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— What ever happened to the days when a doctor would bind up a fellow’s wounds and fix up his ailments and then be satisfied with a load of firewood, a chicken or two, or a quarter of a hog as payment?

In those days, doctoring was more of a service to the community rather than a for-profit business. If a fellow didn’t have enough to pay his bills in cash, he wasn’t turned away. He could pay for a doctor visit and medicine in labor or with other goods and services.

Today, if a fellow doesn’t have an insurance card and a healthy bank account, getting in to see a doctor and receiving anything more than emergency first aid could be somewhat questionable. And if he does visit a doctor and need any kind of special treatment or procedure, the cost - even after insurance - could be hazardous to his health.

I learned by experience that I could work for a month or more and not earn enough to pay a doctor and hospital for an hour-or-two’s worth of work on me or one of my kids after they took a spill or had some other sort of mishap or ailment - and that was after insurance.

It just doesn’t seem right somehow! How could the fee for medical services be so much more than what I make for the work and services I provide?

Yeah, I know that doctors go to school a long time - Ihave a few kids who’ve put the name “doctor” in front of the ones I gave them; and after they finish school, they have to buy office space, pay high insurance rates and hire a bunch of people to deal with insurance companies and government programs.

I went to school a long time, too, but was never paid anything near what a doctor makes - In fact, I often worked other jobs so I could provide services for free.

I do expect that dealing with insurance companies and government programs is a major factor in the cost of health care. I don’t have to bill the government or insurance companies, but I think I could quit my job and still keep busy pretty near full-time just trying to sort out, make phone calls and clear up all the mail I get from my health insurance company when someone gets hurt or sick and goes to the doctor. What a nightmare! And it seems to never end!

But, if you’re thinking I am making some sort of an argument for nationalized health care and would rather have the government take over the health insurance business, my answer is definitely no. I’ve already seen how the government handles my tax dollars; I don’t want to give them my health insurance dollars too. I don’t really want to find out how bad it could be!

Nor am I saying that doctors and other health-care providers shouldn’t be paid for their work. But things have gotten out of hand. It’s come to the point that a fellow has to consider whether or not it would be easier to live with an ailment for the rest of his life or be making monthly payments with interest until some time after his death - I know, I’ve got a few ailments that are easier to live with than having more doctor bills to pay. Though physicians often promote a variety of tests and some preventativemaintenance procedures - just in case - the stress and worry of the resulting medical bills is enough to scare me off.

“If it’s still working, why fix it?” I say. “And if it’s not and I can live without it, I’ll just try to get by.”

I guess I’m beginning to look at my body like an old car. Some things just aren’t worth trying to fix because the expense is more than the whole thing is worth. If I do try to fix it, well, it’s still old and something else is sure to go out a few more miles down the road.

Another bad thing about doctors’ bills is that you get charged whether they’ve helped you out or not. What other business professional can get by with that? And some doctors even have the audacity to charge for their mistakes. I’ve known people who went to the doctor for a little ailment and came close to dying from the treatment. Did the doctor take it off their bill? What do you think? I guess there’s no money-back guarantees in the medical field.

So what can a fellow do about all those doctor bills? I’ve got a small box or two full of them, and there’s a doctor or two who just keep sending me more.

I must admit I don’t even know what all of them are for. It almost seems that, when one goes to the doctor or the hospital, his name and billing address are shared or sold to others so they can send out a bill for some service or consultation the patient didn’t even know he had.

But, almost like taxes, I guess a fellow doesn’t have much choice. Since most doctors won’t settle for a chicken or a part of a hog - or even for a family portrait from an old photographer - I’ll just send them another payment. If I don’t, they might just turn me away as a bad risk when I really need their services some day.

Opinion, Pages 5 on 10/21/2009

Print Headline: Griz Bear Comments: Questioning the cost for a visit to the doctor

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