Medical scams are sick

For most of my life, I (or my parents) have picked up the tab for my medical expenses. It was a strain on the wallet at times, but an expense I proudly accepted, glad that I could afford to pay the doctors who helped to keep me well. Insurance seldom played a part.

As I aged, though, I realized that I needed the occasional tune-up more often, and could do with an occasional visit to a specialist, who I could seldom afford. Obamacare was a godsend as it allowed me to check in with those more pricey medics, to forestall greater woes.

Not too long after that, though, I turned 65 -- and Obamacare no longer wanted me.

Instead, I fell into the web of Medicare, with no choice in the matter, and suddenly had to contend with more twists and turns of government-regulated health care and a labyrinth of rules and regulations, an onus so daunting my long-time GP decided it wasn't worth the trouble, so I had to find a new GP as well.

About that time, I also discovered that I had become Ground Zero for every kind of sleazy con to slither from beneath a rock. Sign up for this; enroll in that. "Just give us your numbers and we'll promise you the moon (not that we'll ever deliver, of course)."

A new one seemingly appears in my mail box every few days, or on the phone ad nauseam! I guess this scum will dog me the rest of my days.

One particularly worrisome angle that seems to be proliferating introduces itself with the tagline: AT NO COST TO YOU!!

Sounds appealing, but it is deceitful. One of the first lessons I learned at a young age is the ungrammatical adage: There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Somebody has to pay. If it's not me, then it will have to come from somebody else, like a neighbor, or a relative. It's not their bill, though, and they receive no benefit, so why should they pay?

The supplemental plan that covers my (wildly overpriced) medication has decided it wants to dig even deeper into Uncle Sam's pockets, so it offers "free in-home medical checkups" AT NO COST TO YOU! Once a year, they say, they will send a "medical professional" to perform the check, and report the results to my doctor. For my trouble, I am promised a $50 gift card.

I ain't bitin'! That "medical professional" may or may not have any medical training, and my doctor tends to run the same tests with every visit anyway. (I'm not sure the MDs actually hear anything from the insurer.)

As for that $50 inducement, the visiting medic will likely be paid several times that, and Medicare will be billed several thousand. (Every time a doctor tells me to quit smoking, they get paid $50 -- it's printed on my government statements.)

That would also give the company my personal medical information, to which it has no right, and I have no idea how it would use that, except I would derive no benefit.

How hungry are these dogs? I keep declining their $50 offer, so around August it goes up to $75. Maybe if it hits a solid C-note I'll cave, but only for cash.

In a similar vein is one that promises to tell how sick I am by examining my feces. That one snuck up via my new GP, and a box appeared on my step the next day. It admitted, though, "false positives are possible."

Further along, it stated, "false negatives are possible." [Translation: "It's probably a waste of your time, but we still get to soak Uncle Sam for a hefty chunk."]

Seeing no value in useless information, I set the box aside unopened. A couple of days later, I received a letter reminding me how easy it was to use the test (but no mention that it's still pointless). Then, a couple of days after that, yet another letter, and so forth for about a month, with a couple of phone calls thrown in for good measure.

Tiring of this, I finally returned the box, unopened, and figured I was finally shed of them. Nope. A couple of weeks later came yet another letter, stating that the company had for some reason been unable to successfully test what I was supposed to have sent in but didn't, and would I please call them to arrange for shipment of another box.

If I really want to know, there are a couple of guys at JRMC that are better equipped to tell me, and evaluate the results with me, than these gimme con men.

I am hardly a saint, but trying to add to an already over bloated system that seeks only to feed gluttons while leeching funds from deserving programs that can benefit my neighbors or my town ... forget it!! I still have integrity.

D.H. Ridgway, a former desk editor for the Pine Bluff Commercial, lives in Pine Bluff.