For many years, I’ve avoided going to the doctor for a couple of reasons. Thankfully, I’ve been in good health so there weren’t any pressing reasons to schedule an appointment. The other reason was that it was always just too darn expensive to go. Because we worked for ourselves, we have always had to buy our own health insurance, and to keep it affordable, we had a policy with a deductible so high that would only be met if I had a heart transplant. A 10 minute office to the dermatologist resulted in bills with triple digit co-pays.  So since money was tight and my body parts seemed to mostly be working as they should, I just skipped going to the doctor entirely.

However, thanks to a recent policy change, I now have some health insurance benefits through work. I’m grateful because that means that I no longer have to ignore all the small “I can live with that” kind of medical issues and I can start making my way though the preventative tests that I last had done when Y2K was a topic of conversation.

My new coverage is with Kaiser Permanente. Based on my experience in dealing with Blue Cross when my daughters had a couple of medical issues, my expectations of customer service at Kaiser were very low. Even though I always thought that one of the advantages of having Blue Cross was that I could go straight to the specialist and I didn’t have to go through a primary care physician, the reality was that it never actually speeded up the process.

For instance, whenever I called the doctors’ office with a question, it took days for them to call us back. Instructions for where to go for services and what it would cost were always confusing. The doctors never seemed to communicate with one another.

I don’t know if it was just by chance that we dealt with some especially inefficient doctors’ offices in the Blue Cross system but I have to say that in the couple of months since I switched to Kaiser, I have found their efficiency to be amazing.

I’m still in shock that my doctor emailed follow up instructions to me immediately after my first visit. Or that when I had some x-rays taken at 4:50 one afternoon, there was an email from my doctor waiting in my inbox at 8:30 the next morning explaining the results. The people who work at the pharmacy are cheery and patient. And kudos to whoever designed the Kaiser website. I’ve been able to find everything I was looking for on it: appointment scheduling, forms, maps, directions, and on and on.

It seems that gone are the days when people used to say, “Oh, you have Kaiser” with the same tone of voice they would use if you were being sent to the Gulag. I can see one downside to the Kaiser system: it might be too easy to go to the doctor. The barriers of cost and inconvenience have been removed which is adding to the overall costs of healthcare in the US.

That might be.  But for now, I’m glad that I don’t have to wait any longer to find out what that ugly spot is on my leg and why it isn’t going away.