Dr. Rob, writing at Musings Of A Distractible Mind, has written an article detailing three interactions with patients and how the cost of health care can come between doctors and their patients. It’s interesting to see these scenarios from the doctor’s perspective, and if you continue reading through the comments on the article, you’ll see all sorts of view points expressed.
Dr. Rob writes about a patient who doesn’t want to pay $150 to see him. I’ll agree that $150 is a lot of money, and most people will think twice before they plunk that amount of money on the table. But we’re talking about our health here. And those of us who chose to skip medical school are somewhat dependent on doctors to help us out when our health goes awry.
Next time you’re out and about, glance at the cars you see on the road. The majority of them are relatively new (made within the last five – ten years). For every 20 year old car that drives past, you’ll probably see ten more that are far newer. Personally, I choose to drive an old car that I bought years ago, and not make car payments. We have a high deductible, HSA qualified health insurance policy, so I know that if I ever need to see a doctor, we will have to pay out of pocket for the visit. If I wanted to get a car with less than 215,000 miles on it, I could go out and buy a newer one, and make car payments every month for the next few years. But I’d rather have that money for potential medical expenses, and continue driving my old car.
I know that everyone’s situation is different. Some people don’t have a car or health insurance, and aren’t able to afford either one, especially in our current economy. Programs like Medicaid and Colorado’s Child Health Plan Plus are very necessary, and I support efforts to expand those programs to more low-income families. But there are people who consider it perfectly acceptable to pay more than $150/month for a car, but hate the idea of paying $150 to see a doctor. Car payments are just one example, but there are all sorts of other places where people will spend that same $150, often without complaining at all (dining out, cable tv, cell phone service, daily Starbucks run, etc.). I’m curious as to why that same amount raises such passion when it’s a bill from the doctor, as opposed to a bill from the car company?
I think part of it might be the fact that while going to the doctor might be a very necessary trip, it’s not a trip that many of us enjoy making. It’s fun to buy a new car, and it’s fun to go out to dinner, it’s fun to catch a new movie. Not so much when it comes to a doctor visit. And then there’s the intangible nature of medical services. A visit to the doctor isn’t something you can wear or eat or drive. Plus, it’s human nature to be scared and a bit grumpy when faced with a health problem. Having to fork over money at the doctor’s office might feel like adding insult to injury for some people.
Personally, although I do not enjoy parting with large sums of money, I would rather pay a doctor than go back to college, choose a pre-med undergrad program, get into med school, complete med school, be an intern, be a resident, pass board exams, shell out many thousands of dollars each year for malpractice insurance and student loan payments, and then treat myself (assuming that my symptom fit into the line of medicine that I had trained in. Otherwise, I’m back to the drawing board).
I found Dr. Rob’s article in this week’s Grand Rounds, hosted by Ryan DuBosar at ACP Internist. It’s a great compilation of articles in a newspaper format, with something for everyone. Head over and check it out.