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September 25, 2011

The Encounter

Elaine Viets General Hospital doctor

I won’t deny it. I can’t. There’s a record. Dozens of people knew about it.

I saw him June 13. Soon he learned the inner workings of my heart. He quickly plumbed the depths of my wallet.

But I never expected this:

I got a bill from this cardiologist and it says: "Encounter 589569 for Elaine With Drake, Patrick MD."

I’m not using his name because I still owe him $21.87. Soap fans will know Dr. Drake’s name from "General Hospital."

And speaking of soap operas, Doctor, did you have to call it an "encounter"? What ever happened to plain old "office visit"? Or "exam"? And when you number it like that, it seems so impersonal. Just another episode.

Heart After I opened the bill and finished laughing – which is good for heart, by the way – I wondered how I would explain this encounter to my husband.

I didn’t have to. He got a bill from a GI doc for another "encounter."

If that GI specialist had been honest, he would have billed Don for a "total reaming," not a simple encounter.

These medical encounters are an alarming trend. They’re pretentious. They’re ridiculous. And if anyone ever sues Dr. Drake for sexual harassment, it plays right into the hands of the prosecution.

I can see a lawyer waving that tell-tale bill in court and thundering: "Do you deny, Dr. Drake, that you had an encounter with Ms. Viets? That you made her lie down? That you examined her chest?"

Dr. Drake: "I did, but there was nothing improper about our meeting."

Lawyer: "Then why did you call it an encounter?"

Dr. Drake: "That’s the new term. I have a modern practice and I wanted to be up-to-date."

Lawyer: "Let me go back to plain old-fashioned English, Dr. Drake, the kind we’re used to speaking. Webster says an encounter is a ‘particular kind of meeting or experience with another person, a romantic encounter.’ Is that what you had with my client?"

Dr. Drake: "No. Of course not. It was completely proper."

Lawyer: "Even though you saw my client in bed?"

Hospital gown Dr. Drake: "That was for a test. And she was wearing a hospital gown. Angelina Jolie wouldn’t make any hearts beat faster in those gowns."

Lawyer: "This is not the time for levity, Doctor. I’m trying to define this encounter. Was it this definition: ‘To meet as an enemy or an adversary.’ Is my client an enemy?"

Dr. Drake: "On June 13, no, she wasn’t."

Lawyer: "Then why did you do it, Dr. Drake?"

Dr. Drake: "I wanted to get away from the old-school image of doctors with black bags back when medicine was more . . ."

Lawyer: "Affordable?"

Dr. Drake: "Less advanced."

Lawyer: "Ah, hah! You admit you made advances to my client."

Let me reassure yout that the real cardiologist was a model of good behavior, and there’s nothing wrong with me – nothing that cardiologist can fix, anyway. And I don’t believe that the language should never change. Only dead languages, like Latin, stay the same.

But this change was enough to send me off to the local restaurant – which advertised "hand-built cocktails."

Hand-built? As in made by little elves?Elf

Usually I don’t see little green men until at least two or three drinks. They come right before the pink elephants.

Pink elephant


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Hi Elaine,

You still get bills? Two years after our doctor visits we get an "Explanation of Benefits"(EOB) statement from the insurance company explaining why we owe $32,056.04 with the instruction to "see A, B, C, D, or E for an . . . um . . . explanation. In a tearful sweat I locate A, B, C, D, or E and learn that I don't owe anything, but I should see A2, B2, C2, D2, or E2 to see if I do in fact owe something. I learn that I might, and since I am so late in coughing up the bucks I might owe interest, just not to them, but to the doctor . . . you know, in case I signed something that said if I wanted to see the doctor I had to agree to pay for any unnecessary lab fees and exams that might not be covered by insurance, so please check A3, B3, C3, D3, or E3 to find out. So I do check and find out that although I do owe $14,080.22, and while the insurance company did not pay the doctor that portion of the charges, they very kindly negotiated on my behalf and the doctor agreed to accept the payment they offered. So, they tell me that I do not owe the money in the column where it says I owe the money and I better pay, and "Ignore this amount. THIS IS NOT A BILL." You are not liable for this amount, but the doctor, or clinic, or lab, or hospital might send you a bill, but do not pay until you receive your EOB.

Elaine, this is priceless! Glad you're okay...:)

My all-time favorite is a sign in a restaurant suggesting patrons "Use our Call Ahead Service! We'll have your table ready for you and your guests when you let us know you're coming!"

