Jan 08 2003 Kelly Norton

One of the downsides of working for a startup has always been the realization that when you bust your head open playing full contact foosball in the board room there is little to no health coverage to put you back together again. So, let me preface all this drivel by saying that I'm very glad to be employed by a startup company that believes strongly in providing a good health care plan to its employees; we have some of the highest quality plans offered by our PEO. But … after receiving in the mail today the insurance card for our fourth provider in two years, I cannot help but to get a little cynical. The real irony is that we have now come full circle and are once again using Aetna, which is where we began this journey. Of course, that isn't entirely true because we are now on Aetna (period) whereas two years ago we were on Aetna US Healthcare. But regardless of what coincidental crossing of paths have occurred along the way, we have still endured 4 different providers, which means: 4 different policies, 4 different claim protocols, 4 different doctor networks, and 4 different windows of virtually no coverage. The wing-tip footed representative of whatever company can stand on his stump all day long and tell me that even if my card has not arrived by the first of the month I am still covered, but unless I have a card in my wallet I don't consider myself “insured”?. And while hospitals are obligated to treat you, they are not obligated to treat you as if you can pay when they believe you cannot. The window of virtually no coverage may be short, but it's long enough to remind me of the days when I truly had no coverage. I start to get hives thinking of how ironic it would be to have escaped those many months without a safety net only to have a light fixture fall on my head in the lobby and be duct taped back to together as part of the standard treatment for uninsured patients.

Then, of course, there is also the joy of changing physician networks four times. First off, if I were to undertake cleaning out the tower of doctor directories that I have accumulated over the past two years, I would surely make quick use of my new card for hernia treatment. When I did finally select an appropriate doctor from the new list of complete strangers to treat my hernia, it would be wise of me not to get too attached. In fact filling out the forms so that they can have a full record of my medical history seems pretty silly to me at this point. Instead, I print out my own and take it with me like a résumé. When asked if I've seen Dr. So-and-so before, I reply with uncertainty: “Hmm, I don't think so, but chances are good I will never see him again.” Actually, I've only been to the doctor once in those two years, but it's the principle of the matter; Is it not?

my growing collection of insurance cards

Fortunately, my new card arrived tonight. My worries are over for at least another six months, at which time I will be undoubtedly waiting for a card to arrive from yet another provider and making room for yet another physician directory. I think I would do good to drink a lot of orange juice, take my vitamins, and not try to clean out the stack of directories.