The Cost of Things At My Annual Physical
Yesterday I went to the doctor for my annual physical, another random practice I found on Zocdoc since my insurance is always changing or not existing and, well, I’ve only gotten an annual physical one other time in my life.
Like most Manhattan doctor’s offices, it was tiny and narrow and seemed like shop was set up that very morning, a few signs taped up on printer paper and off they went. It was in an office building that was once an apartment building and the reception desk was in the building entryway and I kept questioning whether this was an actual doctor’s office or some kind of I Heart Huckabees situation. (This eerie feeling would be elaborated on when the nurse weighed me on what I suspect was a bathroom scale and then dug in a desk drawer and pulled out an EKG machine with a bunch of nodes attached to a USB port, which she plugged into her laptop.)
I sat in the makeshift waiting room — a row of chairs in a hallway — filling out forms. One form was simply a diagram of a woman’s face, labeled with different problems. I was supposed to check the things I was concerned about. Dark circles, smile lines, freckles. I mean, yes, all of those things but also, no? WHERE WAS I? I decided to skip that form, and flipped to the next one.
The last form was a lot of text where I was supposed to print my name to say that I, Meaghan O’Connell, agreed to the following. That basically, they would store my credit card information and use it to pay any copays or rejected insurance claims or general bills that remained unpaid for 90 days. WHAT. They’d also charge my card $45.00 if I missed an appointment without canceling at least 24 hours in advance. This is a policy I understand and respect and fine, fair enough.
Automatically charging my card, though? That’s a little scary. I have medical bills that are still being batted around, or um, that I’m still avoiding calling about, that are approaching 150 days old. If someone had auto-charged those, GIRL.
I stared at the form. I debated taking a photo of it to go with this inevitable post. I was too scared. I debated not filling it out, or marching over to reception to say something like, “Um, is this even legal?!” then remembered it was me we were talking about, and I am not that assertive. I could leave. Maybe I should have. Instead, I printed out my damn credit card number, deciding credit, in this case, was a much better bet than debit. There was a second, identical form. I wasn’t sure if it was included accidentally, but I did not fill it out. That was my small act of rebellion.
Of course after my USB-port physical I saw the doctor herself, and she was lovely and amazing. Or just really beautiful which made me feel like she was amazing? I don’t know, it was confusing. But as she went through the things I was there for, she would clarify that this or that was covered under insurance. How novel! She said all the million vials of blood they took would be totally covered, and if I got a bill from the lab, I should not pay it. She said if she referred me to a therapist she liked, there would be good out-of-network benefits, or I could look on Zocdoc for someone in-network. A skin screening: covered. A pap smear: covered. My follow-up appointment: covered.
Then she asked me if I to do a BMI test and I was like, “Um…” and she goes, “It’s not covered by insurance, so it’s $35,” and then I laughed and have never been so sure of anything in my life. Pay $35 to hear I need to lose 40 lbs? I can type that shit into Google for free. “Uh, no thanks,” I said, laughing. She nodded. We shook hands. I paid my $15 copay on their Square iPad thing. No I did not want a receipt.