I couldn't help laughing out loud, and asked the hostess, "Isn't that what a reservation is?"

She didn't know the word.....

Glad to know that your encounter was satisfactory.

William, have you been dining at my new neighborhood restaurant? Because they claim they don't take reservations. But if you "stop in and give the hostess your phone number, she'll call when your table is ready." Which may not be a "reservation," but is certainly close.

Word battles with a writer, poor doc.

"Total reaming" can be taken a coupla different ways. Bet you meant it to cover all bases, Elaine.

Too funny. And Dru's comment sent me over the edge.

"Encounter"???? Really?? It has a slightly sinister ring to it, too. A Hitchcockian feel. . .

Reine, I've felt your pain -- back when I had Aetna. Their EOBs made the tax code look simple.
You guys are making me laugh about something that had me fuming a few days ago. Laughter is the best medicine.

Reine! You must receive the same EOB's that I do! Of course, the thing that happens next is that you receive, in dribs and drabs, bills from the doctor, the lab, and the several specialists who read the lab results, for whatever sums were neither covered by your insurance nor negotiated on your behalf. None of which sums match any of the sums on the EOB, even if you were clever enough to save the EOB for the 6 months it took for those other bills to arrive.

I have several encounters lined up for the next week. I can hardly wait . . .

Oh, yeah, Kerry! The mismatched numbers game. Very fishy, isn't it?

What kills me is when they show the price charged, and the "renegotiated" price for services, often 90% less than the original. Which makes me wonder what they charge people with no insurance at all. (And the doctor/lab bill still shows a different number.)

Yes, we still need more health care reform. Honestly.

Elaine, was Dr., uh, Drake . . . single? Because I could use a few encounters. And those hospital gowns take the guesswork out of how to dress for a first encounter. And maybe they're not terribly attractive, but he DID get to first base, right?

Dr. "Drake" is married and surrounded by adoring female staff, Harley. You're the only person I know who'd look good in a hospital gown.

Reine, Kerry--if your insurance company doesn't kill you first, someday you'll have Medicare. So simple and direct. I've never gone through the tiniest hassle with them. And if you're lucky, there will still be Medicare when you're my age.

Let me guess: EOB means 'Explanation of BENEFITS,' no?

Had my first ER encounter with a Dr. Drake a couple of weeks ago (chest pains but all is well) Don't have the paperwork yet. He wanted me to stay overnight but as tempting as that sounded I did go home.

Smart move to go home, Diana. It's hard to sleep in hospitals. Glad you're okay.
EOB is indeed an "explanation of benefits," Holly. But their purpose is to confuse, not to explain. Reine and Kerry, you should take your EOB comedy routine on the road.

I am eating lunch. You made me laugh so hard that I nearly choked on food, which could have led to An Emergency Room Encounter, which sounds so much more exciting than A Trip To The Hospital.

Also, thanks to you, I now understand that my life is not as dull as I thought it was. After all, the week before last, I had encounters with three different men within four days. I kind of like this change to my self-image!

Thanks for the laughs!

Oh, so much reminding me of the New Year's wish "to meet nice new men," which should have included the exclusion "to whom I don't have to give co-pays." That same year, I bought a lottery ticket, in case it's time to retire -- the answer came in the persona of the many "-ologists" who came into my life. I do think the many specialties and sub-specialties and multitude of tests are all part of a big profit-sharing plan for doctors and insurance companies, made even more evident by the fact that Mara, whose myo-fascial release was the only effective treatment, is not approved while all the rest is.
Our "health care" system is like something Kafka would write . . .

Reine, do you have a Medicare supplement policy also? I am gathering info for a year from now, when I will be eligible for Medicare (if we still have it). Some of the supplements even pay for Y membership and/or Silver Sneakers classes . . . better to keep people healthy than to pay for illnesses.

Deb, you keep having those encounters, and you'll turn up as a character in "General Hospital."
Mom always wanted me to meet a doctor, but I didn't think I'd have to pay for the privilege.

Oh man...why am I so darned healthy? This single girl would like a few encounters, anything would suffice...I promise I won't take him to court! However, with my luck, I'd get Dr. Frankenstein, not Dr. Drake. :-)

Thanks for the giggles!

I have an encounter with my urologist, who is a cute young lady (young relative to me), every 6 months.

