Let me tell you the real problem with health care in America: my family occasionally needs it. If members of my household (and I include myself here), never insisted on seeing a physician, or a dentist, or an ophthalmologist, or any other type of specialist that’s easier to spell, health care in America wouldn’t be an issue, at least not for me.*
As it is, though, we do need to be concerned about it. Which is why, upon moving to Stamford from Westchester, we had to change our health plan about eight times. The good news about buying individual health insurance is that it’s so expensive it makes you sick, so at least you get to use it.
When we moved, we also had to wrestle with the decision of whether or not to change health care providers. Because we moved someplace within fairly easy driving distance from where we used to live, we had the option of keeping our old doctors and dentists, and that’s what my wife and daughter did.
I was less attached to my primary care physician, primarily because the one I had used for 20 years had retired and his practice had been purchased by an Indian gentleman who, while nice enough, made me think I was talking to tech support. Call me crazy, but I kind of think it’s important to be able to understand what the hell your doctor is saying. Especially since, in the hands of a heavy accent, "benign" can sound an awful lot like "dying."
So now I have a Stamford physician recommended by our real estate agent, Nancy, and so far, so good. Of course, I’ve only seen the guy once, for a physical, and he told me I was due for a colonoscopy, so I wasn’t thrilled about that. If he makes me get another one after this year’s physical, I may have to change doctors.
I also changed my dentist because having to drive 45 minutes for a dental visit is like waiting in line to see an Adam Sandler movie: If you’re about to spend time in a seat being tortured, at least you shouldn’t have to be hassled to do it.
We belong to an outfit called DentalSave, which used to be Northeast Dental, which used to be, I imagine, some guy in his garage with a direct marketing idea. DentalSave is really just a discount card for people without dental insurance. I don’t know how popular it is, but I can tell you I’ve yet to encounter a dentist who’s heard of it…and those are the ones who actually accept it!
You might ask, what sort of dentist would accept a discount card. Well, someone who’s just starting out, for instance, and wants to attract new patients who might enjoy the thrill of being a dentist’s very first root canal. Or maybe a practitioner for whom word-of-mouth just isn’t working because, let us suppose, her patients are not, for one reason or another, able to talk very well.
I picked a guy at random from the DentalSave website, but he turned out to be firmly rooted in the "Little Shop of Horrors" School of Dentistry, so I’ll have to try another, maybe one who doesn’t look quite so happy while he’s digging around in my gums.
There’s one member of my family I haven’t mentioned: our dog Toby. His old vet was in Manhattan, because she was the only one to correctly diagnose an apparently life-threatening ailment that turned out to be a food allergy. Four different vets wanted to operate; she put him on a grain-free diet and all was well.
While we are understandably appreciative of this vet, we’re unwilling to schlep our dog into Manhattan for an ear infection and booster shots. So we wanted someone local.
The first vet we tried in Stamford turned out to be fairly incompetent. When Toby’s groomer was able to treat something more effectively than this vet could, it was time to move on. Last week we tried someone in Mt. Kisco, which is in New York State, which may have more stringent licensing requirements, since this person, unlike the vet in Stamford, seemed to know what the hell she was doing.
Maybe I’ll ask her to recommend a dentist.
For more on our adventures as first-time homeowners at age 57, and moving to Stamford, visit http://theupsizers.wordpress.com/
*As an aside, my personal opinion about health care reform is this: if insurance companies are making billions of dollars without actually providing any health care, then that can’t possibly be the most efficient, cost-effective way to take care of people. The solution may be non-profit health insurance. This is not a new idea: it’s what we used to have before 1994 when Blue Cross/Blue Shield was allowed to go public, which itself was a result of a tax-reform act in 1986 that took away the tax exemption which had made it viable for BC/BS to be run as a non-profit. Interestingly, that same exemption, called 501(c)(4), defined as being for the benefit of "civic leagues and other corporations operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare," is the same tax code that so-called Super-PACS rely on today in order to flood the airwaves with negative campaign ads, which, I think we all agree, regardless of political affiliation, are quite nauseating, and could result in our having to see a doctor, which we can’t afford, because, apparently, a health insurance provider was deemed not to promote social welfare as well as a Super-PAC.**
**Disclaimer: This footnote was only marginally researched and may contain inaccuracies, but I have formed my opinion based on these "facts," which, right or wrong, is a lot more than what most Americans base their opinions on.