Monday, June 1, 2015

Back Alley Therapist

I'm not one to jump to conclusions, but I'm beginning to think Blue Cross keeps me on as a client just because they like my money, not because they want to see me be well. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean:

Me: Hi! I've had a lot of stress in my life recently, and I'd like to schedule an appointment with a therapist. What would be my co-pay for that appointment?

Blue Cross Phone Operator: The co-pay for the first three appointments is $40. After that, you must pay in full for each appointment until your deductible of six thousand.... (I drowned her out for a few seconds after this)....... then we cover you in full.

I hung up and thought about that figure: Six thousand dollars of paying in full, out-of-pocket! Whenever I hear a quote like that, and think about how to raise that kind of money, I automatically hear B.J., that backwards-baseball cap-wearing slacker college kid miscreant in the back of my head. "That's A LOT of Plasma, Mr. B.!" he says.
"I know, B.J.," I say, "but how much could your average therapy appointment be?" So I pick up the phone again.

Me: Hi! I've had a lot of stress in my life recently, and I'd like to schedule an appointment with a therapist. How much you guys charge for that?

Receptionist: $250.

After I hang up the phone, dispirited, I hear B.J. chime in: "Two hundred fifty bucks! You could almost buy a PS4 for that, and then you wouldn't need therapy!" 

Therapy's something I like to try about every five years, like Subway sandwiches, or watching "Mulholland Drive". It's not that I'm a real troubled case, but every once in a while I fall under the weight of a heavy cocktail of stress, and I think it might be a good idea to talk to some professional stranger, an innocent bystander who can either confirm or deny my suspicions.

I decided to take them up on the 3-session trial period for $40 each -- just to see if I liked the doctor they set me up with. The guy was nice enough, although I'm pretty sure I fell in his graces the first time we met, when I put two and two together about his last name and chuckled when I said "Pleased to meet you, Doc Martin!"

I went to all three co-pay sessions, but all in all, it didn't add up to much. I scheduled one appointment per month, because even with the co-pay that's all I could really shell out. The appointments were so sporadic that it became tough for me to distill all the month's shenanigans down to a few minutes -- not to mention analyze their deeper meanings -- and when each meeting was over I didn't really feel any more a sense of clarity than after I eat a burrito at Moe's.    

Welcome to therapy!!!
I'll concede that this office Blue Cross referred me to needs to make money to keep the lights on (and also to keep subscribing to the three different Golf magazines they have in the waiting room), but $250 seems a little steep for forty minutes where you just talk to someone. Sure, if you do the math, that's not too many visits to pay off the total deductible (something like 24), but with my frequency of sessions -- and simolians in the ole bank account -- I think continuing treatment would cause more stress than it would solve. 

You always hear the popular rebut to the American Health Care System: it's really sick care, and the insurance companies only want to honor your claims when you can prove you're actually dying, or something like that. This may be true, but when it comes to matters of the mind, it's really about intangible vs. tangible affliction. Yeah, some folks can by hypochondriacs -- but most who go to therapists are already sick, just not in the way that requires a band-aid. 

So, I cancelled treatment for sole monetary reasons, and also knowing that I have other things in the world I can turn to for solace: my podcast, books, movies, video games, cigars, malls, amusement parks, YouTube.... But, of course, I also thought about all those people in the waiting room at the Doctor's office who may not be fulfilled at the end of a session, and aren't fulfilled by the simple pleasures in life that go a long way toward keeping people like me and you at bay, and who keep coming back to chase whatever ails them, and keep paying those ridiculous rates out of their shallow pockets. I just wonder what will happen when they can no longer afford it, and if, because they stop going, their intangible problems will some day become tangible -- in the form of them spouting off at a co-worker and losing their job, or wrecking a relationship, or walking into a crowded place with the intent to harm en mass. Not to get too apocalyptic; it's just that people's issues have a way of working themselves out, and those who actually motivate themselves to working them out in a quite room get brutalized for it at the check-out counter.

My new guy
But don't worry about me, please. If none of the other escapes in my life quell the stress and I feel myself more overdone than a nuked turkey at Christmastime, I know this guy Victor who hangs out at the Chevron. His sessions go as long as you want, and his co-pay is Wild Irish Rose!

How We Use Couches in Life

High School
The Professional 20s/30s

Jubbly and jolly: A majority of fat men do not make any effort to lose weight, a survey has found
Sometime later -- when we just don't give a shit anymore

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