I recently had a situation where I was working out and my heart felt like it was beating a little overly fast considering how much exercise I had done. I had noticed some little weird heart stuff in the past so I thought hey, why not go see a doctor? Maybe there was something going on there I should know about. I have to think my experience with the doctor was pretty common and indicative of health care in America. And keep in mind here, I have insurance.
I go in for my appointment, and I do the normal stuff, height, weight, blood pressure, everything seems pretty normal. The doctors (one was training I guess?) come in and start asking me questions about my lifestyle. I tell them I exercise a pretty good amount, I’ve really stepped up the intensity lately, and it seemed like the last time or two I worked out my heart MAY have been beating weirdly, but it was hard to tell. I emphasized I wasn’t sure about this, it was just a sense I had. Their prescription: an EKG. An EKG is a test that measures the heartbeat electrically. They run this test and tell me they can’t come to any conclusions from it. Their new prescription: “Well, we should probably get you on some meds to regulate some stuff, and you should get a ECG (Echocardiogram) and do what’s called a halter monitor (a 24 hour heart rate monitor), and you should also come back and do an EKG while exercising. Also, make sure to stop taking the meds at least 24 hours before you do the exercising EKG.”
Now, these physical tests make sense to me in a vacuum. But I am fairly skeptical of meds like this, a lot of the time it seems they have more side effects than benefits. So I ask: “Can’t we wait until after the test before I start taking the meds to make sure they will actually help?” The response from a FUCKING MEDICAL DOCTOR: “Hey, that’s actually a good idea, then we can make sure we’ve got you on exactly the right ones!” FUCKING WHAT!?!?!?
Already annoyed I ask them how much the additional testing is going to cost. They dodge around the question and can’t possibly get me an answer, even though I can see dollar figures on their screen for each test. They advise me to call my insurance and the clinic’s billing office. After about 20 billion transfers and wrong people giving me bad information, I find out just the ECG and halter monitor will cost around $2000 combined, a little more. Now, my deductible is $1500, so between the first appointment and these new tests, I’m probably looking at $2000+ if I do the additional testing. As a reminder, this is because I told the doc I MAY have had my heart beating too fast, but couldn’t really tell. On top of that, their testing was inconclusive. It’s entirely possible I would pay a few thousand dollars to potentially find out I was just over-thinking things or overdoing my workouts.
So what decision would you make? Is it worth the money to know for sure? Or should I assume I’m probably healthy and simply ramp down the intensity? The bottom line is situations like this are forcing people to make difficult decisions that likely lead to a lot of wasted dollars or missed preventative care.
By the way, the cost of my first office visit, with insurance? $400. Fuck that.