The other day my wife and I arrived at a doctor’s office and we were stunned to find an empty waiting room.
“Are you sure this is the right place?” I asked.
“Of course it is. I remember that plant in the corner, I stared at it long enough.”
“Then where are all of the patients? Maybe we have the wrong time or the wrong day?”
“Or maybe this is because Obamacare has scared people away,” my wife said.
“Isn’t there a provision for a tax penalty when you don’t have a health insurance plan?”
“Well, yes, but we have a plan and it’s Medicare, not Obamacare and we already are taxed for that. Besides, I don’t know if anyone yet has figured out the nuances of Obamacare.”
Fortunately at that point a receptionist appeared and asked us to check in and I thought that we would be in front of his holiness in a matter of minutes.
Even though she had been there only a month before, my wife was required to fill out and sign about a dozen forms — all reinforcing what she had previously agreed to. This included, but was not limited to forfeiting all of our Constitutional rights, holding the physician harmless for any and all errors and omissions including malpractice, and obligating us and generations of our heirs for expenses to be later determined that were not covered by Medicare or our supplemental carrier, so help us God.
After that ordeal the receptionist told us that the doctor would see us shortly. That of course is a subjective term.
After another 20 minutes — which saw the arrival of two more patients, both of whom muttered loudly as they were subjected to the same duplicative paperwork — a nurse appeared and ushered us into an examining room.
“The doctor will be with you shortly,” she promised. There’s that word again and another failed promise.
Eventually Himself showed up.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting (again, he should have added), but I have been seeing one patient after another.”
The only way that seemed possible to me was if they were invisible or were entering from a back door and exiting the same way.
Despite all of this, we obediently sympathized with the poor overscheduled and overworked man and thanked him for his promptness in seeing us.
“There’s no point antagonizing him,” my wife explained when we left a few minutes later. “It is the same in every practice.”
“What gets me,” she continued, “they will call you to remind you to be on time for your appointment, but they won’t take the time to call you and let you know that the doctor is running 40 or 50 minutes late.”
“That’s part of their business education,” I answered. “For years medical schools have offered courses in business management. I am convinced that part of that curriculum is how to overbook. It must be right there in the Physician’s Bill of Rights. There’s probably even a suggested scale for appropriate waiting time which varies by practice. For example, a GP gets the least amount of waiting room allowance while the cardiologist and the orthopedic surgeon get the most.”
“How do you figure that?” she asked.
“Well, if you have a bad heart, while the wait may exacerbate your problem, you’re not likely to leave. And, if you are an orthopedic patient, you may not be able to leave. On the other hand, if you just have a cold or some flu symptoms, you probably can still make it back to your car,” I reasoned.
“It just makes sense,“ said my wife. “After all, there would be no point having a waiting room if you didn’t have to wait. That‘s why they call them waiting rooms.”
“And,” I replied, “I just hope that our wait today counts toward the waiting period required by Obamacare.”
“But you said we weren’t covered by Obamacare.”
“Well, it may be in the fine print. We may have to wait to find out.”