I grew up in a really small town.
If you’re reading this, odds are you knew that already. What you may not realize, is that one of the perks of living in a place like that is that you don’t have to think about basic things like where to get your hair cut or your teeth cleaned. I was lucky enough to just find a wonderful woman to cut my hair basically from the time I started growing hair up until the point where I started losing hair when she sadly moved away. The dentist I had growing up remains the only dentist I’ve ever been to. I went to preschool with his son, he’s been fixing up my teeth since I’ve had teeth and does tremendous work. The dentist, not his son.
Having grown up with that level of comfort, I developed a certain nervousness with strangers who attempt to do these basic things. The first time I went to a Great Clips was when I was 19 or 20 years old. I sat down in the chair and the girl asked me “So what do we do?” I said “Make it shorter.” She said “With which blades?” I said “The ones that make it shorter.” She said “Yes, which numbers?” I said “They have numbers?”
I started losing my hair around the time someone new started cutting it. I still blame Great Clips. If I just find the right one to cut it again, it’ll grow back some day. It’ll grow back……
…..ANYWAY, ditto the search for a reliable auto mechanic. Granted, this is largely an oxymoron, as the repair of cars is far and away the largest form of organized crime without the Comcast name attached. Actually, I wonder how long it takes for Comcast to realize that they’re missing out on ways to rip people off and they start buying up some auto repair shops.
“Comcast Auto: Taking Incompetence To the Streets!”
ANYWAY, the Dentist. Let’s back up a step.
Roughly a year ago, I was almost completely unemployed. I could barely afford food, let alone health insurance. Life was very much a struggle and got even worse once I broke the Republican Health Care plan by becoming simultaneously poor and sick. Got a dusting of food poisoning and after a solid six hours of vomiting, drove myself to the hospital. They patched me up, hooking one IV to my arm and another to my wallet. They made me apply for medical assistance, which I didn’t want to do, still don’t want to do, but am incredibly grateful that I have it. It’s fantastic stuff, and it’s come in VERY handy over the last year. It’s not the stuff they give you for free, I just get VERY comprehensive insurance at a subsidized price from a company called UCare.
It gets tricky, especially these days since I work 7 days a week now (wanna talk about grateful? Go from working 0-2 days a week to working 7 days a week. Every hour at work becomes a blessing.) to go home to see my good dentist, so I decided the time had come to find a local one. There’s an office roughly a block from where I work that came highly recommended. I know a couple of the hygienists there and think they’re great, my grandparents go there, if ever there were a place to break down my walls of trust, this would be it. Especially since I found them listed in the UCare Provider Booklet with a big bold ACCEPTING NEW PATIENTS! Headline under their listing.
So I submitted an appointment request late one night and asked them to email me. They did. I asked for Tuesday morning and was told that the particular dentist I wanted to see was off that Tuesday but had some openings on Wednesday, and would 8:00 work? And would you like me to check your insurance coverage? I said 12:30-1 would be better, and I have UCare Minnesota Care.
The reply came back of “Sorry, we’ve met our quota of UCare patients.”
I was taken aback by this, but had a hunch what they were getting at. I wrote back and said “Oh, okay, how much would a checkup/cleaning cost if I just paid cash?” I also added “Perhaps you should contact UCare to remove the Accepting New Patients! line from your listing in their booklet in order to prevent future confusion?”
Neither of these emails got an answer.
Now is where I need to derail my story, but it needs asking: Why is it so hard to answer? No, sorry, that’s not nearly enough outrage over the stupidity of how often I find myself asking that question.
Why in the HELL is it SO DAMN HARD TO ANSWER A QUESTION JUST BECAUSE YOU KNOW THE ANSWER ISN’T GOING TO BE LIKED?!
Like most men, I’ve been out on dates with women who didn’t like me as much as I liked them. I’m sure the ladies have this problem with us as well. I’ll think things went well and then shoot a text or leave a message of “Hey, that was really fun and I’d love to see you again, how’s Thursday?” or something to that effect. And then get nothing. Which is really getting a very loud something. If you have news that you know you personally wouldn’t want to hear, just ask yourself “Would silence be worse? Would I want to be ignored until I go away?”
NO. No one likes being ignored until they go away. I’ve done it, I’ve felt bad about it up until the point that I realized “OH YEAH, That’s the idiotic society we’ve crafted for ourselves, where we CANNOT ACTUALLY JUST SAY HOW WE REALLY FEEL ABOUT THINGS.” Except for, of course, our phony outrage about things that don’t matter. It drives me up a fucking wall every time I have to see some politician on TV going “I’m sorry to my wife, daughter and everyone else who I’ve upset by my affair.” Shit like that is PERSONAL. If you’re outraged by the politician’s affair, whichever murder trial is on Headline News this month, what Chris Brown did to mess up what’s her nose’s face today or WHATEVER THE HELL ELSE IT IS THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE YOUR LIFE, I want to switch lives with you because you’ve clearly got fewer problems than I do. Just man up, or woman up, say “Hey, I don’t think dating will work, but good luck to you!” and that’s that. Or, in this case, say what the dentist’s office told me the next day.
