the waiting room
Yesterday I drove a friend to a doctor’s visit. Not being a patient, I had about 1 hour to sit & just observe. I remember thinking for a moment that it might be an interesting study for a sociologist, anthropologist, or psychologist, to just sit and observe human behavior. A few minutes later I find myself doing just that. Here are my findings.
The first thing that struck me was that everyone in the room at the time was giving their full attention to their cell phones. (there is a sign on the entry door that says no cell phones) I eavesdrop as they report to their companions who said what on facebook, and that so & so just asked them if they were awake yet. Head-down, death grip, clasping their reason for living. I thought to myself, how sad. Is this a sign of some sort of psychological issue? Is there a wee bit of pathology happening here? I’m thinking yes, although I admit I do not have the titles that qualify me to say so. I watch them as I sit knitting, doing my best to be stealthy as I peek up at them… yep those fingers have vice grips on their “devices”. Is this a coping mechanism? Are they suffering fear about their appointments and need to modulate their anxiety by making a social connection? I’m thinking, no. I’m thinking that THAT phone IS that person’s existence, the only way that they can make themselves known to exist in the world. I mean really, is it important, useful, or even interesting to be up to date on who “likes” the latest cat video, right here , right now? Sad, sad, sad.
I also got some interesting insight into what some people value most. A man with many expensive-looking tats, designer shoes & an i-phone with a data plan un-apologetically reports to the receptionist that he doesn’t have the $25 co-pay that she has just requested. He is holding a mangled-looking arm & wreaks of cigarettes. I’m guessing he is A: in a lot of pain and B: has a 2 pack-a-day habit judging by the stench level. Hmmm, he can afford to spend $300 a month on smokes but can’t find $25 to have that arm looked at… after all why should anyone have to pay for health care? I am pretty sure that his tattoo artist got paid his $300 up front before laying down all of that ink, but that’s different. This leads me to consider for a few moments what it must cost to keep that orthopedic office running. I counted 7 staff members, I don’t know if there were others. It was a big office with multiple rooms which were well-lit & the heat was on. There were an adequate number of comfortable chairs for those of us waiting. They have an x-ray machine which requires maintenance The cost of malpractice insurance is surely in the 10’s of thousands of dollars. The insurance companies decide what the doctor will get paid and he probably has a whole team of “billing people” working full-time in an attempt to get him paid. That sounds expensive….. but I forgot about all of the TV lawyers waiting, salivating, hoping, for a chance to sue him for any reason the imagination can conjure. Oh & there’s the $250,000 he spent on his education, student loans that he actually repaid. I’m glad I am not involved in making this thing work.
Another observation that I would like to comment on is the need for receptionists to ask for photo ID. This is done because health care offices got wise to the practice of people sharing their insurance cards & medicaid credentials. TWICE the receptionist had to ask people for a second form of ID because the address on the person’s driver’s licence did not match the address the patient had given. I did not have to prove my place of residence when applying for a passport! She explains politely that a driver’s license that does not indicate where the driver really lives is not considered valid. She asks if they have a “yellow card”, neither patient knows what she is talking about. Apparently, you are given a “yellow card” by the DMV which has your current address to be used while you are waiting for a new driver’s license with your new address to be issued… but you must, of course, let the DMV know that you have changed your address. How does she know that? WHY does she HAVE to know that? I suppose it is to increase the chances of the office getting some measure of payment for this office visit for which a patient is asked to pay $25 and which costs the physician $200 in expenses to provide, and from which he so selfishly expects to make a living… and provide a living wage for all of his staff.
Is health care expensive? Hell yes it is! Does everyone have a right to it? Yes, I believe so. BUT that doesn’t mean people should be allowed to abuse the system. I think everyone should pay something and maybe for some people that something isn’t very much at all. And no more using the emergency room for minor ailments. I tend to think that people are less likely to waste things that they pay for out of their own pocket. I think it might not be a bad idea to require everyone to have insurance. Make it affordable for everyone to have some level of coverage. Why are we not OK with this system but OK with the system of those who do pay having to pay a lot more to make up for those don’t? What to do about the mega costs of life-style generated morbidity, such as smoking-related lung disease, and people who ride motorcycles without helmets is a very tricky issue… deciding who caused their own illness, who got sick at no fault of their own, assigning blame…… that’s a hard one. If you choose to do something harmful to your body, fully knowing the consequences to your health and the expense of the attempts to undo the damage that you created, should you be expected to be responsible for that? Tricky, tricky.
OOOOH this next lady is a doozie, she has a complaint. She is quite miffed about having to fill out a health history form on-line. Why do they need to know about all of that? It took her at least 10 minutes to complete that form because there were so many questions. She is here for a broken wrist, the doctor does NOT NEED TO KNOW that she is allergic to penicillin OR that she takes blood pressure medication (who would have guessed). And another thing, she is tired of people asking her “why are you here today”. First the nurse asks, then the doctor, why do they have to ask me ten times? I burst out laughing, the secretary who is getting unjustly yelled at shoots me a dirty look. I am sorry, but this is quality comedic entertainment right here. Too bad I don’t have one of those newfangled smart phones & a YouTube account!
OK, now there’s a woman in utter SHOCK because she was told that she has a $20 co-pay (mine is $40, she must have a government job). She is NOT happy, that is ridiculous! Meanwhile she is a card carrying member of the iPhone clutching, Coach bag carrying, Burberry trench wearing, with a $60 manicure & major hair weave club . In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the reason she is here is the back pain caused by the weight of all of the high-end labeled status-symbol crap she carries around with her combined with tripping around in her Christian Louboutin stilettos. As an unlettered professor of psychology & sociology I know the truth is that she really doesn’t feel very good about herself, thus the pathetic need to announce to the world that she is somebody. $10 says there’s a little dog with a jeweled collar stowed in that ginormous handbag.
Now this is the grand-daddy of all waiting room stories. I swear to you that it is a true fact, I was not an eye witness, I confess, but I have it on very good authority to be the gospel truth. A woman walks into the gynecologist office with her THREE little dogs, papillons I believe. The receptionist needs a moment to regain her voice because she has been rendered totally stupefied & speechless. She politely tells the woman that she cannot bring her pack of canines into a doctor’s office. The woman points to a woman holding her newborn and says something like “you let her bring that filthy thing in here”. Again, where are the You Tubers when you really need one?
Very funny and poignant observation of human behavior. You did it again!
Nice commentary about a group of people all suffering to some degree and many oblivious to their own folly. I agree, that while everyone should have access to quality, affordable healthcare, they also should pay something for it.
Oh my gosh, Sandy!!! I have always believed you would make a fortune as a “stand-up comedian.” Just hysterical…and I agree with every word.