Since returning from Europe I've had coughing bouts that are violent enough to make me dizzy and weak afterward. This morning I finally broke down and called an advice nurse, who after a series of questions and answers instructed me to see a doctor today.
So I called my primary care physician. It's apparently been two years since I've been in to see my doctor, and in that time my doctor moved and I have a new doctor. But I can't be seen today because I "haven't established care with my doctor". So I have to pay twice my co-payment and go to an urgent care facility.
I know the nurse didn't create the policy, but how stupid is that policy? She said I should go to urgent care today, and she could make a follow-up appointment for me next week to "establish care" with my doctor. I asked what the point of that would be, if the urgent care facility can take care of my issues? She said it would be "follow-up".
The reason I couldn't be seen today was that the doctors were busy and "none of the doctors know [me]". What the heck does that have to do with anything? None of the urgent care doctors know me, either, but they'll be able to see me, and on a walk-in basis.
I should have just asked for the earliest possible appointment with a doctor so I can "establish care". In fact, I think I'll go call them back and do just that.
It's crazy to me to think that I'm being penalized because I've been healthy for over two years! What is this, Catch 22? I can't see my doctor until I see my doctor!
Before all the socialized medicine fanatics point and cry out "See? See?" I'll point out that I can be seen by an MD today, and at a cost less than that of a dinner for two. So no, confiscatory tax rates to pay for socialized medicine are not a good trade-off in my book, and there would be no guarantee under a government-run program that I'd be able to see anyone today.
But while the market is better than government at providing services, let's not fetishize the market and pretend that it's ideal. Been in "sardine class" on an airliner lately? No, the market doesn't always provide perfect service, but it does incentivize people to do so. Government absolutely does not.
Update: OK, so I called back and asked for the earliest appointment with my doctor. Smart move! My doctor's first available appointment is August 20th. But when I spoke to the nurse before, she said to go to urgent care today and to make a follow-up appointment next week to "establish care". The nurse I just spoke to was incredulous that I wouldn't want the August 20th appointment; I have to "establish care" sometime, right? I told her that I anticipate being healthy by August 20th and see no need to make a medically-unnecessary appointment with a doctor just so that I might be able to see a doctor more easily in the future, if need be. She didn't seem to understand my reasoning.
There must be some reason for such an absurd policy, but I certainly can't figure out what it is.
August 20th. That sounds like an answer I'd get from Britain's NHS or Canada's health care system!
Update #2, 7/20/15: Let's read about the cost of Canada's wait times:
One measure of the privately borne cost of wait times is the value of time that is lost while waiting for treatment. Valuing only hours lost during the average work week, the estimated cost of waiting for care in Canada for patients who were in the queue in 2014 was $1.2 billion. This works out to an average of about $1,289 for each of the estimated 937,345 Canadians waiting for treatment in 2014.
This is a conservative estimate that places no intrinsic value on the time individuals spend waiting in a reduced capacity outside of the work week. Valuing all hours of the week, including evenings and weekends but excluding eight hours of sleep per night, would increase the estimated cost of waiting to almost $3.7 billion, or about $3,929 per person.
This estimate only counts costs that are borne by the individual waiting for treatment. The costs of care provided by family members (the time spent caring for the individual waiting for treatment) and their lost productivity due to difficulty or mental anguish are not valued in this estimate. Moreover, non-monetary medical costs, such as increased risk of mortality or adverse events that result directly from long delays for treatment, are not included in this estimate.