Private Health Insurance Might Save Me From Swine Flu. Maybe.

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I have lived in Raleigh for nine months. Earlier this summer, I decided it was time to establish roots and find a primary care physician in the area. I have platinum-level healthcare coverage with all the bells and whistles, but it doesn’t make the experience of finding a new doctor any less daunting. The only thing more difficult is trying to transfer my license plates and registration, which I still haven’t done.

Knowing that finding a physician would be a pain in the ass, even with my awesome coverage, I readied myself for an intense period of administrative activity. I searched through the insurance carrier’s website, but I had a difficult time finding doctors who were accepting new patients. Eventually, I found a medical practice in the area, but the next available appointment was forty-five days away. I made the appointment, anyway, and hoped that I didn’t contract swine flu in the interim.

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The appointment was yesterday, and I was asked to arrive thirty minutes early to fill out paperwork. One of the documents was a simple release & waiver that gave up my rights to sue the medical practice and agreed to mandatory, binding arbitration if I had any billing or malpractice issues.

“This one is optional,” said the receptionist.

“Not for long,” I answered.

By the time I actually met the doctor in the examination room, I had been at the office for 75 minutes. I’m not exactly sure why I was asked to fill out paperwork, either, because my insurance company has a web interface that sends my medical information to the doctor’s office. The nurse practitioner typed in my subscriber ID and she was able to see a tremendous amount of private information.

  • My husband’s employer, address, work phone number, and title.
  • Previous visits to other local doctors/specialists, such as my allergist and OB/GYN.
  • Prescription information from Walgreens including prescription names, doses, prescribing doctors, and dates of expiration.

I love the efficiency of electronic medical records, but this information was sent to my new primary care physician without my consent. Or did I consent? Who knows, anymore. I worked for an employer who had several, large breaches of employee data. To say that I’m suspicious of the private sector’s ability to protect our identities is putting it mildly. I want to know where my data resides, who has access to it, and if anyone has ever hacked into the system. Why can’t I see that information my insurance carrier’s website?

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I walked out of the doctor’s office nearly two hours later feeling very grateful that I have private health insurance; however, I still don’t know if I have a personal relationship with this new doctor.

I did walk out with a Tdap vaccine (that I’m not even sure I needed) and a recommendation to get more protein in my diet. It’s good to know I have a local primary care physician in the area if I contract with swine flu, but I’m not convinced that my experiences in Raleigh are the gold standard for medical care in America.

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