When I showed up at my doctor’s office in Manhattan on Monday, I was flustered and exhausted; I had already been to deepest Brooklyn and back (the end of the 2,5 line) to take Babygirl to her new pediatrician’s office. We hadn’t wanted to switch but had to because her old pediatrician, who we loved, doesn’t take her current insurance, which is called Health First Child Plus or something, who knows, they’re all combinations of nice-sounding but meaningless abstract words. Red Star Red Sword sounds like a funny name for an insurance company, doesn’t it, but is that any different, really, than Blue Cross Blue Shield? We’re just used to the latter.
I ranted a bit to my doctor, and her eyes flamed with indignation. “It’s ridiculous!” she said. “I would write about it if I were a writer, but I’m not, so you’ll have to, but everyone says the patient’s relationship with the doctor is a key part of health care. When you have to switch doctors just because you switch plans, everyone loses.”
I certainly lost. Though the new people were fine, I missed our old pediatrician, who had been seeing Babygirl since she was days old, knows her well, and is a brisk ten minute walk from our house. Going to a new place – a much larger, busier practice a much greater distance away — made Babygirl squirrelly, and it cost both Ben and me our morning. It required redundancies, like typing old info into a different computer and answering the same questions over and over, and introduced the possibility of errors with each transcription.
Why can’t doctors offices and hospital accept any accredited, official health insurance? That would solve the horrifying “Out of Network” problem. That’s how it works for cars, right? It’s not as if you can get hit by an SUV making a left turn and then find out that oops your insurance somehow doesn’t take theirs. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to why our old pediatrician accepts one Obamacare policy but not another, or why the hospital closest to us accepts only these six and not those seven.
Seriously, what’s stopping government from mandating that every health provider must accept every legitimate insurance? Paperwork? Admin fees? Or is there a bigger problem I’m not seeing?
This past weekend, the absence of my fella and Babygirl left me to my own devices, by which I mean the laptop and the ROKU box. (I finished the edits my agent wanted on my novel! I watched all of “Sherlock” Season 3!) It was glorious.
Most importantly, though, I at last at last enjoyed Birthday Massage #1. Following your sage advice, I went with two rubdowns at the local Brooklyn place I already know and love over three at the Manhattan place that may-or-may-not-be-awesome. The massage therapist at the Brooklyn place was great. She was also what some people might call a Chatty Cathy. I mean, the lady could talk.
There I was, facedown on a table, my modesty protected only by the equivalent of a moist towelette, in a candlelit room echoing with the soothing noises of “Vaguely Buddhist-Sounding Mix #431″ — I didn’t exactly feel empowered to say, “Um, would it be okay if we did this in silence?” Luckily Chatty Cathy was good at her job and her commentary didn’t take me out of the experience. Not like the very first time I splurged on a massage as an adult who badly needed one, having been laid off just before Christmas in the middle of the NYC transit strike, and got $50 worth of free advice from an Eastern European:
I have come under some criticism of late for being uncharitable toward the rich. To be more precise, I offhandedly wrote, alluding to Ester’s piece on trust fund kids, that my policy concerning people born rich is to distrust them. Commenters took me to task for that, and rightly so: it is foolish and wrong to suppose that affluence, in and of itself, defines character. As one commenter noted, mine was “exactly the kind of ignorance several writers on the Billfold would preach against if it were any other kind of discrimination.”
I think that commenter was right, and I said so in comments and a note appended to the post in question. I also said, “We could have a separate discussion about whether there is any moral imperative on the inheritors of wealth to do something selfless and worthwhile with their money, or about the attitudes that may or may not prevail among them about whether they deserve their good fortune.” Several commenters later suggested that yes, that is a discussion worth having. This came to mind over the weekend, when I was engaged in that most proletarian of leisure activities, camping and reading the New Yorker. So let’s start our discussion about the moral obligations of the wealthy with a focus on how they help people with acute need.
I suppose I should not expect a worldview untouched by a certain elitism when I read the New Yorker, but more and more, I notice that there is an archetypal story about rare diseases and how progress is made in their cures. It goes like this:
1. An upper-middle-class couple notices something unusual about their infant child. 2. Doctors are either flummoxed and unhelpful or convinced that it is a terminal illness. 3. The parents refuse to accept the doctors’ assessment and devote large sums of money to (a) organizing and lobbying for more research on the illness; and (b) making all kinds of costly changes to their home, lives, and routines to accommodate their ill child and make the child’s life more enriching. 4. Progress in treatment results from the parents’ tireless efforts.
