Monday, September 5, 2016

Brief encounter

As surprised as I was by the amount due on a bill for a recent appointment with a doctor, just $8.32, I was even more surprised to notice that the bill described that appointment as an encounter. Is that what that was? An encounter?

The word encounter is vague enough to mean a variety of things, from making love to making war. Mostly, however, it suggests, as my dictionary phrases it, "a sudden or unexpected meeting," as when you encounter an old friend at the supermarket. What the word doesn't suggest is something you can be billed for, not even $8.32. If the doctor encountered me, didn't I also encounter him? So why is he the one sending the bill?

I can understand being billed for an examination or a consultation. But encounter sounds like I met that doctor at the supermarket and we just had a brief chat about those pains in my chest while fondling the produce.

Another thing that caught by eye on that bill was the phrase "sequestration adjustment." We usually think of sequester as what they call it when they seclude juries from outside contact in important, multi-day trials, but the word can also mean "to confiscate." What was confiscated here was 67 cents, and it was confiscated not from me but apparently from the doctor. I assume it means the same as what another medical bill calls "MANDATED FED., STATE REG." I don't know what that means either, but the phrasing is a little easier to comprehend than "sequestration adjustment."

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