Unfortunately, the encounter includes her slipping on a latex glove and telling me to relax at a time when all my instincts scream "CLENCH!"

After that, I have to pay for the encounter. There is something very not right about that. Shouldn't I be the one getting the money?

Story teller Mary, I have AARP (UHC) supplement F. This will be the first time I've used it other than one doctor encounter. Will let you know if it lives up to the promises.

Hysterical. Just for the serious stuff, I'm on Medicare, and have a supplemental plan which really helps. I had an angioplasty a few years ago, and the charges for my encounters were several pages long. This was enough to give me a heart "episode." At the very end, in small print, was the amount owed-zero. I do have copays, but they are bearable. I can't believe I'm doing this. I love your posts-too funny.

OK, so I am mad at Mr. Typepad now. I haven't been here in a week.
I typed a comment that was on-topic, clear, brief, and thoughtful to the best of my ability, and clicked on 'Post', and the durned comment disappeared. I did not see any screening characters or any other such hurdle to leap. Grrrrr. No way to welcome me back, Mr. Typepad.

Laraine! Thank you for braving Mr. T. He's been extremely cranky since he was attacked by the bots and he hates the extra security.
I'm glad you persisted.
Doc, about that young lady -- you called her, right? So the gentleman pays.

Having read back through the week and discovered that Margie was here while I was too busy to check in, I've decided to forgive Mr. Typepad and try again.

First of all, You, Margie, you are still painting a little alcohol around the new naval piercing every day, aren't you?

Next, the lingo on those bills is thought up by clerks a thousand miles from your healthcare doc. The letters that the docs write to others is where I get my red pen out! I often find it amazing that someone could gain an M.D. or a PhD or other advanced degree and still not know how to spell or use proper grammar when communicating with their peers. Sigh. I tell myself it's ok as long as they do their principle work well.

Thanks, Elaine. You're a sweetie, and I love TLC too much to stay angry at Mr. Typepad for long . . . I just have to stomp off and curse for a while.

Poor Doc. Elaine's right. LOL.

Here's my trick for posting -- I highlight and copy before trying to post, and paste it into an email draft (could use word processing, but I usually have email open). That way, if there are any problems, I just copy it back in. After teaching jr. high and high school, I can get around so very many problems if I've a mind to . . .

** so many books tangent**
I just finished Susan McBride 's _Little Black Dress_ and started Sharyn McCrumb 's _Ballad of Tom Dooley_ Quite a contrast! Both excellent!

Reine, I have heard good things about UHC, and I tend to trust AARP (and AAA, which recommended Consumer Cellular) -- too many complicated things in this world to go it alone.

Elaine, hah! Yes, it is a great source of laughter – “almost, but not quite, ‘healing’ but never” . . . with liberties taken from the (off? Broadway show . . . ahhh?? Geeeee I can't remember. Will my friends from BROADWAY BACKWARDS help, please!

Comedy. I love comedy. I used to do a routine at the end of every year in Div School. And I actually turned down an audition to that Saturday night comedy show as a result – way too scary a prospect for this social agoraphobia of mine.

Hi Kerry! Yes, I am sure they must be your EOBs, because they don’t look anything like what mine should!

Hey Skip! Unbelievably, having a disability “forced” me to go on Medicare with supplementary insurance from my employer. The quotes around “forced” are there because while I wasn't truly forced, I had to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare in order to collect my disability pay from my employer. The employer contracts the “service” out to an insurance company something-or-other that tracks my progress and qualifies my status. So I could have refused Medicare and SSDI, but not if I wanted the income I’d earned and paid a premium for. I really think it all just stinks real bad, y’know? But thanks for the check, oh lofty one!

Oh Storyteller Mary . . . yes, do. And do see above!

Um . . . when I was in England, France, and Denmark I had no trouble at all getting the medical help I needed. And I needed prescriptions, crutches, a home visit to my room at ChCh, and phone calls from the doctor. For all of that I paid less than the co pay than I do for one of my seizure meds. And every place I went they apologized for having to charge me!

Thanks for the posting advice, Mary.
Reine, as my MIL would say, you've given us "a budget of news."

Oh-oh. I hope that's OK.

OK, risking that it is OK . . . I left out the part where, under this arrangement, the employer gets to deduct what you get from SSDI and Medicare from your disability paycheck.

It's ok, Reine. It means you gave us a lot of good information.

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