Lauren Shapiro | November 2, 2018
“It’s probably not a sign of cancer,” Dr. Jacobs informed me, “but since I can’t be completely sure, I’m going to refer you for a CT scan.”
Possibly because he knew that when it comes to pain, I have a breaking point of mild discomfort, Dr. Jacobs did not seem surprised that my only question was, “Does it hurt?”
“No, but some people find it unpleasant,” he answered, describing the injection-free, knifeless procedure. I have my share of mental health issues, but claustrophobia isn’t one of them, so I was OK with the test.
I was not, however, OK with paying for it, because my career as a freelance musician offered no benefits and, after my divorce, I was uninsured. Dr. Jacobs had been cutting me a break on his fee, but his one-man socialized medicine practice wasn’t Columbia Presbyterian’s billing policy.
He said, “If you’re sick, you get the treatment you need and you worry about how to pay for it later. What do other people in your position do?”
What do we do? One pianist slipped on the ice, got up, went upstairs and tried to play a dance class with three broken fingers. The instructor noticed her crying and found someone in the office who pulled her out of the class and promised to pay her, even though she was not going to play the class, and then that kind soul escorted her to the emergency room, which happened to be a block away. Another accompanist waited until his chronic pain was so intolerable he walked into Bellevue Hospital, where he was finally treated for whatever disease he had at whatever stage it was in. I had grown up thinking of Bellevue as a snake pit, but this accompanist claimed he received excellent care.
Dr. Jacobs said some clinics probably differ from private hospitals more in waiting-room time than in level of care. He suggested I see the social worker for recommendations.
The social worker told me that Montefiore Medical Center, affectionately known as “Monty,” was well-thought-of. I called, but the wait was six weeks — the Full Monty. I asked about a nearby city hospital, and she warned, “Don’t go there.” She recommended Jacobi, another city hospital, near where I grew up in the Bronx.
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