Keep your doctor; yeah, right

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

Boy, I feel great today. The sun is shining, it’s warm, spring has sprung, trees are budding, and the pea patch survived the March freeze and is sprouting runners. My left knee is not acting up, and there are no aches and pains.

I hope you are feeling good as well.

I’m afraid I have some bad news for my doctor. I won’t be seeing him this year. Perhaps when I cancel my physical, he can get in an extra nine holes.

I’ve noticed the golf paraphernalia in his office and the antique, wooden putter he has on display. But I’m afraid to ask about his game because I don’t play, have no interest in playing, and if I get him started on golf he may talk my ear off.

I like Dr. Gary. I remember him at the hospital when my mother-in-law died. Though he wasn’t her doctor, he was on duty when she passed due to leukemia, and he came and talked to us and I remember his kindness and expression of compassion.

I wanted him as my new doctor and begged his staff to take me on even though they were not accepting new patients. I promised them I would not be troublesome and I haven’t. I’ve been blessedly healthy.

I remember Dr. Gary’s giggle and grin the time I got that poison oak. I was cutting out the poisonous vines that were sprouting at the edge of the woods. Get Roundup, they said. No, I don’t like pesticides. So instead I went out there with a hand pruner and very carefully cut and disposed of the vines.

And when I sat down on the ground the cut vines must’ve injected their poison through the seat of my jeans and to a place where the sun don’t shine. “I’ve never seen a case this bad,” Dr. Gary chuckled as I bent over.

But I’m avoiding Dr. Gary this year. It has nothing to do with poison oak. You see, I got new medical insurance. They call it Obamacare.

I was pleased with the coverage. It was better than I had expected. I have a $5 co-pay for doctor visits, $20 for a specialist. I have a $500 deductible.

The plan costs $1,234.49 a month. Most of it is paid by Obamacare; my share is more than reasonable.

But there’s one catch. I am not allowed to keep my doctor. And I am not allowed to keep my hospital, the former president’s ill-fated promise, notwithstanding.

My new insurance company informs me that I must go to a doctor they decree and to a hospital they decree or I pay a stiff, out-of-network penalty — 60 percent doctor co-pay, $2,000 hospital deductible. I went to Dr. Gary’s office and they told me that the insurance company won’t even allow them to become in-network due to contractual obligations.

The doctors to which the insurance company would send me are in Rock Creek. The hospital to which they would send me is Wilkes Regional. They offered alternatives in Mocksville and Galax, Virginia.

My wife thought the North Wilkesboro hospital just fine when she worked there briefly as a temp nurse, and the one time I set foot in there to pick her up from work, it looked nice enough. And the Rock Creek doctors’ website looks nice as well with patient testimonials that say things like “nice and we didn’t have to wait long to see the doctor. They were just great all around no complaints at all.”

That’s comforting. Still, I’d rather go to Dr. Gary, even though he aggravates me with talk about my dropping 10 to 15 pounds. I can’t get that memory of his compassion about my mother-in-law out of my mind.

And Hugh Chatham hospital here in the hometown was where I was born, at the old Hawthorne Road location. There I spent a night when I was little when I had a drug reaction.

The current Chatham location is where my mother and father were well treated in their last days. I want the same.

So I’ll just sit out medical care for this year. And hope for the best.

When you hear about the great health-care debate going on in Washington, and even if you don’t think it matters to you, think of me. It does matter.

I await word from Washington on when or if I can go back to Dr. Gary and Chatham. And whether I’ll have to begin paying $1,200-plus a month for medical insurance that I cannot afford, what being retired and all and four years away from Medicare eligibility. After hearing from Washington, it looks like I’m going to have to wait a while.

Meanwhile I’ll hope that an apple a day WILL keep the doctor away. For the time being at least. Now excuse me, but I need to take a ride up to the Brushy Mountains and stock up.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris

Back In The Hometown Harris

Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune

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