By Greg Mills, Associate Editor
Well, I got the crotchety old fart part down pat a good while back. But actually thinking of myself as a senior citizen — well, that’s a bit tougher. I had the epiphany of realizing I am looking a “bit long on the tooth” at a McDonalds a while back.
As I stood in line to get a small coffee on that fateful day, I looked up and noted the price was listed at 69 cents. I got to the head of the line and this cute, little blonde teenage girl cheerfully asked me what I would like.
“A small black coffee please,” I stated as I fished three quarters out of my pocket.
“That will be $39 cents, sir” she responded with a sweet smile.
“Uh …. it says 69 Cents on the board,” I stated with a perplexed look.
She leaned over as if to tell me a secret. “I gave you the senior citizen discount sir,” she stated softly with a disarming and knowing smile.
Ouch. I thought she was cute, she thought me elderly. My super ego had just faced the toxic “kryptonite of reality” through the unbiased view of a random teen age girl. Kids can be so brutal.
The second prong of my being emotionally wounded that day was looking down at the change in my hand, as I walked away. I realized that my dignity had suffered a severe hit and that the extra change only amounted to roughly 30 cents. Should I insist on paying the standard price or simply put the extra change in my pocket and walk away gracefully? At the end of this exercise, I realized I discovered that my dignity was only worth 30 cents. I pocketed the extra change and have been enjoying rather nice senior coffee for cheap ever since. I have never been carded over it. I guess the cute young girl was right.
My sister-in-law, Gail Mills, had her first senior moment when she discovered she had gotten on AARP’s mailing list. That first mailing from the ultra-socialistic elderly lobby nearly triggered a bout of clinical depression. I routinely file such socialistic propaganda in the trash.
The next major insult to my fading concept of my relative youthfulness was receiving Social Security payments. At least it is enough money to be helpful. I did contribute to the Social Security fund — or got mugged by the IRS each year, depending on your prospective. Then the avalanche of Medicare supplemental junk mail began last fall. I finally picked Blue Cross as my supplemental health insurance company, figuring my good health is bound to fail at some point in the greying process.
In December, I got my Blue Cross health care ID card in the mail. I slipped it into the wad of credit cards I carry and figured I was covered in case anything happened. Cool.
The first time I used my Blue Cross insurance was to get a flu shot. My daughter and I spotted some signs for flu shots at a clinic on the way home from her school, so we went in and filled out a number of pages of papers each. I paid $30 with a credit card for her shot and gave them my new trusty Blue Cross Card for mine. After putting in an hour and a half of doing paper work and playing games on our iPhones waiting, we finally got our jabs and blew the scene.
Three weeks later, her flu shot amounted to one line on a credit card bill for $30, but the paperwork for mine is the real story here. Not only was I forced to fill out numerous pages of paperwork at the time, just to get the shot, it turns out they charged $60 for my shot: $30 for the actual shot and $30 for administrative costs! This is nuts and exactly why the cost of medical care is skyrocketing. Health insurance isn’t the solution to the ever increasing cost of medical care; it is the reason medical care cost is out of control.
I called the office phone number of one Nalini G, Premsingh MD and demanded to know why what I expected to be a $30 charge to my insurance was double that.
“The additional $30 is an allowable administrative cost,” the bookkeeper explained.
“That is nuts,” I told him.
“Well sir, that is allowable,” he replied.
Blue Cross customer service was polite but didn’t seem to care that they were being ripped off.
That the Visa card could so smoothly handle the cost of the shot for my daughter and the medical industry would double the cost of my shot due to administrative costs really gets down to the difference between a free enterprise business system and a government regulated business system. It seems to me there ought to be an app for this. Such an app or software solution could do a number of things well.
First of all, swiping my Medicare card ought to have brought up a secure page over the Internet that contained all my health care information demanded in the hand full of papers I had to fill out. Then the code for a flu shot ought to be easy to enter on a single line to be charged to my account and the $30 credit transferred to the doctor’s account almost instantly. If Visa can do it why not Blue Cross?
I suspect the issue isn’t as much the lack of technology to streamline the process as the ridiculous set of Byzantine rules and laws promulgated by the frontal lobotomy impaired US congress and US Department of Health. My wife pointedly asked me why it mattered since it was going to be paid by insurance anyway. As a nurse, she is used to the gigantic gap between civilian business logic and the medical industry. It matters a lot I told her. My insurance premium went up $10 the second month.
This is why I continue to maintain the opinion that health care insurance is the reason medical cost are out of control rather than being the solution. No one cares what anything cost if they don’t pay it themselves. There ought to be an app for this that streamlines the records and payment system were doubling the cost due to administrative process is par for the course. In administering medical cost in the digital age, a $7 flu vaccine shouldn’t cost Medicare $60.
Got to go get a cup of coffee.