Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm Feeling Like Baring My Soul

DoctorsI've reached a crossroads folks, a turning point, a critical juncture (let's see what other cliches I can throw in there?) Anyway, I'm making a change.

I've had the same doctor for all my (ahem) womanly concerns for ten years now ever since we moved back to Anchorage. I've never had an all-around family doctor because my kids go to a pediatrician, I go to an OB/GYN and my husband doesn't get sick. BUT . . . all that's about to change.

You see, among all my good/bad qualities is a tendency to be pretty loyal. If you're nice to me, smile once in a while, deliver one or two or three of my babies, maybe save my life in childbirth, then I'm yours forever and the doctor I've been going to for lo these ten years has kept up his part of the bargain. In fact, he's done it so well I made the fatal error of recommending him to friends and family who were also in the reproduction/motherhood business.

Whenever anyone asked me who I saw I gave them his name without hesitation then raved about how I could get in to see him whenever I needed to, how I loved his staff, how he delivered all his own babies rather than putting someone else on call and how he was downright competent with that catcher's mitt when it came time for delivering a baby.

But slowly I've noticed an insidious trend: more and more of my friends began turning up on his list of patients. In fact everyone I know, with only one or two exceptions, now sees this guy and hanging out in his waiting area is more like attending a church function than visiting the doctor. In fact, I'd mention his name here but odds are you're already seeing him. And that, my friends, is when the problems began.

First, his prices went up. It used to be something like $90-100 for an annual exam but suddenly it skyrocketed to $220--so high my insurance says it's beyond "reasonable and customary" and won't accept the bill. Dang! That gave me pause.

Then, it became harder and harder to get in to see him. I called back at the beginning of last December for an appointment and they couldn't get me in until January. When my appointment came up he was going to be in surgery so they called and rescheduled for the end of February. I just got a third call saying he's got surgery again and can I come instead in March? By the time I see him I could be menopausal.

I'm loyal, but I'm not that loyal.

Contrast this with the doctor I saw a few weeks ago. I needed a wart removed (yes, now you know all my dirty little secrets--this is the post where I bring up gynecologists and warts) so I found a dermatologist in the phone book and made an appointment.

When I showed up for my exam she took a quick look at the situation, made her assessment, then whipped out a sheet of paper with a written estimate of what it was going to cost me to have that nasty thing removed. Can you believe it? She said (and I quote):

"I'll give you this first treatment but you'll need to come back again. Today's visit will be $114 but when you come back you can make an appointment with my assistant and she can treat you. That way it will only cost you $60 for the return trip."

I was floored. My mouth dropped open and I wanted to kiss her right there. All the doctors I've seen in my life and I've never had money be a part of the conversation. In fact, if you call a doctor's office to find out the price of a procedure they don't know--instead they'll transfer you to the bowels of the accounts receivable office in the hospital catacombs wherein few souls dare to venture.

My only question to her was, "So, uh, how are you at delivering babies?"

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Congratulations to jolt! and Sue Ferrell who have both won copies of Laura Childs' latest scrapbooking mystery Frill Kill. Happy reading folks!

And another congratulations to Paula of Marshfield, Massachusetts for winning this week's Saturday Giveaway. She's won the blue heart bowl from JDWolfePottery. Happy Valentine's Day!

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Don't miss this month's Write-Away Contest, the topic is (of course) Love. Deadline is February 20th!

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37 comments:

The Source said...

It's really difficult to make that change, isn't it? I recently made a doctor-switch for one of our children and felt guilty about it for days. It has turned out to be the best decision I could have made. I hope you find a a doctor that lives up to your expectations.

luvmy4sons said...

Don't even get me started on doctors. Maybe it is because I am an "ex-nurse"- as I like to call myself, but I am hard to please. I can get very frustrated...but changing can be just as angst filled!

Beth said...

She sounds great but shhhhhhh....don't tell anyone about this one!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

It's taken me a lifetime to understand that medicine is a consumer service, and that if, as a consumer, I'm not happy, I can go and buy the service somewhere else. After a couple of changes in primary medical care, I now have a doctor who responds to questions by email (thus saving me a co-pay for an office visit if I really don't need one), an ob/gyn who will see me the same day if I have an urgent need, and a dentist who gives written estimates!

