Talk with Scott of Vitamin Works
Lately I bike a few miles to the supermarket and then pickup what I can from nearby Vitamin Works, a place owned by Scott and usually we talk about things. For instance after shopping at Publix, I might say I feel totally dumbed down and Scott would add 'it's just like night of the living dead' or 'zombieville at Publix. It can be traumatizing.' We always compare notes about where to live often joined by his assistant Anthony. Lately, influenced by Anthony, upstate New York is getting his attention. Many lakes with nice houses around them was his mantra. My reaction was that in your 50's you think you can be self-sufficient and do things on your own, be a rugged individualist, get away from everything, but after a certain age you can't really do it alone. Scott agreed but added 'you can get a kid to help you.' That's how we talked until it was time for me to head out.
I recently shared my latest adventure getting a blood test at my primary care physician which was nearby. I said I felt as if I was a 7 year old going to school for the first time. Scott added it was like seeing the big hallways, cafeterias, rooms, and gyms for the first time and feeling so small. Yes, that's how the doctor's office felt.
At the office assistant Betty administered the blood test. The first thing she did was ask me to sign a release stating I'm responsible for all procedures, testing, drugs, and scans that medicare or supplementary insurance won't cover. I signed it mechanically. Betty went into further details.
She said many Obamacare patients hadn't been to doctors in 20 years and so ask to have everything done; scans, xrays, lab tests and on and on. They all assumed all would be covered and were surprised when huge bills came in the mail. Betty then said its all about coding and if you don't have a certain code you have to pay for everything. She added the very sick, or very rich, or poor are protected but a person like me can fall through the cracks, particularly if something happens. She recommended I call medicare and my supplementary insurance carrier before every visit to find out what is covered. All this was beginning to penetrate and I thanked her for the warning.
Previously, when I had seen the doctor I had requested a vitamin D test to see if my levels were holding up and in a good range. I asked Betty if this was covered and she asked me if I had osteoporosis. I said no and she said I wasn't covered. Hmmmm. I wasn't sick enough. I needed an acute illness to get the test apparently. The same applied for cholesterol tests. If I went ahead with the Vitamin D test my cost out of pocket would be $140. I told her to drop it. I asked if the doctor had known about this charge and she said he was not up on the rules and regulations, maybe implying he was oblivious.
I had United Health Care but I asked her about Humana. She said Humana has about 8 plans, and it was hard to choose which was best. She added the average visit had a cheaper copay, but one had to go through a network. More to consider or to just avoid dealing with I thought. The paranoid part of me saw it as an agenda to keep me preoccupied with minutia so I would take my eye off the bigger picture of what really counted.
Then Betty told me that for 20 years she had no health insurance even though she had regular employment. Recently her husband started working at a job that offered full coverage including dental insurance for both of them. She wanted a dental cleaning and went to a dentist who said she would need a special 'deep' cleaning after examining a full set of xrays that he took. Discouraged, she went to another dentist and after taking another full set of xrays (more radiation) he told her it would cost $800 to clean her teeth properly. She then went to a local college and had it done for $20. I think I got the message. I thanked Betty for sharing and left, feeling I now have to be on guard for yet another involvement.
All this I shared with Scott while purchasing organic sunflower seeds, Jasmine tea and a cocoa bar treat which he gave me a break on. Scott said he knew the system was broken for years. His father in law was in medical sales and spoke often about these issues. We often spoke about health care in Europe and the possible advantages of living in other countries. He said things were all about money here and greed and business. I agreed but added at least we are free to share and talk and give our insights. I then shared a story about my neighbor Stewart.
About my age, Steward I'm guessing inherited some money and I think inherited his parents condo. Seven weeks a year he goes to Europe to teach meditation. Once, at the pool, he said in an insistent voice he is 'trying' and 'will' not give in to distractions. I said trying and willing even for a good thing are not meditative frames of mind. He seemed receptive to what I said and friendly and respectful enough that day, but two days later he must have thought about things and I definitely wasn't on his 'favorite' list. What was nice became not so nice. Anyhow, before this 'reaction' he had an interesting comment about Europe.
After being in Germany, on a Greek island overlooking the Mediterranean, staying in Venice and other nice places, he said his first reaction upon getting off the plane in New York was that he could breathe. He felt he could think here. I wasn't sure if I heard him correctly but I had. He said all over Europe the mindset was limited and closed and restricted. You could only go so far in your thinking.
I shared his reaction with Scott and he too asked if his first reaction after landing in New York was actually the opposite. I assured him it wasn't. We both absorbed this and had nothing to say.
Scott and I agreed it is good to have a person to share our thoughts with. Scott, who reads my website, suggested I write about our talking and so I am. I left the store and he told me to bike safely and enjoy the clear weather. I then faced my bikeride home as I face my life, peddling forward while concerned about my safety and well being, hoping around the corner there will be some smooth sailing with no crazy drivers and maybe a realization or two before I arrive home.