Monday, April 28, 2014

On health plans and zombies

“I'm not sure we can make an appointment.  You haven't been here since 2011.  I'm putting you on hold,” the receptionist said.

“But I,” I said to the hold music.

It never occurred to me that my doctor would break up with me if I didn't make an effort to see him every so often.  He didn't seem that needy the last time we spoke, but our relationship apparently required me to have a more nurturing bed-sitting-upon manner.

“Hey, there,” I'd say when calling for no reason.

“Hello, Mr. Todd.  What can we help you with today?” his office would ask.

“Nothing.  I just wanted you to know that I care for you, too,” I'd reply.

If I'd done that, perhaps I wouldn't have been in the position last week of having a swollen uvula with nobody to look at it who could say something more intelligent than “Aw, dude.”

“Aw, dude,” I gurgled to myself in the bathroom mirror, holding a flashlight to brighten the source of my troubles.  My throat looked like the tunnel from Indiana Jones after the boulder got stuck in it.

For the previous two days, I'd been lurching around the house like a zombie, going, “Uuuuuuuuurrrgh,” every time I swallowed.  If the neighbors had been looking in our windows, they probably would have locked themselves in their apocalypse bunker. 

Of course, I don't know if they actually have an apocalypse bunker, but these days, it seems silly not to have one.  Our bunker consists of some frozen chili in our garage freezer, which wouldn't really be useful if we lost power during the actual apocalypse, but at least a freezer full of bad chili could cause us to lose our appetites for a while.  A real bunker should have canned goods in it, but if my survival ever depends on hunkering down and eating cold asparagus spears, I'll take my chances with the zombies. 

“Mr. Todd?  Since it's just a sore throat, we can make an appointment for you today.  But you'll need to schedule another appointment soon for a physical exam, too,” the receptionist said when she came back. 

“Thanks, you bet,” I croaked, glad to be getting some much-needed medical attention, but alarmed at what I'd just gotten myself into. 

For the past several years, I've been on a health insurance plan that my wife Kara and I called the Don't Get Sick Plan.  I didn't really understand all the finer points of the plan, except that my monthly premiums were very low.  In exchange, I agreed never to get sick.  (Kara and our two kids remained on the Get Sick All the Time Unlimited Medical Buffet, because they, unlike me, are not expendable.)

With my sore throat, I'd broken the agreement.  When I was choosing a health plan back in November, deciding how sick I'd get in 2014, perhaps I'd given my white blood cells too much credit.

“Are you going to gag?” the nurse asked me, holding the extra-long Q-tip like it was a skewer and I was a marshmallow.

“Absolutely.  Doesn't everyone?” I asked.

“I mean, are you going to throw up on me?” she clarified. 

“I'm pretty sure I won't,” I said, confident but not wanting to oversell.

“That's good.  I want to get a really good sample,” she replied, plunging the cotton swab so far back into my throat that it came out with pieces of my soul on it.

The test came back positive for strep throat before the doctor even stepped foot into the room.  The total bill for the visit, plus the antibiotics?  $3.33. 

Continuing to suffer through my strep throat would have only saved me enough to purchase two-thirds of a five-dollar footlong.  Still, I probably should have waited a few more days before making an appointment, since it would have been an even better value to have gotten pneumonia cured. 

You can step slowly away from Mike Todd at

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