Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Getting our money's worth from medical insurance, unfortunately

Professors often complain among ourselves that college is one of those few things that people pay a lot of money for, that they're happy to get less than they paid for.  My students, taking my math class that costs thousands upon thousands of dollars, are always thrilled when I cancel a class.  And of course, there are many students who skip class for a variety of reasons -- when students do miss class, it's seen as an offense against me (the professor who is getting paid to teach), not as a loss to the students (who are paying for the amazing opportunity to be in the same room with me).

But of course, there are other arenas where we're all happy to get less than what we paid for.  Medical insurance is one of those expenses that I'd be happy to plunk down money for and then not take advantage of the benefits. Unfortunately, recently our family has been getting our money's worth from our medical insurance company.

I'm usually the one who is the specimen of health, so this year's bouts with anxiety and heartburn are unusual (not to mention, I must admit, a bit of an ego issue).  Fortunately for both my body and my foolish pride, I'm coming off of both anxiety and heartburn medications and returning to the realm of specimen-worthiness.

Well, except for punching a rusty nail.  Better to drink one than to get stabbed by one, is my new motto.  And so let me just say how wonderful it is to live in an chronological era and a political/geographic region where

  • I get tetanus (TDAP) vaccinations every 10 years, and
  • I got my last tetanus vaccination in 2007, and
  • the internet is available to let me know what to do when I do lose a fight with a rusty nail, and
  • I can bike on over to my doctor for a tetanus booster, which I need since my vaccination was after 2006 and before 2011.
So, internet and regular doctor -- that's our first visit.

But also, these newfangled Urgent Care locations have come in handy. My husband got sprayed in the face with pesticide as he was biking through farmland, and it freaked him out. Since the doctors' offices were closed, he went to an Urgent Care Center where, for $30, they looked him over, reassured him that his eyes have not been damaged by the spray, and sent him home a calmer man.

So, Urgent Care: that's our second visit.

The third (and final, we hope!) medical encounter of the week came when N-son lost a battle with the lid of a tuna can.  He got a pretty severe gash in his hand, and it was clear he was going to need stitches -- but when I told him this, he freaked out.  And I realized, this kid has never had stitches before; his last visit to a hospital was seeing his dad there after a bike crash in 2007.  What N-son remembers about that visit is that his dad had broken his neck (fortunately, not paralyzed!), but I think the part that was traumatic was that his dad's face had been banged up, to the point of needing a plastic surgeon.  So when N-son saw his dad, his dad looked a bit like Frankenstein, with a bruised face full of stitches.  Ewwwwww.

Needless to say, N-son did not want that kind of medical attention.  But the tunafish lid had gotten the upper hand, so to speak; his palm was a mess, and the urgent care centers were closed, so I took this extremely nervous kid to the emergency room of our nearest hospital.  I explained beforehand we'd spend the majority of our time filling out paperwork and waiting, and I reassured him repeatedly that I'd be with him the whole time, letting him hold my hand (but not the hand with the rusty nail puncture, because ow).   We have a picture of the stitches below -- don't scroll down too far if you don't like that kind of thing.

At any rate, we made it through the stitches, and I was actually glad N-son had this experience, because now he'll know not to fear it in the future.  I had told him, "Yes, you're scared, because you don't know what to expect.  But after you get the stitches, you'll realize it's not that big a deal."  And, thanks to the miracles of modern painkillers and sterile environments and well-trained medical staff, all went exactly as predicted (even the paperwork and waiting parts, of course).  N-son describes his experience this way:
I was scared at first.  I thought it was going to hurt.  And then it wasn't really that bad. My advice is, not to look at it when the doctor is sewing.  

At any rate, although I'm incredibly grateful that we've been able to rely on an abundance of wonderful medical expertise, I'll be glad if the upcoming year has us paying insurance for medical care that we don't really end up using at all.


  1. Those rascally tuna can lids... I've had a few experiences myself. Wishing N-son a good recovery, and also to know he is not alone in losing the occasional battle with Bumblebee.

    1. Yeah, the recovery is going well, thank you! I think he's happy to know that he's tough enough to get through this. And he also now has a healthy respect for can lids.

  2. Ouch! I hope you go back to not getting your health insurance money's worth soon. I've also never had stitches, and I bet if I needed them I'd be just as nervous as N-son.

  3. You certainly did get your money's worth out of your health insurance. Health insurance is a sore subject these days, and I wish I had the kind that allowed a $30 Urgent Care visit. My co-pay is $200; I do lots of self-care. All the best to you, and think about trying tuna in the pouch, just as good and much safer.

    Leonardo @ US Health Works