10 December 2009


You sure do, or at least I sure do, eat a lot of stuff that is lousy for your blood this time of year. And that got me to thinking about the fact that I haven't had my cholesterol and other such things checked in a while.

Strangely, I like blood tests. I don't mind the needle. I even sort of like watching my blood bubble up into the vial. (Maybe it's because I have good veins; they're unmissable.) And blood tests seem so efficient. A comprehensive blood test is pretty much the human equivalent of when you take your modern car into a modern shop and the first thing they do is plug into your engine's computer to get a big readout of what's going on.

I probably won't live to see the day, but I imagine that eventually, once a year you'll go to an office or pharmacy or wherever, and pop a needle into a vein. Rather than drawing blood, the needle will be connected via a USB cable, or whatever the next thing is, directly to a diagnostic computer. As your blood flows past the sensor in the needle, the computer will instantly tell you what's wrong, or right, with you. I'd be more impressed by that than, even, by personal jetpacks. (Jetpacks scare me. Think of the accidents.)

So, it's time for me to have a blood test. In the past, I would have simply called up my doctor, made an appointment, gone to his office, then paid all the bills when my crappy insurance paid only a small portion of them, or not at all. I once paid over $700 for a doctor's visit that amounted to little more than a blood draw and the subsequent lab fees.

No more. Earlier this year I shopped around for a colonoscopy I could afford. It turned out to be cheaper for me to simply pay for it as a cash customer, than it would have been to try and use my insurance. (I'm still haggling over a fee that was mistakenly charged to me when a doctor's office ran something through my insurance company rather than understanding I was a cash customer and wasn't using my insurance.)

I've made some calls.

If I go to my regular doctor's office - admittedly, a high-end Beverly Hills physician - don't use my insurance and don't even see the doctor, simply have them draw the blood and send it to the lab, they'll give me a 20 percent discount off the lab fee: $666 minus 20% = $532.80. My guess is that I'll also be charged something for coming into the office and having a nurse draw the blood.

If I go through Direct Labs.com - sign up online, find a lab near you for the blood draw, have the blood sent to the company, get back your results - the same test will cost me $59 if I do it this month. (In January it goes back up to the regular price of $97.)

But there's a lab in Los Angeles where they really know their blood. They have to. AIM Healthcare - The Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation - does the HIV and STD testing, among many other services, for the porn industry. Us non-industry types can use it, too. (Sometimes for a slightly higher price and at a lower priority for speedy results than people in the industry. That seems only fair.) AIM runs a couple of real-life, standard, highly-regarded medical clinics, staffed by doctors every bit as good as any other clinics, and with access to some of the most up-to-date, high-tech medical laboratories anywhere. They'll do comprehensive blood panels as well. They charge $38.

Guess where I'm going to get my cholesterol checked?

In September I paid my annual insurance premium - $5,020 - for a policy with a very high deductible. Every now and then I flirt with the notion of simply dropping it. But, like everyone who bets against themself - which is essentially what insurance is - I worry about what would happen if something major were to befall me. If it were major enough, even with my insurance I'd probably have to sell my house. But I might come out with something left.

So I keep forking over the big bucks, year after year, paying for something that I hope I never have to use and that actually costs me money to use unless something catastrophic occurs.

I wish I saw something that might help me out in all the jumbled stupidity pouring out of Congress about healthcare. But I don't, not much anyhow. Maybe I'll be able to buy into Medicare earlier than I would have been eligible. But an increasing number of doctors, clinics and hospitals are refusing to accept Medicare patients. Supposedly Medicare doesn't pay enough.

But that's another thing that doesn't make sense to me. How much does medicine cost? Who the hell knows? If a simple, comprehensive blood test can range in price from $666 to $38, what possible hope is there for figuring anything out?

But, it's the Holiday Season. I shouldn't think about this sort of stuff. I should just go drown my sorrows in ham, tamales, turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, cookies, pies, have another scotch - a big one, a very big one. And keep away from the shopping malls. And try to avoid the Holiday-addled drivers on the roads. And take deep breaths, close my eyes and do my best to stay calm when confronted by Christmas music or Starvation Army Santas and their damn bells.

I can get my cholesterol, and blood pressure, checked next month. After it's all over. And I know just where to go to do it.


Anonymous said...

and get checked for them nasty stds

Suzanne said...

Good to get the colonoscopy. I know from experience.