with lead pipes to break your kneecaps.  They don’t really.  But it can feel that way.  What they really do is put some poor sap earning the bare minimum of wages and drinking the strongest forms of caffeine on a phone to call you over and over and over again until you snap.  While I have never been able to reason with a person over the phone (have I mentioned how much I dislike the torture device that is the telephone?) – I do likes me some letter writing.  So, I wrote a slightly snarky note to the collection agency telling them that the only way I was paying a doctor $500 for his autograph was if he happened to be Man-on-a-Cracker delicious and starring on a top-rated medical drama on NBC Must See TV Thursday nights.  Until then, people – my autograph will grace no check to you.

 

They stopped bothering me.

 

I understand that medical costs are high, due to malpractice insurance and the like.  But, when I was asked to pay $11 for a baby pacifier in 1992, I was more than little post-pregnancy hormonal and cranky about it.  My daughter will be celebrating her 19th birthday here shortly and I’m still more than a little pre-menopausal hormonally cranky about it.

 

Overall, I’ve been a good citizen and pay my medical bills in a timely fashion.  Co-pay checks get written as soon as I sign in at the desk (the pens is already out, why not) and if the final bill is in the three and four digit range, I line up stamped envelopes and make payments (planning mac & cheese and under $1 per serving meals the whole time).  For the last year, those envelopes have been begrudgingly mailed to pay for the time my autistic son swallowed 53 magnets and a screw (yes, you read that right).  The hospital called one year after the incident to say they’d made an “error in billing and were missing $1,500 (from the hundreds of thousands of dollars already paid).  Being that good citizen (and a total rube, in retrospect) I said I’d pay it, but would have to pay them in installments.  They informed me that because of the time lapse, it had already been sent to collections and I would be charged interest.  Wha?!   Really?  This is the first I’m hearing about YOUR admitted mistake and I not only have to pay for this billing error, I have to pay interest too?  That right there is the apotheosis of insult to injury.

 

They did not care.  They put goons in galoshes on stand-by.

 

To say I passively-aggressively send my envelope monthly would be a lie.  It’s been pointed out recently that I just aggressively-aggressively do things.  So, I sit at the dining room table that serves as my desk and write checks in the worst possible cursive (that 4th grade Mrs. Parker would NOT approve of) and issue pox-like curses under my breath the entire time.  Now and again, I even scribble mean looking stick-figures on the outside of the envelope (if the goons show up, I want them to know I’m not to be trifled with).

 

Whatever happens to healthcare in our nation, I’ll continue being the good citizen that pays for her own healthcare.  But, I’ll have you know that there is a five gallon water bottle in my hall closet that I’ve been stashing pennies in for the last twenty years – and I’m not afraid to use ‘em.  Or, make a billyclub out of ‘em.  You know, in case the goons do decide to show up.  And I’m pretty sure the fine for that is going to be more than 14000 pennies.

 

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