When I was growing up in a suburb of New York, we had a family doctor, an avuncular type whose office smelled like Listerine and potatoes. Dr. Kreske played fast and loose with the lollipops (especially after booster shots) and even came to our house if we were laid low. Once, when I had the mumps, he made fun of the rock & roll posters in my bedroom, asking if Ricky Nelson and Fabian were “war heroes.” He was a nice guy, and I’m sure my mother had no trouble getting him on the phone when she needed to.
Fast forward to now. For the last few years (actually up until about five minutes ago) I’ve had health insurance through Kaiser Permanente. I actually like Kaiser, and especially like Dr. Lewis—a personable, intelligent guy who happens to be a West Coast Live fan. You can’t get your doctor on the phone at Kaiser; you have to leave a message or send an email. But they try to make up for their impersonal interface by engaging a computer to remember everything Dr. Kreske used to write on his little pad, and the system actually works pretty well. This year, as consulting gigs dwindled and insurance costs rose, I found myself facing a $426. (plus $50. co-pay per visit) monthly bill that seemed absurd for someone in good health.
When I married Sam Barry, author of How to Play the Harmonica and Other Life Lessons, I was delighted to become eligible for his corporate health insurance plan along with our virtual baby Keaton. I sent notes of appreciation and farewell to my Kaiser doctors, and then rehearsed a sweet little “it’s not you, it’s me” speech before called the administrative office. I wanted to cancel my membership before another bill came due, but the Kaiser computer and I had had a substantial ongoing relationship and it didn’t seem right to just fade away into some dark Aetna night.
After about ten minutes touch-toning five for further options, I got to speak to a live woman. I told her I loved my doctors and regretted having to leave. I mentioned the cost issue (actually more than once) in case that might help avoid repeating our sad ending in future relationships.
You know what? She didn’t care. No note, no flowers, no expressions of regret. She was on to the next poor sap before my phone receiver had a chance to grow cold. I have a feeling Dr. Kreske might have handled things with more panache.
Causes Kathi Goldmark Supports
Support for Families of Children with Disabilities Friends of the San Francisco Public Library National Kidney Foundation of Northern California Litquake...