by Bob Maschi

I have pretty good health insurance. I can tell because whenever I walk into a doctor's office one of the assistants holds the door open for me and another asks if I want nutmeg sprinkles on my cappuccino. I get insurance through my partner, who works very hard to provide this for me (which is much more fortunate than all those who work very hard and still can't afford health insurance). I went over 15 years without any health insurance at all and only got it about 18 months ago.

The timing was pretty good for me. In those 18 months I developed some ailments that have cost me, AFTER the insurance paid their share, several thousand bucks. Without insurance, I would have probably been on the hook for a gazillion dollars or so, which I don't have. And I doubt anyone in the medical profession would accept my penny jar as collateral.


A couple weeks ago I developed an allergic reaction to something. My eyes puffed up and became itchy and painful. Besides the discomfort, this reaction gave my face the appearance of a character in a Victor Hugo novel. In the days when I didn't have health insurance I probably would have suffered through it or tried some folk remedy or loaded up on over-the-counter pills. But I'm covered so I went to my primary doctor (does anyone really have a 'secondary' doctor?). He couldn't help much and suggested I go to an eye doctor.

So I made an appointment with an eye doctor and, after a few questions about my allergy, he gave me a complete eye exam. He revealed that, at a distance, I have 20-20 vision but I have poor eyesight up close. No shit. I knew this because I haven't been able to read a warning label for three years. I explained to the doctor that I've compensated for this by buying reading glasses at the 99-Cent Store, for 99 cents each (thus, the name). I need a lot of these glasses because our home is haunted by some ancient nearsighted spirit who enjoys hiding them on me all the time. So I keep pairs all over the place, kind of like sacrificial offerings.

The doctor explained that my insurance will cover most all of the cost of a spiffy, brand-new pair of eyeglasses! A real pair. Or, at least, a real expensive pair that would do an even better job of appeasing the unholy spirits that seem to surround me.

The doctor quickly became more interested in selling me a pair of glasses than he was in treating my allergy. He spoke glowingly about all the wonderful things a pair of glasses could do for me. I'd be able to see past the headlight glow of oncoming vehicles at midnight. I'd be able to read a nutrition label in a supermarket without my nose getting in the way. I'd be able to see, even more clearly, how my allergy was turning my swollen face into Quasimodo's. He stopped barely short of mentioning 'male enhancement' and 'Erectile Dysfunction'.

Speaking with the excited drone of a Sear's appliance salesperson, he led me to the fitting area where a couple of much younger, very attractive women stood ready to gawk and gush at how awesome I looked in their sample glasses. One pair looked so good on me that, I swear, if I dropped 50 pounds, grew some of my hair back and was about fourteen years younger, I'd look exactly like Tom Cruise's 3rd cousin.

So, I picked that pair and the assistants started writing up the order. The plastic frames ran almost $200, though they probably only cost a few pennies to make. No problem. Insurance covers all that. Then they started adding on the bells and whistles. My end for this, $50. My end for that, $60. And on and on until I'm about to pay almost $150 for a pair of nearly 'free' glasses.

Sanity took over for me before I signed the paperwork. I have good sight except up close. I buy 99-Cent Store reading glasses, a dozen at a time, because I'm not used to wearing glasses and I either lose the damn things or break them all the time. For the price they're charging me for this one pair, I can buy over a hundred cheap eyeglasses that work nearly as well.

That's a lot of money for glasses I don't really need and would probably lose before my feet hit the parking lot pavement. I declined the purchase.

This incident spotlights several of the huge problems in our health care system. First, some people with insurance get a lot of stuff they don't need (because doctors like to screw insurance companies as much as I do), while many others don't get the things they really do need. Second, capitalism turns good, well-educated medical professionals into greedy salespeople. And third... well, I forget the third thing. My eyes are still killing me.
Professional Joomla Support by IDL Web Inc.