I emailed again the next day with a friendly “Hi ____, I’d still love to know how much it would cost to come in for a cleaning if I just paid cash. Thanks!”
This eventually got a reply of “It is illegal for us to charge someone who has insurance.”
Which led to a reply of “Yet you won’t take any patients with my insurance, so in spite of the big bold message of “ACCEPTING NEW PATIENTS” I can’t come in and pay you cash, either? How do you people stay in business with that kind of rationale?”
Which, again, I get the rationale. They don’t make much money off of me since they’ll be paid by the state. I pay the state a little amount of money, it goes to a lot of places, so I completely, 100% understand that they don’t want to take on someone who’s only going to make them a little bit of money.
Her reply? “Again, sorry…”
Now this…no. Just no. Here’s where I feel wronged. And here’s where the advertised adult language kicks in a little bit, so shield your eyes if you’re sensitive to such things.
Do NOT. EVER. Tell your customers, patients, students or ANYBODY ELSE WHO MAY NOT NEED TO KNOW THOSE THINGS FOR ANY FUCKING REASON THAT THEY ARE PART OF A QUOTA. You tell me “Oh no, I’m sorry sir, that message was an error, we actually aren’t able to take new patients at this time, but try us again in a couple of months.” You tell me “Oh no, sorry, but we’re booked pretty solid for the next few months. Try us back again then.”
DON’T JUST SAY “Oh, we’ve reached our limit of your kind.” That’s horrible customer service, it burns a potential later bridge and really, bitch, I like to complain.
If you’re going to turn down my insurance, LET ME PAY YOU CASH. I understand that the state makes ridiculous laws and I understand you’re probably bitter that the state makes you accept poor people. But really, “It’s illegal for us to charge someone with insurance.” SHOULD NOT BE FOLLOWED BY “…even though we aren’t accepting people with your insurance.” Is the state really going to have you shut down, fined, jailed or arrested for accepting the amount of poor people they require you to and then charging cash to the rest? AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, if you don’t take my insurance, THAN FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES I DO NOT HAVE INSURANCE. LET ME PAY YOU CASH.
So this was handled terribly. I got pissed at the level of incompetence. I called UCare to complain, got a kid on the phone who was scared to death of me because I was confident in my argument. He offered to send me an electric toothbrush. I offered to shove it…er…I politely declined. I called DentaQuest, who apparently can help the less capable adults among us book appointments, I said “No, I do a lot of that for a living. I just want to know if they’re allowed to set quotas. They are? Okay, fair enough. Stop yelling at me.”
LET US GET BACK TO BEING A SOCIETY WHERE IT’S OKAY TO BE POOR AND HAVE HEALTH PROBLEMS.
Seriously people, this isn’t that hard, but it’s become difficult. We’ve crafted a country where you’re either rich or you’re not, and if you’re not, well then fuck-o, you’re on your own. And don’t you DARE TAKE ANY OF MY TAX DOLLARS BY DRAGGING YOUR LAZY ASS TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM WHEN YOU’RE SICK. OR BY TRYING TO GET YOUR TEETH CLEANED AND FIXED SO THEY DON’T FALL OUT.
Thanks, Tea Party. And thanks, Republicans. Great job voting for those nutbags. This is no longer the America of even ten years ago. Once upon a time back in high school, it was OKAY to help those in need. It was OKAY for government to help make sure people could eat, sleep someplace warm and get medicine if they need it. The thanks I got for trying to apply for medical assistance after having the audacity to go to the ER when I had food poisoning was a horrible, horrible woman who hung up on me after VERY rudely declining to hear my argument of “I do not see my gross pay. I see my net pay. Why on earth do you determine income cutoffs based on gross pay?” I’ve come a long way in a year, since I got to hang up on the dental lady who was yelling at me and trying to explain “Oh no, you’re wrong. We don’t have a dental clinic by that name. They just must have meant they’ve reached their quota of new patients.”
Because, y’know, I’m an idiot. I can’t read, I can’t communicate and I can’t even handle making myself an appointment.
And really, the condescending attitude of the conservative side of this argument is where I take an awful lot of offense. I’m an awfully smart guy who wants BADLY to work for what I have. I’m eternally grateful to be doing it seven days a week now and making my own way a little bit. But you know what? I’m fallible. I will get sick. I will need my teeth checked. I’m very lucky to be living in a great state like Minnesota that is progressive enough to actually care about poor people and help us out a little bit. Because, y’know, caring about poor people is now a progressive cause, not a social conservative cause. Let me know if you figure that one out.
But the fact that I do need a little bit of help to afford health insurance does not make me a taker, a leech, a government sponge, a drug addict or a lazy welfare bum. It makes me a guy who’s had a rough couple of years, needed assistance and is working his ass off to get to a point of no longer needing it so that he can start giving it.
Half the country understands this, half the country is insane. Until we all get together on this one, we’re in for a long, long continued decline.