Operation Nightmare

illI have never been a great believer in private health insurance. Or any sort of insurance for that matter. Insurance companies are in business to make money. They have to collect much more in premiums than they pay out in benefits, not only to make a profit, but to pay for the vast administrative costs that are associated with collecting the premiums, and then meeting claims. Or more often, in my experience, employing lots of people to avoid having to meet claims.

And so, if you don’t pay health insurance premiums, then you are going to have more money to pay for medical bills. I appreciate, course, that if you’re really ill, then the medical bills might well be substantial, but then again, if you’re really ill then in the places where I have lived (the UK and Australia) there’s probably not much difference between the treatment you get whether or not you “go private”. And if you are really, really ill, then death will level out the playing field even more.

Besides, my grandmother used to have private health insurance, and she used to require medical attention on an absolutely prodigious scale, notwithstanding that was nothing wrong with her. There is no way that an ordinary person like me is going to get a fair share out of the same trough as Granny and her like.

Notwithstanding all of this, I did join a private health scheme, partly at the urging of my ex-wife, and partly out of an irrational fear which seems to accompany the process of getting older.

I need to go into hospital for a minor procedure this week. My surgeon’s people wanted to know the details of my health cover, and then the hospital’s people got in touch and told me that I needed to contact my health insurers to make the necessary arrangements with them. So I rang them up.

They have an automated telephone system, of course, so that you do not get to speak to a real person for some time. A robot gives you some choices, and then tells you to enter your umpteen digit membership number. So I did that, and their computer evidently calculated that I do not have medical cover against suicide, and evidently decided to up the odds of that a bit. They put me on hold, with a ghastly little banjo riff that went round and round.

Pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonkerty pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonk plink plonk.

That went on for 10 whole minutes. Then a human voice came onto the line. Relief at last? No. It turned out to be a recorded message telling me how wonderful they were: voted the best insurers in the market by someone I had never heard of.

And then another 10 minutes of the same thing. Pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonkerty pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonk plink plonk.

You lose the will to live quite quickly in these circumstances, but the was something so completely and utterly ghastly about the banjo riff that I started wondering about the quickest way to bring it all to an end. Plunge a kitchen knife into my wrist? Tie a concrete block around my neck and leap into the dam? I could have just hung up, which would have meant that the hospital wouldn’t let me through its doors, but my need for this operation is such that death by this route would have been far too slow.

Another 10 minutes went by. Pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonkerty pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonk plink plonk.

And then another. Pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonkerty pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonk plink plonk.

I did wonder whether, in the end, some sort of Stockholm syndrome would set in, and I would start finding some musical merit in the banjo riff, or perhaps even start quite liking it? No; it just got more and more annoying. Every once in a while, the riff would stop, but again, the human voice turned out to be a recording again, of the same stupid advertisement for their own wonderful services. That was even more annoying.

Pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonkerty pling plonk ponkity ping-pong plonk plink plonk.

It was almost exactly an hour of this torture when someone came on the line who was not a robot. I explained why I was calling, and when I finished doing so, he explained to me that this particular sort of claim needed to be made in writing, accompanied by a certified copy of my own death certificate (this was not quite the excuse he gave, but its practical effect was exactly the same).

And so, as usual I will just put the bill on my credit card.

I suppose there are some people who have managed to get these insurance companies pay out more to them in actually paying medical expenses then the amounts they themselves have paid in by way of premiums. I do not suppose that I will ever join their ranks.











Filed under News from at home, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Operation Nightmare

  1. neville

    Actually I am one of the rare few that after 40 odd years of paying private health have by default (hip replacement) have my nose just in front regarding benefits vs premiums . That said I am hoping to lose this race on a grand scale going forward…good luck with the procedure!

  2. Nick Day

    I remember when I signed up the company for a BUPA health scheme, being a tiny company we only had three directors in the scheme, but at around 500 quid pa pp it did not seem excessive. Shortly after a sailing trip in Turkey I felt a significant throat infection on its way, having been hospitalised for Quincy in the past, and completely oblivious to the memory of my freshly acquired private health scheme, I headed down for an almost terminally dull 28 hrs in A&E. ( it’s all about triage you know ) Having been eventually seen by a doctor who looked younger than my 4 year old niece ( but on meth ) I left with a prescription for a standard dose of Amoxicillin which I informed Snow White was not going to cut it, as by now my airway was down to about 25% efficiency. Needless to say by morning 12% efficiency for Oxygen intake was becoming a tad annoying, at which point my addled memory recalled BUPA. I trundled down to the Parkside, where a reassuringly mature ( grey sideburns and a decent Saville Row suit ) doc informed me I now required an intravenous antibiotic drip, I was checked into my suite and 3 days later everything was sorted. It’s not that you necessarily get a better doc but the timely nature of private care is well worth the premium, especially if you have ” self insured ” up until now ! 🙂

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