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Medicare Ripoff – at least for us…

Calexico's main street with McDonalds

Calexico's main street with McDonald's

Every so often, Jim and I take a short hop across the border to Calexico, California. It’s a short trip as Calexico is on one side of the border and we are on the other. Jim could throw a horseshoe from our back yard into Calexico, easy.

Usually, we get there pretty early in the morning so we can have breakfast at McDonalds. On our last trip we went to El Centro, which is about 12 miles north-east of Calexico because Jim had made an appointment to see a doctor for some stomach problems. I told him, “Why not just go to our Mexicali doctor, Arturo?”

Jim’s answer seemed to make sense. “MaryAnn, I’m on Medicare, and my doctor visit in El Centro is gonna be pretty much free.”

Jim had made the appointment to see the El Centro doctor two months in advance -that’s how hard it was to see this guy – he’s a stomach specialist. With Dr. Arturo, all we have to do is drive down to his place – no appointment necessary.

The El Centro doctor had a real fancy office with a lot of folks in the waiting room. Finally, it came our turn, and the receptionist took us down a long hallway to see a nurse. She weighed Jim, took his blood pressure, wrote the numbers down on a chart and took us to a small room to wait for the doctor.

After about 15 minutes, the doctor showed up, with the chart. The doctor gave a quick hello, motioned us to sit down and asked Jim what was the problem. Jim explained his symptoms. The doctor nodded, put a stethoscope to Jim’s chest, and wrote something down on the chart.  That done, the doctor looked up at Jim as if waiting for Jim to talk. Naturally Jim asked the doctor what he had. “No idea,” the doctor replied, “we have to run some tests first.”

“We do that here?” asked Jim. “No, I’m going to write a prescription for the tests, which you can get at the hospital over on Imperial Boulevard.”  Jim took the prescription and asked, “Then what do I do?”
“Nothing, the hospital will send me the results, and if you have anything we will give you a call.”
“OK, “replied Jim taking the prescription.

The doctor asked, “Ever had a colonoscopy?”


“You know, you should have had a colonoscopy. Very important. Let me write you a prescription.”

“No, no, doctor” answered Jim, “I think, I’m OK.”

“You do?” smiled the doctor, “And do you know you have a heart murmur, which I heard on the stethoscope?
“Well, yes,” answered Jim, “I found that out when I had a company physical, back when I was eighteen – I’ve been OK with it.”

“It’s up to you,” said the doctor, shaking his head. “You should, however, see a dermatologist.”
“A dermatologist? Why?” asked Jim.

“Don’t like the look of those spots on your left arm,” replied the doctor, picking up his prescription pad.

“No, doc, I’ve had those for years. Let’s just stick to having the tests.”

“OK, you’ve been warned,” said the doctor.

We had been in the doctor’s office eight minutes, at most. That’s how they budget their time.

On our way out, Jim said, “Don’t like that guy – he acts like some kind’a Superior Being. No way I’m going to take those tests. If I did everything that doctor wanted, he’d be getting kickbacks from his pals, and they would work me over until they could come up with something to kill me with – no way!”

That was the end of the El Centro doctor for Jim.

The next week, we received a bill from the doctor for $100.00. Of that, Medicare covered only $40, with $60 left for us to pay.

“Jeez,” said Jim. “Sixty bucks for Medicare! I could go to old Dr. Arturo three times for that, and he would’a fixed me up fine.”

The words, “I told you so,” crossed my mind, but since I hadn’t, I didn’t.

2 comments to Medicare Ripoff – at least for us…

  • G’Anna:
    To get a colonoscopy here you would first visit a Dr. Rosas for a prescription and for instructions on fasting before the test. The test would cost in the area of $500 to $600. You could stay in a fairly cheap hotel or motel either in Calexico or in Mexicali.
    God Bless,

  • G'Anna

    Hi MaryAnn. I’m considering coming to your town for dental work and I have been needing to get a colonoscopy for 2 or 3 years but I have no health insurance and the doctors here (Oregon) want $2,600! Can you recommend a place for me to go while I’m there? Dr. Arturo maybe? It is just a routine exam which my doctors says I need but I can’t afford it. If you can help I’d appreciate it. Thanks.

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