Thursday, September 20, 2012

Not-so 'free screenings' blow smoke

This is the 2nd year my company has been offering a free ‘bio screening’ for getting a discount on health insurance premiums (we have to pass all their requirements “take a biometric test and test nicotine free” >>We get a deducted amount of money out of our pay check per month, however, if you think about it, each year the premiums go up, and if we meet their health goals then we get the discount. I still haven’t decided if I’m ‘winning’ anyway.)

So last year I pass it with flying colors, not a smoker (not sure why they have to actually test for that anyway when the rest of my results were stellar).  This year I booked one of the first appointments, to get it out of the way.  They do a cheek swab for ‘nicotine’, prick my finger for blood work for cholesterol and right after (why they do it after and not before) they check my blood pressure.  Results are finalized by some small computer thing on the table and I walk over to their ‘freebie’ consultant table. I’m still not convinced these people are certified, yet qualified to tell me how to change things if anything was abnormal.  She makes me retake my blood pressure, obviously since it had elevated after they pricked my finger, she makes a comment about my HDL (the good cholesterol), level was slightly lower than normal.  Everything else was on par.  **They only use a small sample of blood from your finger to conduct these tests and you do not have to fast.

I had a yearly physical scheduled for the next month anyway, deciding to bring my paperwork with me to compare what they did.  Three weeks later I received a letter from the company that runs the nicotine test, saying the test revealed ‘cotinine’, which is an indicator of tobacco smoke exposure, aka 2nd hand smoke to a non-smoker (which I am).  The results didn’t show any ng/mL levels, but regardless I was furious, because I am a non-smoker and I am not surrounded by chain smokers who pay little respect to me as a non-smoker by blowing smoke in my face.  Immediately I call my doctor to see if they can add on the nicotine test to my blood work when I come in for the physical which they most certainly can.

Now my appointment, where I tell  my doctor the story and he laughs as if he were a made man, “that’s crazy, don’t worry we’ll take care of it.”   Routine physical done, blood work done – check, now I can’t wait for the results.  I was actually very impatient about this because having to prove to my health provider that I wasn’t a smoker p-d me off.  In a way I felt violated, having to prove myself and thinking now that someone is getting a kickback.  Anyway, my proof came in a phone call when my results came back from my doctor, all perfect, negative for nicotine as expected and off goes the fax to my health care provider.  Too bad I couldn’t attach a note saying “See I told you so.”

Don’t mistake this for knocking on a free service provided by my work’s healthcare provider, it may benefit some people, especially those that need to change their health for the better.  However a yearly trip to my doctor for a physical is definitely worth it because its covered under health insurance (sans the write off for a co-pay).  Yes it’s a PITA for an appointment, and to fast just for blood work but to get the expert test results done right and to make sure all systems are go its well worth the drive.  It’s such a shame us healthy folks have to go through all this trouble for a discount.

*Ultimately I think someone was getting a kickback to have x amount of people test positive for cotinine or nicotine, so you won't see me lining up for the freebie next year > JMO.

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