I recently took my dad to a doctor’s appointment. There were many other patients there; the waiting room was almost full.
I checked my dad in with the receptionist, gave his insurance information and paid the copay ($35 – astronomical price for an 86-year-old with several health issues on a fixed income… but I digress). I asked the receptionist how long a wait. I was told about a half hour. I then took a seat at the opposite end of the waiting room because there was no seat near my parents.
As the time approached one hour in the waiting room, I could see my dad getting annoyed and personally I was getting anxious. I got up, went to the receptionist and said,”I know there are a lot of people here, but we’ve been waiting almost an hour now. Can you tell me how much longer?” “You’re next,” was the reply. Hard to believe that after you were originally told it would only be a half hour wait.
A gentleman seated on the side of me told me that he had been there with his friend since 10:00 a.m. It was now 11:55 a.m. At 12:09 they called my dad in, after a 1 hour and 12 minute wait. He was out again in 28 minutes.
What is wrong with this scenario? Two big things, in my humble opinion.
1 – Making a senior citizen pay $35 for a copay for a doctor’s visit is just outrageous. Most seniors today are living on a small, fixed income. Mine is no exception, and in fact, his income has gone DOWN. You see my dad is receiving a pension for serving as a police officer in a city that went bankrupt, so his pension was cut. How can insurers justify this kind of copay for this population? It’s unfathomable to me.
2 – It seems that no one else’s time is valuable, except the doctor. Apparently it’s perfectly acceptable for a doctor’s office to book four patients all at the same time and then make them sit there and wait, and wait, and wait. To wait for more than double the time that you spend with a doctor is an insult.
Now I have worked in health care my entire adult life. I know there are good people who work within the health care industry, who are committed to caring for people. I also know there are those who are trying to change things and trying to create a system that works for everyone. But clearly we have a long way to go, just based on this small experience.
It’s symbolic of what has happened to the health care system. It’s become more about business and less about the patient. Doctors are forced to book as many patients as possible in a day to bill as much as they can because the insurers are only going to pay a portion of that bill. It seems to be a vicious cycle that is based more on money than on actually caring for people.
It all makes me sad, and a bit jaded, against an industry I so believe in. It’s a vital industry, and literally saves lives, and yet that human side is often forgotten. It’s become too complicated, too business like. And the people, like my dad, are left waiting for hours to just receive a big bill in the end.
It’s time to fix the system.