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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Crazy Doc

My husband and I consider ourselves among the fortunate of Americans. We've always had health insurance, even during periods of umemployment. One of his benefits from a lifetime career with the military - we can buy insurance from Tricare. It's low-cost, affordable and has always provided us with good doctors and good care.

The biggest problem with Tricare is that like most managed care plans, there's the physicians within the system, and those outside - which means we pay more in co-pays, deductibles etc. So, we've moved and now have to find a new "primary care manager."

We go to the user-friendly Tricare web site and plug in our zip code. Unlike the handy-dandy star rating hotels get beside their name when you search for a place to stay, doctors listed on insurance web sites have no star rating. Over the years, we've devised our own system. I prefer female, but occasionally will let my husband have his way and find a male physician. Location and proximity to home is important, guessing that the majority of the time when we'll need to travel to the doctor's office will be when we're sick, we know we don't want to have to drive across the metro for an office visit.

Then, I call the office. Does he/she take new patients? How long does it take to get into see the doctor if I'm really sick? I ask about partnerships and hospital affiliations etc. This call also lets us know about how friendly and seemingly organized the staff is -- an important factor considering that you'll spend more time with the office staff than you will the actual doctor.

Enter Crazy Doc. He seemed ok in print. Graduated from a good medical school, licensed, couldn't find any immediate complaints online. Staff seemed ok. So I made an appointment and off I go to see the new doctor. I had a legitimate complaint. I seem to be acquiring more and more food allergies and wanted to get to the bottom of this. I had just had a physical a few months ago and everything checked out great, so I wasn't worried about my blood pressure, sugar levels etc.

I get to the doctor's office and notice I'm the only one waiting. Good sign, that means it's a short wait. I was wrong. I can hear a doctor -- or whom I think is a doctor -- in the back talking to a patient. Hmmm. A well-dressed woman comes into the doctor's office. She's with ABC pharmaceuticals and wants to meet with the doctor. She's informed the doctor only meets with pharmaceutical reps during certain days at lunch.

"Do you have a budget for lunch?" the receptionist asks, unabashedly.

She does, so they settle on a date and the receptionist kindly gives her a couple of suggestions for the food.

Wow. That's brash. Deduct some points for staff behavior.

I see a patient leave, and soon I'm called to the back.

I don't wait long before the doctor comes into the room. He's a big, bulking man. He's dressed in a rumpled white coat that looks two sizes too small. He looks over my chart and asks me why I'm here.

You get headaches?

Well, yes...but I'm under stress at work, so I just take aspirin and deal with it. That's not why I'm here...

So how tall are you?

I tell him.

How much do you weigh?

I tell him.

He repeats it, adding 10 pounds.

No, I correct. him. Look, I know I'm overweight, obese, I'm working on it, ok?

Working on being obese?

No, working on losing weight...

This conversation persisted for more than an hour. He didn't want to talk about my allergies, insisted I had high blood pressure, then looked at my chart and said it must be wrong. He went on to push me about lap-band surgery. I told him, no, I know I need to lose weight, I'll do it. He kept on. I remembered the lunch deal and then wondered how much he was getting to send patients on to the surgeon for lap-band surgery.

I got a headache, and put my hands to my temple, closing my eyes.

You have a headache?

Yes, you gave it to me. I need to go, do you want to talk about my allergy problem?

He changed the subject.

I got annoyed and told him I had to leave for work.

Did I mention that when he actually talked to me, he closed his eyes throughout most of the conversation?

Crazy doc.

I'm looking for a new doctor now. And, I still don't know why all of a sudden I'm allergic to food I've always eaten like fish, cantaloupe, eggplant, kiwi etc.