I’ve seen the same ophthalmologist for over 20 years. When I was no longer under my parents’ insurance, I went though my own. Then I didn’t have insurance, and just paid out of pocket to see him. They were always very nice, sometimes not charging me at all for what amounted to routine checkups. In retrospect, I took that kindness for granted I guess. And today I feel like a fool. Nothing makes me more upset than feeling like a fool.
I got a reminder postcard: time for your every-three-year checkup, it says. I call the office and immediately hit a wall. “I got my postcard, I want to schedule my checkup.”
“Who is your insurance carrier?”
“Um, I don’t have vision coverage.” This is true. I don’t. I opted out of that part of my plan because I see an ophthalmologist, and I always thought that fell under medical coverage, not vision.
“We are a medical doctor’s office.” Okay, fine. I see what you’re saying. I tell her the name of my provider.
“Is this an HMO?”
“Ah, yes…question mark?”
“We will need a referral to schedule the appointment.”
“Even if I’m an existing patient?”
“That’s not how this works. You need your primary care physician to make a referral.”
The rage is building inside me. That’s not how this works. I want to reach through the phone and punch this bitch right in her smug throat. I recognize now that my anger is because I was asked questions to which I did not know the answers. I don’t have a fucking primary care physician, and I don’t want to be shamed by That’s Not How This Works Lady for it. I had expected a very fast phone conversation and this was not happening. I feel like a fool. I want to tell the lady to forget it, I’ll go to the fucking mall. But I don’t. With all of my might, I calmly explain that, in the past, I have paid cash for my visits, would this be an option now?
She goes on, says that if the doctor makes any kind of medical diagnosis during this checkup, that it needs to be run through my insurance. “If he tells you you have an infection, or glaucoma, or cataracts, then that’s a medical diagnosis.”
I don’t even want my eyes checked. You’re the ones who sent me the fucking postcard to begin with. I don’t have fucking glaucoma. If I thought I had an eye infection, I wouldn’t call to schedule an appointment for three weeks from now. Again, I fight every urge to tell her to forget it.
“Do you have vision coverage?”
What? What? I just told her that I didn’t.
“No. I do not.”
“I see you paid cash before…”
“Yes, I did.”
“I guess we can do it that way.”
I say fine, sure, whatever you have to do. But I know that I will not be out of pocket the 40 bucks they’ve charged me in the past. I know now that I’m going to get a giant fucking bill. The doctor will hand me a tissue to wipe my eye and I’ll be charged $75 for some sort of medical supplies.
Maybe my first instinct was right. Maybe I should just forget it and go to the mall.