Medical Costs and Choices

In reality I do have a latent esophoria.
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I’m not a bad father.

Last spring, we noticed my son had a wandering eye.  One of his eyes would just drift when he was looking at something.    It was happening consistently, so we brought him to the eye doctor.    After an exam, we found out that his eyes were 20/100.  The doctor said that getting him classes may be enough to fix the wandering eye problem.  The theory was that his eye was drifting because his eyes weren’t able to focus.   Bringing the world into focus could have let his eyes train themselves to work right.

Nine months with glasses later, the problem hasn’t gone away, so we went back to the eye doctor.

He’s got alternating exotropia.    His eyes aren’t working well together.  One eye will focus, and the other will drift. So now we’re looking into vision therapists.

A friend went through something similar with his kid, so I asked him for the name of the doctor he used.  He gave it to me and told me the clinic was the best in the business, and I would be paying for that.   I asked about the cost and was handed the doctor’s spiel about how sad it is that parents focus more on the cost of care than getting the best possible care.

What a load of crap.

First of all, that’s a sales pitch. Of course the doctor is going to defend his prices.  If his prices are exorbitant(I don’t have a basis for comparison) and he can’t defend them, people will go elsewhere.  $3000 isn’t pocket change.  That’s a significant chunk of change.  Refusing to look at your options is irresponsible.

Second, price does not equal quality.   There are a ton of things that are overpriced garbage.   Not only do scam artists abound, but some legitimate  things are are horribly overpriced at one location and reasonably priced at others.  To stay on the vision theme, my $10 glasses are every bit as high quality as any $400 pair I’ve ever owned.   The difference between generic and brand-name drugs?  The label and the price.   The FDA requires they be chemically identical to be sold.    If you insist on the brand name because it’s “better”, you are flushing your money down the toilet.  If you live by “you get what you pay for” you are guaranteed to get ripped off.

Third, balancing cost and treatment doesn’t mean I care less.   Yes, I am killing my debt as fast as I can right now.  Even when I was willing to use a credit card, I wouldn’t drop $3000 without considering my options. I have an entire family to consider, not one problem that my kid doesn’t even notice.  Grr.  I hate getting told–implicitly or otherwise–that I am a bad parent because I don’t choose to waste my money the way other people do.    I’ll check out my options first, thank you.

Now, I will pay for the best when it is warranted.    My wife wants Lasik and mentioned some sale some company was having.   No.  The guy sticking a laser and a scalpel in my eye will not be the lowest bidder.   When I left the gene pool, I went to one of the top guys in the state for the procedure.   When those things screw up, it’s permanent.

Vision therapy?  Not so much.  If it comes to surgery, we’ll go with the best.   But it’s not there, yet.  My kid is going to get a series of eye exercises, no matter where we go.  Even if I go to some back alley vision therapist with a degree from a Nigeria U, what’s the worst case scenario?  We may have to try someone else.    Since I will be doing a bit more research than that, odds are better that my kid will get exactly the same therapy regimen for 1/4 of the cost.   That’s the difference between a perfectly competent doctor and a perfectly competent doctor who convinced some trade magazine to write him up as the best in the business.

What do you think?  Am I neglecting my kid by wanting to save some money for his braces, too?

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  • 9 comments

    Comments

    1. In a case such as this, I wouldn’t even rule out home research from the net. Take your time and go to reputable websites and do some digging and there is a chance that you will find the exact same exercises that a doctor would recommend. There is very little that I do with out doing my research on it when it comes to medical stuff. I still trust my doctors but there is nothing wrong with doing some research on your own. It is your body (or your kids). Doctors don’t always represent the facts as well as they could when they explain stuff. I don’t call it malicious because I don’t think some of them know when they are doing it. When they mention therapies and other stuff, they don’t always explain the success rate. It is even worse when people hear from friends and family that this or that doctor is better cause they fixed my kid or my friends kid. Each case is unique and what may have worked with one, might not work on another.

    2. On a side note, congratulations on leaving the gene pool, seriously. I bet that’s pretty liberating for you and your wife 🙂

    3. I would gather up as much research as I could. I know people that were diagnosed with ‘lazy eye’ as kids and ended up basically blind in that eye because it wasn’t dealt with quick enough. (It can turn into amblyopia.) I had no idea the consequences could be so bad, I just thought the eye would just be ‘lazy’. Instead, you can lose vision because the brain just starts to ignore the images from the lazy eye, and that is that. In kids, you can’t get that lost vision back.

      I would act quickly and get multiple opinions on treatment options. I don’t think it is as simple as putting a patch on an eye like I always thought it was.

      • Interesting thing: I said lazy eye and the doctor assumed a different condition. Apparently, if you are an eye doctor, “lazy eye” means the eye just isn’t working as hard as the other, which may or may not be fixable without surgery. “Wandering eye” or alternating exotopia, is what I have always considered to be lazy, where one of the eyes doesn’t point in line with the other.

        Either way, it’s time for research, referrals and appointments.

    4. I don’t thing anyone has to right to judge. Costs do matter. You did the right thing – as you point out $3000 is not pocket change and if you have to spend that much you need as much advance notice as possible.

    5. You have the right to treat your son as you see fit. And shopping around for a bargain is the right thing to do as a good parent.

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