Thursday, April 17, 2008

There's Something Wrong With This Picture

So I'm at the doctor's office yesterday, thinking about the contradictions of our health care system. It's early spring. I'm in a nice Twin Cities suburb, in a beautiful building nestled in oaks and elms. The whole place has a McMansion feel to it. The provider even carries its brand theme through to the embossed images on the glass of every door. (I imagine the meetings with the architect and interior designer: "Would you prefer Cambria or granite countertops?")

As I check in, I spot the stickers for Visa, Mastercard, Discover. As much as I've seen it before, something still hits me wrong about the idea that health clinics accept credit cards for payment... so wrong that I promptly complete my co-pay with my Wells Fargo debit card.

For the luxury of restricting this visit to $15, I realize that I'm indirectly subsidizing the embossed reed on the glass door with my $850/mo. (that's $10,000 a year) COBRA payment. Sure, I appreciate my padded chair and the Kenny G on the sound system (wait, no I don't), but I've been waiting 45 minutes for a 15-minute consultation after they told me to come early. To quote the misplaced victimhood of right-wing talk radio callers bitching about taxes and government waste: "Is this where my money goes?"

I finally get to the patient room. After absorbing the always interesting (yet reliably disturbing) human-body cutaways, I notice this poster:

That's right: pharmaceuticals by vending machine. Okay, come on. I realize we're all about convenience in this country, but seriously, vending machines for prescription drugs? What's next, IVMs (Integrated Vending Machines) where you can get a Coke, a Snickers bar and month's supply of Prilosec with one easy wave of your bank-enabled cell phone?

And what's the machine called? InstyMeds. InstyMeds! I feel insulted for the drugs themselves for being so "commoditized," so "cheapened" in this way.

There's something wrong with this picture, indeed. Very, very wrong.

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