Health care: Nickel-and-dime spending lacks sense

  • Tue Mar 16th, 2010 7:46pm

The trouble with health care these days is that it’s a system involving humans, with all their shortcomings, caring for other humans! The more humans you have to deal with when you enter the system, the more trouble you encounter with the system.

Universal health care would undoubtedly add many more layers of humans (problems) between you and your doctor. When I was younger, it was just me, the nurse and the doctor. They helped me, I paid them. Simple, straightforward and easy. Not so these days.

Yesterday, a bill comes in the mail. It is from the doctor’s office my wife had an appointment with that day. It is marked “Due on Receipt.” She takes it with her, pays her co-pay and then asks to pay the bill that came in the mail that very day for the very same doctor’s office she is presently at. They tell her she cannot pay the bill there at the doctor’s office even though they just accepted her co-pay for the appointment. It goes to a different place. OK, we will send it to the “different” place. She sees the doctor and then goes on her merry way.

Later, I am paying bills and I find the doctor bill near the top of the pile with “Due Now” on the front. I make out the check, a whopping $5.80, including a nickel for interest accrued while they wait for an insurance payment. They have failed to include a return envelope so I ask my wife to grab me one while she is up getting coffee. She tells me about trying to pay the bill at the doctor’s office. OK, no problem, I will take care of it. As I address the envelope, I notice that the address is the same as the office my wife went to for her appointment. What the … ! They couldn’t handle the bill payment there at the doctor’s office because the bill payments go to another office at the same address! God help me!

If they had just taken the payment, it would have been an electronic exchange, debit card, no paperwork, completely electronic at the bank and immediate. Now I have to write a check, address an envelope, stamp it and mail it. The U.S. Postal Service has to deliver it (at a loss and therefore subsidized by our tax money), the doctor’s minions have to process it, their bank has to process it, my bank has to process it, make a copy of it for my statement and then dispose of the original. All this easily surpasses the original value of the bill and drives up the cost of health care.

Does this system make sense to anyone? Does adding more layers of management and bureaucracy to this system make sense? What happened to humans with common sense?

Jack S. Allen

Mountlake Terrace