Over the years, through four children and a wife, I have held second chair through numerous routine physical and dental exams. Therefore, I thought nothing of it when my wife and I took our two younger offspring for a routine vision test. This was due (in part) to an insurance benefit subsidized (also in part) by my employer. We would simply take our kids in for their eye exam. We would also obviously hope that nothing major turned up in the eye exam. Afterwards, we would pay a standard co-payment and make our way home knowing that we had done the best we can to provide proper care for our kids.
My wife and I took one kid each and sat with them through their respective eye exams. My son seemed puzzled (and somewhat frightened) when the technician told him that they would be putting drops in that would dilate his pupils. I assured my son that this was not painful. I then went on to explain to my son one of the great ironies of routine eye examinations. The technician starts by showing a random series of letters numbers and colors in a variety of orientations. Once this part of the exam has been completed, the doctor performs an exam to be sure that your eyes have no internal maladies. However, halfway through this examination, the doctor thanks the patient for everything he (or she) has endured thus far by putting drops into the patient’s eyes that will prevent them from seeing anything clearly for several hours. It is with the greatest of admiration that I state that both kids endured the examination without providing any resistance. I was not truly worried about this. After all, my two younger kids are now teenagers. Surely, they’re old enough to know how to conduct themselves properly during a physical examination. Nonetheless, my wife and I always keep a tranquilizer gun close by just in case.
Both of the eye exams showed mild visual problems that would require both of the kids to wear a mild pair of prescription eyeglasses (primarily for use at school and watching television). My wife and I breathed a collective sigh of relief. After all, we had insurance to help absorb these costs. With insurance card in hand, my wife and I spoke to the optician while our kids shopped for a set of frames that would not clash with their sense of current fashion. This was somewhat moot because they had to alternate between whatever frames they liked and the flimsy pair of dark glasses provided by the doctor to offset the effects of the eye drops. So when they took them off, it was difficult at best for them to see how cool they looked anyway nonetheless, Things were looking up for all of us.
I was ill prepared, however, for the fiery hoops and financial lynching that my insurance company and the optician had waiting for me. It all started when the optician went “into the system” to find my kids’ records in the insurance database. After a short search, my son’s records were found. Unfortunately, they were unable to find my daughter’s records. The optician pointed me to a phone number on the insurance card. With a cheerful smile, she directed me to call the insurance company so that my daughter’s information could be added to their database.
Upon reaching the insurance company, they asked for my daughter’s date of birth. Of course, this was after using an automated system and trying several times in vain to enter my daughter’s date of birth. This resulted in the automated system smugly informing me that the date of birth I had provided could not be found and patched me to the next available representative. With the coolest possible demeanor that I could muster under the circumstances, I once again gave the insurance company my daughter’s date of birth. The nice lady on the phone then told me that date of birth I provided did not match up with the date of birth they had in their database. I then asked the nice lady what date of birth they had in their system. I explained that I was asking because I have two daughters on the insurance policy. This nice lady then informs me that she is unable to tell me what date of birth they have in the system. Apparently, privacy laws prevent people from telling me that my daughter was born when I said she was. In any case, they updated by daughter’s records and the optician was then able to find them in the system. Meanwhile, my kids are still trying on frames and looking in the mirror as if posing for a photo shoot. No doubt, my wife and I were in the clear.
This feeling of self assurance soon faded. The optician gave us the price quote for one of our kids. The optician noticed my eyes expanding to a size similar to the man in the final crash scene of Mad Max. I have never understood why retail establishments of any kind do not have nearby emergency defibrillators to treat the effects of sticker shock. The optician then said something that only furthered my anxiety. The optician told me that this price quote included a very generous benefit from my insurance company. Is this supposed to make me feel better? I personally find it extremely aggravating after being quoted an exorbitant price to be informed of how much money I have “saved”.
After several deep cleansing breaths, my wife and I braced ourselves as the optician clicked her little mouse and generated the price quote for our son. My wife and I presumed (incorrectly) that since our son and daughter had pretty much the same prescription that the prices quote what also be pretty much the same. The optician then informed us that our son’s glasses would be $20.00 higher than our daughter’s glasses. The $20.00 difference was due to the type of frames he chose. My wife and I choose to keep a stiff upper lip, lay the money down, and order our kids their new glasses (with their cool looking frames and lenses that respond to sunlight).
We four left the optician together. Our son and daughter felt very pleased with the choice of their new frames and lenses. My wife and I, however, felt emotionally and financially drained (not to mention somewhat violated). We really shouldn’t feel that bad, though. After all, my wife and I did what we set out to do: provide the best possible care we can for our kids. Besides, some years from now kids are deliberating over the elderly care facility in which they will be placing my wife and me, they should have no problem perusing and filling out the numerous insurance forms that will be required for us both. After all, they will be wearing the glasses my wife and I will have provided for them. Considering what we paid, they’d better last that long. Before that time comes, my wife and I can look forward to the day where we sit back and laugh our heads off when our kids tell us about how much they paid for their kids’ glasses. At least that was my experience when I called my dad.