This sequence became clear to me while reading Seth Mnookin’s piece, “One of a Kind” in the July 21, 2014, issue. The article focuses on a couple, a college professor and an M.B.A., whose son has an extraordinarily rare genetic disease, and their ultimately successful quest to push the medical establishment toward more data-sharing and collaboration to develop treatments. (Spoiler: the disease isn’t quite as rare as previously believed.) The article is great and fascinating: in addition to following a family with the surname Might and involving a glycobiologist who is actually named Hudson Freeze, it illustrates how more base human motivations (researchers’ desire for sole credit on publications; institutions’ need to compete for scarce funding) can impede medical progress. It also has a happy-ish ending: the Mights’ son is showing surprising progress as he gets older; research is progressing.
But all that progress is predicated on the fact that this terrible disease befell not just Matt and Cristina Might’s child, but the child of Matt and Kristen Wilsey as well. The Wilseys, we learn, “are one of the most prominent families in San Francisco.”
(You also already know that I’m fine, so we’ll just get that out of the way.)
I was walking through a crosswalk in Capitol Hill, and the car hit me in the middle of the crosswalk as it came to a full stop. I was surprised more than anything else, because I saw that the car was slowing down as it approached the crosswalk, which is an everyday sort of thing, and then it drove into the crosswalk and hit me, which is not at all an everyday thing.
Because I was surprised, and because I knew as soon as I picked myself up off the ground that I was not seriously hurt, I didn’t think to get the driver’s insurance, license plates, or contact information. To be fair, the driver didn’t offer it. She got out of the car, asked me if I was okay, I said I was, I started to walk away, some bystanders shouted “get her insurance!” and I turned around and she was driving off.
This meant that later, when I went to the clinic to confirm I was, in fact, okay, I paid the $90 against my deductible myself.
Here is your open thread, brought to you by the lengths corporations will go to spend less on health insurance:
companies, facing rising health expenses, are increasingly buying or subsidizing fitness-tracking devices to encourage employees and their dependents to be more fit. The tactic may reduce corporate health-care costs by encouraging healthier lifestyles, even as companies must overcome a creepy factor and concerns from privacy advocates that employers are prying too deeply into workers’ personal lives. … Companies and insurers said they protect the privacy of people using wearable gadgets, and comply with federal laws that prevent employers from seeing certain health information about employees without consent. The wearable programs are voluntary and often administered by third-party vendors like StayWell, which works with BP.
Big Brother is watching you on behalf of your boss. What could be better?
My life divides neatly into AD — years of delightful innocence about the realities of life — and BC — when I had to dedicate a part of brain to thinking about obtaining, using, and paying for birth control so that my womb wouldn’t get any ideas about its outsized importance of my life and start throwing its weight around, dictating terms. Here is my life in birth control.
At first I used condoms, and though I bought them occasionally at less than $10 a box, my male partner almost always came prepared. (ba dum CHING!) Soon, though, I realized I wanted to own the control part of birth control. Besides, I hated the way latex smelled. I might have gotten the pill from my doctor at home, but when I tentatively broached the subject of sex with him, he told him dismissively that I was too young and ended the conversation. So I talked through my options with the thankfully less judgmental gyno at the college health center.
First I paid about $10/month for a subsidized patch. Its adhesive sides collected masses of fuzz from my flannel sheets, which meant what should have been a subtle flesh-toned square swiftly turned a garish violet. Then I got sick. Very sick. After a dizzying week, I ended up in the clinic overnight for Valentine’s Day with a fever of 103.5 and had to get an extension for my seminar paper on the American steel industry. I hate not being on time.
Finally, tired of trying to tough out the patch, I ripped it off. The college gyno next tried me on the ring, also sold subsidized at $10/month. It gave me staggering headaches from the hormone shifts and the opportunity to come to grips with myself — specifically my cervix — twice a month. The ring didn’t kill me within the week or render me invisible to all but Sauron, so I dealt with the side effects for the next decade.