“And here is an x-ray of your daughters teeth,” the orthodontist said to me as he put the slide on the wall.”You’re kidding,” I replied”What do you mean?” he shot back.”That’s not my daughter’s teeth,” I said.”Sure it is,” he said. “That’s an x-ray of a dinosaur’s mouth,” I stated.After laughing for several minutes, the doctor saw that I was not amused. “You stole that image from the history museum,” I said while he was laughing at my ignorance. “No, I’m pretty sure this is your daughter’s mouth. You see she has a lot of teeth that still need to come in. We can help all of this along with early treatment,” he informed me.It was true. My 9-year-old daughter’s teeth are all over the place. As I write this, there must be at least 100 teeth in her mouth and one new tooth growing in every other day.”Early treatment? She’s only 9!” I replied. “You’re just trying to make a fast buck off of me.””No, I assure you that this early treatment will save you money in the long run,” he said.”Ha! If this doesn’t work, I’ll have you thrown in jail. You’ll be sharing a cell with a guy named Scooter in no time. OK, scratch that one, but I assure you I’ll do something,” I said in a state of panic.
I couldn’t believe it. My precious baby was already in an orthodontist’s office. With half of her permanent teeth in, I couldn’t understand why my dentist recommended orthodontia at such a young age. At first, I thought the idea made about as much sense as hiring (Atlanta Falcons quarterback) Michael Vick to walk my neighbors’ dogs. If you don’t know that story, here’s the short version: The football star is being investigated for allowing dogfights on his property.
OK, back to the orthodontist’s office. I was still skeptical of what the doctor ordered. My little one wouldn’t have braces for the first eight months of treatment. Instead, she would have an expander which is a device that makes the palate larger through a contraption that is fixed behind the teeth. To me it seemed like something medieval because it needs someone like me to go into her mouth to turn a key in the center of it. With every turn, there is more pressure on the top arch to expand her little palate. When I was presented with a picture of it, I thought it was something the Addams family would be thrilled with.
After agreeing to the expander, it was time to talk insurance. As we all know, most doctors are not exactly cozy with insurers. That nice relationship is reserved for members of the U.S. Congress. I could tell my doctor knows that insurance can be a necessary evil that is part of his job as a professional and mine as a consumer.”If you are unsure of the final bill, give your insurer a call,” the doctor said after we committed ourselves to him. “I’ll definitely make sure that this insurance thing works out,” I said. “If it doesn’t, I’ll have a certain bespectacled, rotund filmmaker show up here with his crew and a bullhorn.”I don’t know why this doctor laughs at me so much. He has no idea that I’m good friends with that filmmaker and that I’m definitely going to the history museum to check out their dinosaur slides.
When I got home I called the insurance company. This is about as much fun as watching the new Robin Williams film License to Wed. Did anyone see that turkey? After enduring the zillion voice prompts, the automated service asked me to punch in my member ID number. At the time, I liked this part of the call. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “This is great. When I get a live person on the phone, she or he will have all of my information ready to go. I’ll be done in time to catch an episode of Charles in Charge on the Lame Network.” When the system accepted my numbers, I was even treated to a great Muzak version of the Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” for what seemed like 20 minutes.”Hello, thank you for calling Dental Care Insurance. This is Cindy. May I have your name, address, telephone number, social security number, and mother’s maiden name, tax ID and member number?” the nonchalant customer service representative announced.”Why did I punch all those numbers in?” I queried. “Aren’t you supposed to see all that information on your PC?””No sir. Punching in your member ID number is for the automated response areas only,” she calmly replied.”
With all of the advances we have made in technology and healthcare, why can’t that information appear on your screen?” I asked as I stepped up on my proverbial soapbox. For a moment, I felt like one of the zillion 2008 U.S. presidential candidates.”Sir, I didn’t design the telephone system,” she replied. “I just look up your records. Now I need the aforementioned information.”After regurgitating my life to her, she looked up my record. “Yes, you will be covered for this treatment,” she said while punching the keys on her PC which doesn’t accept the hard work that I put in earlier in the call.
As I calmed down and hung up the phone, it occurred to me how important it is to have health insurance even with all of its hassles. My daughter is doing well with her new appliance. When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up, she said, “You know what I want to be, Daddy. I want to be an orthodontist.”
“Why is that?” I replied. “So I can have fun,” she said. “And also because I want daddies like you to go home and punch in all those numbers on the phone. You looked funny doing that.”