I'm very proud of my red-white-and-blue-Official-Old-Person's card. It makes me smile whenever I see it lurking in my wallet. It made me smile when I handed it across the counter for my 3-D Mammogram and for my flu shot and for my very first Wellness Check.
Yes, I had a Medicare Wellness visit, just as I will every year until I am no more. I can choose my doctor (a lovely, young, gerontologist with enough debt from med school to keep me practicing for a long, long, long time). I have no co-pay or deductible. It's a gift from the government (if you choose to think of Medicare as a privilege and not a right). It's my right.
It's also very weird.
Apparently, the physician is not allowed to examine me. The Nurse Practitioner took my height and weight and blood pressure and pulse and left me, fully dressed, to wait for the doctor. She entered and reviewed my two sided questionnaire (Are you afraid of falling? Do you have someone to talk to about your needs/fears/concerns? Is there someone you can ask for help? Do you have trouble remembering your medications/appointments/schedule? ) and then she let the bomb drop: she is not allowed to touch me.
No deep breaths with the stethoscope pressed to my back. No light shining in my eyes or my ears or my nose. No palpating of my glands or my carotid artery. No little hammer to my knee. Nothing. Nada. Rien. Zip.
She thought it was as strange as I did, but, she explained, the research showed that it was not cost effective for physicians to lay hands on their patients in these annual Wellness Checks. What they'd discover by touching and feeling and looking wasn't worth finding, we supposed.
And then, it got weirder. While physical contact and natural observation were deemed unneeded, an EKG was deemed imperative. And so, I got naked and left the gown open to the front and the NP came back in and attached the leads and ran the test and I dressed myself and prepared to leave.... until the doctor herself came back to talk to me.
One of my readings was seriously awry.
Had they taken my blood pressure right then, well, who knows? I could feel my pulse pounding in my throat, my temples were red and about to burst, my heart was beating faster and faster. I wasn't feeling that delighted about my Wellness Check after all.
The doctor reassured me that she was not worried, that the most probably explanation was a faulty lead or a poor connection. Still, it was mandatory that we follow up and so I received a referral to a cardiologist (The nicest and the best one in town, she told me) who I'll see this afternoon.
I had no symptoms. The doctor isn't worried. I should be fine. This is precautionary. Blah blah blah.... I'm scared and I'm wondering and all that money we saved by not having her touch me with anything but the EKG seems to flying out the window as I head to an undoubtedly much more expensive investigation of my health than is really needed......... I hope.