Dr. Levy just wants your money


I had a rather disconcerting visit this morning to one Dr. Howard Levy, Orthopedic specialist. Referred there by my doctor for a shoulder injury, and armed with my MRI films I arrived at his office on the Upper East side a few minutes early. The very first thing the receptionist asked me was if I had X-rays with me. I informed her that no, I had (much more accurate and expensive) MRI films. She then told me that the doctor likes to have X-rays, and asked me to go to another floor to get them and then return. She looked shocked when I refused, telling her I preferred not to.

Let me stop here and tell you that this is one of the biggest problems with our current system of health care: It is fee for service. That means the more unnecessary tests and exams they can foist on you, the more they can charge and collect. This is a scam of the highest order, and the fact is that despite all these tests and money, people in this country (even those that have insurance) are not at all healthier than those in other countries where this is not the case.

She huffed, told me I could discuss it with the doctor, and gave me forms to fill out.  A few minutes later she led me to an office and told me to remove my shirt. The doctor’s assistant (a sort of physician apprentice specialist I guess) then came in and asked me a few questions about my shoulder history, then gave me a few strength tests. After that he told me I could start with physical therapy, but I would definitely be needing surgery at some point. He then carefully explained the surgery and recovery period, and patiently answered all of my questions. He was making me feel a little better about the whole thing, or at least better informed. He then left me, telling me that the doctor would be in shortly.

A short while later, Dr. Levy entered the room, shook my hand and said, “So, you know what you have to do…”

To which I responded, “I guess, but is it dangerous for me to wait a while? I am not in a lot of pain, and I need to think about it…”

He brusquely told me I could think about it, but this is where it was headed, this was his specialty and he knew all about it. Noting the various pictures of famous (I suppose) football players on the walls, signed in appreciation, I acceded that this was probably the case, but then by way of explanation started to say,”Well, the thing is Doctor, I am not sure how much my insurance will cover, I think my deductible is quite high, so I need to check with them…”

He cut me off quickly with “I can’t help you with that.”

“I wasn’t asking for your help or a discount or anything, I was just explaining why I may have to wait a bit while…”

“I’m sorry, I can’t do anything about your insurance. If you want to get the operation here is my card, you call us back.”

Once again, I explained that I wasn’t asking for anything, and he cut me off once more to tell me that he would give me a prescription for physical therapy and sent me on my way. What an asshole. This guy clearly wasn’t interested in actually healing anyone. All he cared about was the money and the prestige of being at the “top” of his field. This is one of my biggest complaints about some doctors. The patient is really just an object to be acted upon (and sucked dry financially), not a human being with feelings to relate to in any way.

As it turned out, I didn’t need the X-rays after all. Shocking. I left thinking I would rather have my shoulder fall off then let this jerk touch me.