Rolling Shoe Box Week in Review – Dead Week – Medical Lessons!
For those that attended college, I am sure you know what I am talking about. This is the week where nothing but study for final exams takes place and everyone not involved in your education are to be neither heard nor seen. Holly entered the collegiate Dead week, and I entered the wish I were dead week. I was in the third week of an ear infection that begun advertising it self in neon through external deformities. Athena wanted me to see a Dr. when we were in Meniffee, Ca.
We get a lesson on getting medical care while traveling.
Athena has Blue Cross Blue Shield, and it work most everywhere. The Girls and I have Kaiser Permanante of Oregon. We used to have the Kaiser Portability plan which gave us prescription drug coverage, and DR. care anywhere providing we could convince the Dr.’s admin staff of this fact. Now that Cobra has run out and we buy it out of pocket, we just have a generic health plan. We called Kaiser of Southern California, and they set me up in the computers and gave me a valid California insurance number so I could see a Kaiser Dr. When we got checked in to the Kaiser urgent care the room was packed! It was one in the afternoon, the average wait was getting on 4 hours. The flue must have hit Meniffee. I was tired and starting to get ill, just watching everyone else vomit. So after about two hours and no one being called back to the DR. I said bag it and left. (That was an expensive decision.)
Athena called the Meniffee urgent care, and they were asking $75.00 to see the Dr. Little did I know, this was a bargain. I turned it down, as we were headed to Verde Valley Thousand trails in Cottonwood, az. I was sure I could get medical car there, and was sincerely hoping the infection would run its course and I would have no need to see a Dr. One week later here in Beautiful Verde Valley, I can barely muster the energy to get out of bed, running a fever and down right ill. I finally agree to see a Dr. Athena calls the only urgent care facility here in the area, and they want $160.00 for a visit cash. She calls several other clinics and finds that CVS pharmacy in Phoenix is $85.00 but 105 miles away. Since she was doing the driving, she determined that we go to cottonwood clinic. I cried about the $160.00 all the way there, and was still suggesting any homeopathic remedy. My wife, is stubborn when she wants to be!
We arrive at the urgent care, only had to wait about 30 minutes. They did indeed take cash, which was good, as being insured with Kaiser was the same as being uninsured. Turns out Kaiser has no legal presence in Arizona, as well as most states in the US. I saw a Nurse who read my blood pressure, it was more elevated than my Fever. Seeing Dr.’s and knowing that I will be charged $160.00 to have some one look at my ear and tell me it is infected, as if I did not already know it is more than enough to send the blood pressure into the stratosphere. Finally the nurse practitioner saunters in and spends a minute explaining to me that I will be dead from either a heart attack or a stroke shortly. He then took a look at me and told me I had an ear infection. Hmm… rocket scientist this one.
He wanted to give me Penicillin, I told him I was allergic to it. I explained to him that I spent four days in the hospital last time I took it. He still wanted me to take the Penicillin and tried to convince me that I probably grew out of the allergy. I told him I am 1,300 miles away from my Dr. I am not going to try something that risky this far from home. So he finally relented and prescribed me drug that only makes me lethargic and sick to my stomach.
When I left the clinic, I had spent a total of 5 minutes time with nurse, getting a lecture about a problem he had no plans to resolve without a second visit. I left with a receipt for a cash payment of $195.00 instead of $160.00 and prescription for the antibiotic, and some goop that goes in the ear. Walmart had the absolute best prescription pricing in town, and this seems to be consistent no matter where we are. The prescription set us back $240.00
Why do I write so much about this medical visit, after all it was just a simple ear infection. I write this because traveling presents unique problems, and one of those is the problem of getting affordable quality medical care while outside the geographic region of your insurance carrier. Most people, until recently did not know that insurance is grouped into regional groups called exchanges. Medical insurance carriers may operate in multiple regions, but they can only sell insurance plans that are to be primarily used in one exchange or geographic region.
The reason this happens is due to local autonomy. Each region has the right the carrier cover specific ailments, that another region may not require. The plans are customized to the location where you tell your carrier you live. In my case, when I am outside the Portland Metro Area, I only have emergency room coverage for life threatening conditions, and have no prescription coverage. To me, this is not a huge deal, the cost of insurance that would have covered this ear infection would have cost me as much as I spent today, even at these rip off rates that I would spend each month in just my premium alone. The take away here, is be prepared to pay cash for medical care if your insurance does not work outside your region. If you are buying new health insurance, buy a big name like Blue Cross and make sure the policy is good everywhere. If you can find a prescription drug discount program that works at national pharmacies such as Walgreen, Costco, or Walmart this might be more beneficial than medical insurance. Pharmaceuticals have been my largest expense over the years.
Lastly, when you are paying cash, you are in control! See the Dr. before the illness gets as bad as mine did. This will hopefully buy you the time you need to shop a Dr. or urgent care facility. As was illustrated here, had I seen the Urgent care Dr. in California, I would have paid $75, as it was I ended paying $195 for the same diagnosis.
That’s enough boring medical stuff for one night…. Lets see how Holly is doing!