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Beware of what you ask for; you might get it - 12/4/2015

About a month ago, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. He asked whether I had gotten my shots for pneumonia and flu. He also questioned how current my other shots were, particularly DPT, which helps to prevent whooping cough. The latter inquiry particularly struck a chord in me because of the serious bout with that disease our rabbi recently had experienced. As I left his office, his nurse gave my wife and me prescriptions for the shots we needed.

We made several stops on the way home and then passed a Walgreens close to our house, but not the one we usually frequent. It was late and the medical section was about to close. The individual sweeping up very reluctantly agreed to make me their last patient and indicated that my wife would have to come back on another day. I hesitated but then thought, for the sake of expediency, why not get the shots. That way I could get it over with and Harriet could return the following day.

I was ushered in, given two shots and then informed that they would not be covered by insurance, as is usually the case in the Walgreens branch we generally visit. I was then presented with a bill for $200. I initially saw it as expensive and wondered if it were possibly an overcharge but the nurse was so anxious to leave that I presented my credit card and went on my way.

Two days later, my wife went to the Walgreens we normally use. She got the same shots and was told that she might have to pay for them but that they would submit the charge to the insurance company and see if they were covered. Since then, we’ve heard nothing from them, so I assume the reimbursement came through. At the same time, I said to myself, “You insisted they give you the shot, you couldn’t wait to go to the Walgreens you normally frequent, so, you paid for what you got.” However, to add insult to injury, several days later, I received another bill in the mail. This time they informed me that they had undercharged me. The initial $200 was for the first shot and the second and third shots were $178 more. That’s when I really began to lament my original decision. I’ve yet to contact Walgreens; although I intend to and also plan to include a copy of this article.

Something about the contradictory behavior we experienced seemed radically wrong. The question that came to mind was, “Why would one Walgreens deal with it in one manner and another deal with it in an entirely different manner?” I called and asked that question. Their answer was that where I went was an independent clinic in Walgreens, which was providing private service to Walgreens customers. My thought was, why wasn’t I informed of that initially? After all, I’m a long-term, very satisfied customer of this chain and I should’ve been told what I would be charged for my shots, prior to giving them to me and also that they would not look for reimbursement from my insurance company. Why? Because, had I been given that information, I certainly would have chosen to go to my normal Walgreens store, where they would have treated me the same way they did my wife. At this point, I am tremendously disappointed. I feel taken advantage of, and I am giving considerable thought to whether I should even pay the additional $178 charge.

But, that isn’t the real issue. I’m fortunate. I can pay the $378 for two shots, and, in the long run, it won’t make a radical difference in the way I live my life. My real concern is what about so many other people who, similar to myself, walk in, believing they’re in Walgreens, and wind up receiving a $400 bill for shots that may or may not be covered by their insurance. For them, the $400 might mean the difference between putting gas in their car, paying for child care, buying food or even paying their rent. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair.

My question is, “Shouldn’t there have been a large sign placed on the counter of this medical center that indicates that they are not Walgreens, and that the charges they might incur would be obscenely high, so much so that the price might radically hurt anyone on a fixed income?” The answer is immediately evident. Of course, there should have been – and if not a sign, certainly, someone should say, “I want you to be aware that we do not seek insurance payment for these shots and that the shots you’re asking for will cost exactly this much.

It brings to mind the statement that the customer always must beware and that had I not been so insistent on their taking me as their last patient, I could have saved almost $400, which I would have preferred to donate to the local food bank or any other charity, rather than line the coffers of this tenant/medical clinic operating, in my mind, under the auspices of their being a service provided by Walgreens.

At this point, I am disappointed in me for not asking earlier about the cost and for assuming, instead of inquiring. I’m also disappointed that Walgreens would allow this type of behavior to occur, and I even question whether I should continue to refill prescriptions from them or continue purchasing so many of my medical, cosmetics and household needs from them.

The purpose of this article, however, isn’t to discourage you from dealing with Walgreens. After all, I’ve dealt with them for more than 50 years and have been very satisfied. It’s to say that you have to take responsibility for your own behavior. You need to recognize that what you ask for, you might get back in spades. Consequently, you need to take it upon yourself not to be embarrassed but, instead, to request information before you accept a service.

In life, as in emotional relationships, I encourage people to ask any questions that come to mind. In every instance it’s my belief that doing so contributes to transparency, openness, honesty and vulnerability, all of which makes relationships more positive and mitigates future emotional disappointment, resentment and anger.

In summary, don’t assume. Ask. Don’t refrain from asking because it may appear you are too concerned about finances. Be concerned. You worked hard to earn what you have, and you don’t have to let someone take it away from you. In summary, be proactive, but beware of what you ask for because you may get it.

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