Shalee said...

Oh, the price of seeing a doctor for anything these days! I want one who will listen to my needs and not treat me like I'm not worth their time because I happen to have a healthy constitution and don't go in unless I really need to do so.

Change is hard, but it can also be very, very good... especially when the price is even better than you imagined.

Trixie said...

Okay-- this post is tops at making me laugh! I just cracked up when I read your line, "uh, how are you at delivering babies?" What a great start to the day. Thanks!

Trixie

Tammy said...

I haven't found a doctor worth being loyal to. I really wish I could. I have been to three in the past three years, and not happy with any one of them!

WomensDaily said...

I think I'll keep my good doctors names under wraps from now on!

Maddy said...

I suspect that his price increases are more to do with the hideous litigation insurance that OBGYN's have to endure rather than anything more personal.

Sounds like the new one is a good investment though!
Cheers

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

We had a family Dr, that was a OB/GYN but he wouldn't deliver babies anymore because of the malpractice insurance. But he was great. Then up and moved to Oregon.

angie said...

I'm glad you've found a new doctor.......too bad about the old one though!

Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings said...

{quote}
My only question to her was, "So, uh, how are you at delivering babies?"{unquote}

Did I miss a post or are you trying to tell us something?

Kelly @ Love Well said...

So glad that you only feel like baring your soul, considering the topic. You had me nervous there, for a second.

And this line? [My} kids go to a pediatrician, I go to an OB/GYN and my husband doesn't get sick. That describes our household to a T.

kawaii crafter said...

May I just say that you have a real talent for writing. Glad you found a new doctor.

Valerie said...

I've had my midwife, and now my OB move away, forcing me to find new care. Was it the fifth or sixth delivery that drove them away?
:)

Laura said...

I hate that! It's like a doctor can't be too good or else you eventually have to leave him for all those reasons. My solution? I always look for someone mediocre! j/k :)

Scribbit said...

Well I hope I made it clear that I loved the doctor, thought he was great. Great staff too, it's just that it's getting hard to see him and the cost makes a big difference. Sigh. It's a pain to find someone new but I'm sure it'll work out.

And Maddy you're right about insurance prices killing off OBs, I don't have personal experience in the area of course but I've heard horror stories. I guess when you involve babies people can get very litigious. Too bad, society will end up suing doctors into oblivion.

Also, I wanted to mention that I don't really have a problem with doctors making high salaries. Some people gripe about how much doctors make and given all the sacrifice it takes to get through med school and into practice I can't complain. Seems counter-intuitive to expect someone to save your life, take on all sorts of liability in the process and not make enough to compensate. I want doctors competent and ready to go when I need them--so pay them well and be glad for great medicine (and it really is great, despite all the complaints and issues out there).

Two cents.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

"Pleas don't hear what I not saying" comes to mind. You didn't answer Laura's question about missing something...

Scribbit said...

Sorry, no announcements. Though I can see how you'd wonder. Nope, "delivering babies" was just the closest I come come to using words that are medically--ahem--revealing? :)

I'm a chicken at heart and can't bare anything it seems.

chelle said...

I am crazy loyal too.
I am glad you found someone for the wart...may you be so lucky for the other stuff doctor.

Karen Olson said...

I was seeing an oral surgeon for TMJ. His office kept calling me to push my appointments back because he was always in surgery and running late. It got to the point where my jaw wasn't bothering me anymore, I stopped taking the muscle relaxer, I'm fine and I just never made another appointment. Wouldn't have gotten in to see him anyway.

jubilee said...

We've had changes in insurance so often that I am lucky to have the same doc at the end of the year as I did when the year began.
It's stressful looking for a new doc. I so feel your pain.
My state's malpractice insurance has skyrocketed so docs are leaving in droves -- and I can hardly blame them.

Lei said...

Lol, you're hilarious. In all seriousness though, doctors, hairdressers... once you find a good one you feel kind of trapped, even after you're ready for a change. It's tough! Good luck!

