Today I was a patient.

I’ve had disgusting congestion in my nose/sinuses for the past month or so. I’ve never had a sinus infection in my life despite having horrible allergies to dust. I take Claritin every day for my allergies. But this time, the issues just wouldn’t go away. I needed to go see a doctor. So last night around 8pm I made an appointment with Dr. Samuel Grubman via ZocDoc for 9am this morning. ZocDoc is like Open Table for doctors…I highly recommend it. Interestingly enough, Dr. Grubman does not use any computers to power his practice, but absolutely loves ZocDoc. He is entirely paper-based because he’s found that nothing beats the speed and efficiency of paper to power his practice. 

Samuel was my attending for my three year pediatric residency. He’s an allergist who sees both adults and kids. He also happens to be, in my opinion, the best doctor I’ve known. So I made an appointment for him to help me. As a doctor, it’s easy for me to know who I need to see. I’m fortunate in that way.

I suspected I developed some nasal polyps due to my chronic allergies that caused this sinus infection. After talking to me for about 45 minutes and going through my medical history, he examined me. Sure enough, he confirmed what I suspected, nasal polyps with a sinus infection. 

And then I told him at this point in time, I don’t have health insurance. I’ve had to sacrifice health insurance in between Hello Health and starting my new firm, The Future Well in mid-February. Now that The Future Well is off the ground, I’ll finally be purchasing health insurance next month. Honestly, I couldn’t afford it. I pay $5,000 a month toward my medical school loans that currently total just over $200,000. I’d like to convert it into a 30 year loan but, due to the economy, school loans are not being refinanced. So, I’m stuck with a $5,000 a month bill and your typical monthly rent for a humble Brooklyn apartment.

Dr. Grubman prescribed me Augmentin (an antibiotic with a generic available), a 5 day course of Prednisone, and Flonase (a nasal steroid) to shrink/eliminate the polyps. I know that Target offers prednisone (and many others!) for $4. So I called Target to see how much they charge for generic Augmentin. Here’s what I found:

Target: $126
Duane Reade: $132
King’s Pharmacy (the mom & pop here in Williamsburg): $144.

Drugstore. com: About $50 

I’m about ready to drop off the prescription at King’s and get them to price match Duane Reade and Target. Hopefully I’ll soon be feeling better.

Next month, I’ll be purchasing the $10,000 deductible plan through the Freelancers Union at $196 a month. That means I’ll be required to spend the first $10,000 out of my own pocket before insurance kicks in.

So today’s total bill will be:

Office Visit: $150
Augmentin: $140
Prednisone: $5

Most people don’t realize that many doctors are “freelancers” and, when they’re in need of medical care, they’re often placed in the same position as everyone else. We’ve got some inside information, but when we need beyond what our friends can provide for us as a professional courtesy, we’re stuck in the same system you are.

also see part two of this experience.