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Doctor Time

by David Westheimer


Dody and I have been covered by Medicare for many years and most of our other medical expenses have been covered by programs for military retirees. So our biggest medical expense is the monthly payment for Medicare Plan B.

The second biggest?


All doctors make you wait but don't validate and those who do validate for only a limited period. The last time Dody hauled me to a doctor we waited 30 minutes before he saw me. Fortunately, it took him only minutes to do what he had to do and parking cost only about three dollars because parking is cheap at his office building. But we have waited up to 55 minutes (that's when I got up and told the receptionist I was leaving) and then had a fairly long consultation with Himself. The highest parking rate on our doctor circuit is more than a dollar for every 15 minutes. Fortunately, the doctor that had me in limbo for almost an hour validated for part of our time and we ransomed our car for less than ten dollars.

Dody sometimes beats the system by finding a metered street parking space. We get that free because I have a Handicapped Parking placard. It mustn't be too far away, though, because I am pretty slow on the clear Lucite cane (I've received many compliments about that cane) a granddaughter gave me. If it's more than a quarter of a block or so Dody drops me off at the building's door and goes parking space hunting by herself. If she can't find one a reasonable distance away she comes back and parks underground at the doctor building. She takes her time hunting the elusive street space because she knows there's no hurry getting back for me because I will be waiting for the doctor to summon me into his (or her) presence . We are so well known at my main doc's office that when Dody sends me up alone the staff asks, almost as one, "Where's Dody?"

I hasten to say, I am not disparaging my doctors. It's just that good doctors are busy doctors and often spend more time with patients than scheduled. When I had a stroke nine years ago and before we knew what was happening Dody bundled me up in robe and pajamas and took me to his office, I'm sure other patients must have piled up in his waiting room after he hustled me into an examining room, stat (stat is what they say on medical shows on TV when there's an emergency). And that doctor never bills me for his time when he answers my faxed or e-mailed questions.

Years ago I read a newspaper story about a lawyer who had to spend what he thought was an unreasonable time waiting for his doctor to see him. So he billed the doctor for his time.

That reminds me of my favorite doctor joke, a doctor-lawyer joke, actually: A doctor ran into a lawyer he knew at a dinner party and took him aside to remark, "I really don't like to go to parties. People are always coming up to me and asking medical advice."

"Happens to me a lot, too," the lawyer said.

"What do you do about it?" the doctor asked.

"Oh, the next day I send them a bill for my time."

"That's a great idea!" the doctor said. "I'm going to start doing that."

Two days later he got a bill from the lawyer.


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