I recently managed to find the least ethical optometrist in the world recently. I needed to order new contacts, as I was on my last pair. Simple, right? Go, read off the chart, get prescription, order lenses. I’m used to paying through the nose, because I allegedly need toric lenses, which are about twice as much as normal lenses are.
First he says that they’re not making the same type of lenses I’ve been wearing anymore. I’m unhappy about this, but have no reason to question it. He says that as per state law, he has to order a trial pair, I need to pick them up in person, wear them for a week, then come back again for a followup a week later. Adding to the fun: I don’t have a car, so each trip is a fun bicycle adventure on a local highway.
He also says, “Oh, hey, I can bill this as ‘medically necessary’ and you won’t have to pay a copay”. I know from experience that doctors treating me have a long, proud history of committing such insurance fraud*, wonder out loud if that’s entirely ethical, and have my concerns brushed aside. Fine.
It takes two weeks for them to order the lenses. I pick them up. I don’t like them at all; they cling to my eye and by the time I got them out on the first day my eyes were all irritated and blood shot. They’re tolerable, but not comfortable. I go back for the follow-up. They’re fine. I have to ask him three times to give me my prescription, which he finally does grudgingly. Insurance will pay $105 towards contacts. He says he will order them for me and they’re $75/box, six lenses per box. That’s not much. I say don’t order them yet, I’m sure I can get them cheaper online. He says that’s not a good idea but refuses to explain why.
I go home. I go to 1800contacts.com, where I have ordered lenses from since I started wearing them. The ones he prescribed me cost $50 per box. Then I notice that they do in fact still make the lenses I’ve been wearing, they are simply in the processes of changing the name. The ones I have been wearing cost $35 per box. Huh.
I call the optometrist’s office. I say “I was lied to and they do still in fact make my brand of lenses. I would like to order them and when the company calls to confirm, please do so. Furthermore, according to state law, unless there’s a medically compelling reason to do otherwise, contact lens prescriptions ought to be valid for two years rather than one, so I’d like the expiration date on mine changed.”
“That’s not what the doctor recommended,” says the receptionist. “And we should order them, because insurance might cover them in full if we tell them they’re medically necessary**.”
“Yes, well, I don’t like those lenses, I was lied to about their availability, and I prefer not to be part of what could be considered insurance fraud.”
“Well, I’ll have to have the doctor call you back.”
Fine. I hang up. The doctor calls a few hours later. I need to order the new type of lens. We argue about who knows best in this situation. He says that he has all prescriptions expire in year because it’s “better that way for everyone.” I say, fine, leave that, just tell me that you’ll confirm an order for the old lenses. He says I didn’t complain about the new ones; I say that’s because I didn’t realize that the old ones were still available. He again says, “I know what’s best.” I finally get pissed off and say that I’ve been wearing those lenses for years, someone with more experience and knowledge originally prescribed them (an ophthalmologist), and there’s no reason not to allow me to get the old ones. If he refuses, I’m certain that there’s a medical malpractice lawyer in town (and I do in fact know someone by name [on a personal basis]) who might be interested in this issue.
At that point the doctor clams up, grumbles for me to do whatever I want, and hangs up on me.
I order the new lenses when I get home from work, then go down to the gym and vent my frustration on the heavy bag. I’m still pissed off about it, because I despise being taken advantage of, and this guy was just a sleaze.
*I had surgery to correct some eye muscles when I was six months old. All ophthalmologists’ visits were submitted to the insurance company as “post-operative care” and thus I never had to pay anything for them. This continued successfully for 18 years.
**I have no idea where the hell this idea came from. They’ve never been “medically necessary” in the past, and I’ve been wearing glasses for fifteen years and contacts for five. Also, according to my online insurance statement they billed the insurance company $675 for the initial visit; if insurance doesn’t cover that and I get a bill, there may well be bloodshed.