I’m driving my daughter to an orthodontic appointment when this man comes on the radio telling me (sorry Mick) that I won’t be able to choose my own doctor if we adopt any kind of national health insurance plan. The guy sounds kind of angry.
But I have to laugh as I cross the Three-Mile Bridge into Pensacola. I laugh because I am doing what I have done many dozens of times: take off work early, rush home (or to a school), pick up a child, and then hurry them to a medical or orthodontic appointment.
Why would I drive across the busy bridge and then all the way to the other side of Pensacola? I’ll tell you exactly why. Because I was not allowed to choose my orthodontist. My insurance carrier did that for me. Had it been up to me, I would have chosen the perfectly reputable orthodontist down the street about a mile from my house. In that case, I would have saved a lot of gas and a lot of driving time.
And I am one of the lucky ones. I work for a corporation that employs over fifty-thousand people. I get the impression that my health insurance stacks up pretty well comparatively. I like most of my doctors. But my insurance company runs the show when it comes to doctor choice. I must choose a primary care physician from a sanctioned list or get ready to pay a lot extra (sometimes 100 percent). And that doctor may as well refer me only to other doctors on the various specialty lists because I cannot begin to pay the extra money it would cost me to use a doctor not on my insurance list.
So, my family’s medical history has featured me as a taxi driver criss-crossing all over Santa Rosa and Escambia counties delivering family members to doctors chosen by my insurance company. It also features me and my wife doing war against platoons of adjusters whose job seems to be denying coverage that we thought we had, but I’ll save that for another letter.
So, yes, it’s déjà vu 1992 (I’m even driving the same car, seriously). That’s when I heard the same canard repeated endlessly about not being able to choose your doctor under publically sponsored insurance. No matter that the proposed legislation said the opposite in plain English. No matter that Medicare recipients face no such restriction.
Medicare proves that doctor choice is possible under a public plan. What’s not proven to me is that I can afford such insurance under our current system. Every time I need a doctor I am faced with a restrictive list determined by my insurance. Sometimes there is only one doctor on the list (unless I really want to put some miles on this car).
I have worked for three large corporations, a couple of small companies, and I have been self-employed, but I have never been able to choose my own doctors. It would be nice.