If you've been healthy lately, you've missed the latest consumer bruise inflicted by doctors' offices. They insist that you pay your bill before you leave because they don't want to wait for your insurance company to reimburse them.
But what if a doctor causes a patient the same delay? It happens all the time -- because claims representatives and pharmacists can't read doctors' handwriting.
A caller rang up the Levey Consumer Complaint Bureau the other day to sing the blues about a refund he was awaiting from Blue Cross. He had duly submitted a form that his doctor had filled out for some procedure or other. But Blue Cross bounced it because, under "Nature of Procedure," the good doc had written something that looked like "h3wtefgzx qawkedqjedfh wrsehfgdl."
The result: an innocent customer was out $300 for more than a month, while a much richer, much less careful scrivener (the doc) wasn't out anything.
What to do about this? Barbara Exstrum, a senior staff writer at Blue Cross/Blue Shield, suggests that patients look at their bills before they leave a doctor's office. If you can't read it then, notes Barbara, a Blue Cross claims rep probably won't be able to read it later.
Pharmacies often catch this problem on the chin, too. Beatrice Adreon, president of Pharmacy Counseling Services Inc., suggests looking at a prescription as soon as the doctor has written it and asking him or her what the dad-blessed thing says. That way, the patient will be better able to play interpreter at the drug counter.
"If enough people ask," says Beatrice, "maybe the writing will get better." Doubtful, I'm afraid, but certainly worth trying.
Van Borges, a pharmacist at the Peoples Drug store at Lee Highway and Old Dominion Drive in Arlington, says that the younger generation of docs is better about this.
"Newer doctors try harder to write legibly," she says. "They're more aware of the problem. But so many just scribble. Doctors need to write legibly. It should start in school."
Last I heard, Van, it does. It's just that, like little lost sheep, docs lose their way. Of course, they'll lose a lot more than that some day if a pharmacist pops the wrong pills into a vial because it wasn't clear which kind the doc ordered.
As the old Elvis Presley song put it, docs, we want you, we need you, we love you. But if you took just a little more time each time you hoisted a pen, we'd want/need/love you even more.
Finding a parking space in Georgetown is the closest thing to war I know. Finding a "good for all night" parking space in Georgetown is the closest thing to impossible I know.
But there was Kevin Moore of Northwest, on 31st Street just south of M, at about 6:29 p.m. the other evening. And there, incredibly, was a space that, after 6:30 p.m., would hold him till the bars closed. No meter. No residential parking permit needed. No time limits. No nothing.
Kevin was just about to wheel into the space when he noticed a car approaching from the opposite direction on 31st Street. It had Ohio tags and a George Washington University decal in the rear window. "Your basic beat-up car owned by a college kid," is how Kevin described it.
Two young people, one of each sex, were in the Collegemobile. The male was driving. He screeched to a stop. The female leaped out, sprinted across 31st Street and took up a standing, hands-folded-across-her-chest, sentry-like position right in the middle on the parking space.
"What are you doing?" asked an amazed Kevin.
"I'm saving the parking space while my friend goes around the block," replied the young woman.
Kevin said, hey, maybe that stuff works in Ohio, but it doesn't work here. The woman refused to move. Angry words soon were exchanged. The woman still refused to move.
Kevin ended the episode by nosing his car into the space and lodging his bumper against the woman's thigh. As he started to nudge her out of the way, she quickly decided to give up sentrying.
Now, that was pretty aggressive of our man Kevin. But the law of the District of Columbia does not give any pedestrian the right to "guard" a parking space. Kevin may have had a lot of nerve to start nudging the sentry. But she had even more to take up her position in the first place.
Confidential to Feeling Lousy in Laurel:
There is no way a landlord can evict you because he doesn't like your taste in wallpaper. Get a lawyer. And keep me posted.
Lobbyist Patrick McGinnity notes emphatically that he does not work for Amtrak. Still, he offers this chunk of wailwoad wisdom:
People say they're down on trains. But you never spend three hours circling Union Station.