A few days ago, my four-year-old carefully laid out every item of her doctor’s kit on the table. Among other tools, there was a stethescope, a clipboard, and a plastic syringe. (She once told me that she wanted to be a doctor someday, so that she “could give people shots without having to say sorry.”)
She asked me to sit down and be the patient. I expected her to listen to my heart, tap on my knee with her little mallet, and of course give me a shot, but instead she selected her clipboard and wrote “MOMMY” at the top of the page, along with some scribbles and her name at the bottom. She then handed me the piece of paper and told me, “Here’s your check. That’ll be thirty dollars.”
Not too different from a trip to the real doctor, only cheaper. Here in the U.S., the amount you pay varies depending on the individual health insurance plan, whether or not you’ve met your annual deductible, whether you have a co-pay or a percentage coverage, whether that particular doctor is within your plan’s network, and a multitude of other factors, including whether or not your plan decides to cover that specific diagnosis, doctor, or treatment at that particular time. All that, of course, is assuming that you’re lucky enough to have health insurance. Otherwise, you might not be seeking medical treatment at all because you simply can’t afford it.
I myself opted for a PPO insurance plan, which means that I pay more for my health insurance, but I am supposed to be able to choose my own doctors, though I am still charged more for choosing certain doctors over others. One of the few times that I ever needed ongoing medical care for a health problem (herniated and bulging disks in my neck which were clearly diagnosed by an MRI scan), my health insurance company decided to tell me that they would no longer cover my treatments associated with that injury. They actually wrote me a letter saying that they acknowledged the diagnosis and recognized that it would require ongoing medical treatment, which was why they didn’t want to pay for it! Don’t you just love the U.S. “health care” system?