Letter: Doctor appointments raise questions

From: John Vanderbur


I recently was reading the Onions section of the The Republic. Someone was complaining about having to have a doctor’s appointment every three months in order to get their prescriptions refilled. Shortly after that I put an Onion in complaining about having to have a doctor’s appointment every six months in order to get a prescription refilled. Prior to two to three years ago, I never encountered any problems getting my refills without the six-month doctor’s appointment requirement. Obviously, for some, things have changed.

I take the drug Pravastatin, a drug that helps control one’s cholesterol at an acceptable level. My local doctor has told me that I will need to take this drug for the rest of my life. Every year I have my annual physical which includes blood work and other things. In addition, I have regular colonoscopies, eye tests, dermatology testing and anything else that may come up. So, I’m thinking if all of my annual testing is OK and I’m feeling just fine, then why do I need a required six-month appointment with my doctor? I have an uneasy feeling that the answer to that question might involve a profit motive.

One of the things that the medical community needs to understand is that there are thousands of people in this region that have jobs that pay at a near poverty-level wage (U.S. Health & Human Services, 2015: poverty level for a family of four in contiguous states is $24,250 yearly or approximately $11.66 hourly for a 40 hour week). These people may have employers that pay for part of their medical insurance, but not all. In addition to that expense, there is the co-pay for a doctor’s visit (such as $25 general practitioner; $50 specialist). In addition to that, the insurance terms may dictate a very high deductible. In short, many people find themselves in a conundrum: Do they have doctor appointments and prescription refills or do they put food on the table and pay their electric bill?

I know there surely are people that need to have three-month visits, or six-month visits. For those that can afford it, you don’t have a problem. For those that can’t afford it, there is no answer.

Envision this scenario: A doctor sits down and has a conversation with a patient. The doctor speaks and tells the patient that they must take this drug for the rest of their life, but if you don’t have an appointment with me every six months I will not refill this drug that you must take for the rest of your life. How does that square with the Hippocratic oath?