Heather said...

This cracked me up - it is SO true! I've shot myself in the foot many times by over recommending someone great who then, instead of paying me some sort of comission on all the new clients I brought them, phased me out. Blah.

Jenna Consolo said...

I have similar feelings about doctors these days. Medical care gets less and less personal, and it feels so depressing! I just keep putting it off too, but I need to find an actual family doctor. Good luck on your search, and then MUMS THE WORD!

Jen at Semantically driven said...

Crikey (throwing an Australianism in here), it costs a lot to see a doctor there! Although I usually just see a GP (general practitioner). It does cost more for a specialist.

Michelle A. said...

If only your dermotologist would move to Montreal. What a pain it is to see a doctor here! So glad you found someone that is open and said it how it is.

Loralee Choate said...

HA HA! I hear you, though. Pretty much the same thing happened to me except that he moved last year and I have to find a new doctor.

Drat.

Anonymous said...

I guess I have to take the contrarian view here - I would think that paying $220 a year for a doctor who presumably takes care of all aspects of your health care (as ob/gyns have really become women's health physicians) is a bargain.... and you didn't mention that your insurance paid (or should have paid) most of the bill even though they didn't pay it all...

Whereas paying a dermalogist over $100 plus a physician assistant $60 for a wart removal which could be done at home with some duct tape (yes that Alaskan standby!) is a rip-off. The only reason she knew the charges in that manner is that none of the dermatologists in Anchorage bill insurance, they all require cash payments up front, they don't see medicaid/medicare/Denali Kid Care , and so if you don't have the cash so don't get to see them....

For full disclosure, I am a physician in Anchorage - though not in the two above mentioned fields- and while I love your posts I think you missed the mark here.....

Scribbit said...

Thanks for the comment--nice to hear from another Anchoragite (or whatever we're called).

I can see your point but I'm afraid I've never had luck with home remedies for warts. I must have an unusually strong affinity for them or something so I just get them taken care of by someone with stronger stuff than OTC.

I still, however, think that the jump in price was pretty dramatic and wasn't worth what I was getting. Maybe I've got a sweet deal but my pediatrician only charges $70 for a child's annual exam. And then I end up paying lab fees on top of everything for the standard urine tests that they give you every time you go in. It's $300 by the time it's over.

Also, I have a real problem with people saying, "It's okay, the insurance will pay for it." If it's a rip off for me, it's still a rip off even if the insurance is picking up the tab--which is why insurance rates are ridiculous and I hear that doctors--OBs in particular--are having trouble with affording coverage themselves.

But I've been paying the higher office prices for two years now because I thought he was good enough to be worth it. It was not being available for appointments that was the final straw. Doesn't matter how good he is, if I can't get an appointment it's worthless to me.

luckyzmom said...

We just recently went through changing doctors, because for the first time in my long life I couldn't stand the doctor (I'd seen him twice).

Lisa said...

My OBGYN went out on her own and now I get flyers for hair removal and other beauty procedures. I say, WHAT?! I don't want someone who is analyzing the rest of my body to see what other treatments she can give me and make a couple hundred more dollars. I haven't made my next appointment because of it. :(

Jen@BigBinder said...

I have been thinking about breaking up with my OB too. He was great for the baby-having phase of my life, but since that's over I am bumped to the bottom of the list for appointments. It's understandable but annoying. Yes, it's time for me to switch too. It's a bad combination of laziness and loyalty that is holding me back.

WendyJanelle said...

You are hilarious!! I love reading your posts!

my4kids said...

My doctor that I loved in portland was the same way. He was a family practitioner though who also delivered babies. I would still be seeing him but it was getting that way with everyone I know seeing him and their families as well.

Traci said...

When a new acquaintance asked for doctor referrals, I happily gave her the names of all mine. Then when I found out she didn't choose any of the ones I recommended, I was a little perturbed. But after reading your blog, I am now secretly glad. Thanks.

Sofia said...

Doctors happen different. Services of the skilled and professional doctor cost more expensive. You can win in money, but lose in health. However, $220 for an annual exam, it certainly are expensive.