Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Ill Health

Jackie K. Cooper

You know you are getting old when you can remember the days when doctors made house calls. So I am old because I do remember this anachronistic practice. When I was growing up in Clinton, South Carolina, I remember many times when the doctor would come by our house, check us out and then prescribe some medication. It wasn’t that we were special people; it was just the natural way things were done back then.

For most of my adult life I have had the same doctor. I picked one younger than I am so that he would be around a long time. I like everything about him – his knowledge, his manner, his accessibility. He has kept me healthy, and I am thankful for all he has done.

That is why I am now at a crossroads. A few weeks ago he told me he was going to cut back on his patient list. He said he currently has a twelve hundred patient listing and he wanted to cut that back to around six hundred. That was fine with me as long as my wife and I were in that six hundred. He assured me we would be.

A few days later the bomb dropped. My wife and I would definitely be on the list if we paid fifteen hundred dollars apiece for the pleasure of his services. That means I go from zero out of pocket expenses to three thousand dollars for his services. The letter assured me this would mean he would have more time to spend with me and that the service would be more personal.

Three thousand dollars is a lot to me. Would it be worth it in order to keep him as my doctor? Probably so. Would I be comfortable with it? Maybe not. I think our relationship as doctor and patient would move to business associates. I would be expecting more and more accessibility and even with him having only six hundred patients that would be hard to come by.

I have until July to make up my mind. I have told my wife that whether or not she stays with him is up to her. I know I hate to have to find a new doctor and get used to him/her. Still these things happen in life and I feel blessed that I have good health insurance to make this change simpler.

In this day and time however it is not just about selecting a doctor. You have to make sure the doctor is accepting new patients. There isn’t the wide variety that there used to be. I think more and more doctors are opting for a specialty rather than being a general practitioner, and I can’t say I blame them.

For years I thought all doctors were just rich people. Then I had a few friends go to medical school. The expenses they incur are staggering and the time they spend getting the necessary degrees and training are overwhelming. It is not an easy path in any sense of the word and usually by the time they open up for practice they are heavily in debt.

So believe me, I respect doctors. I respect what they have been through to be where they are, and I respect the knowledge they have to have, and also must keep updated. I just wish my own doctor didn’t feel the need to change the rules of the game. Maybe he feels he has to, or maybe he just sees this as an alternative. For whatever reason it has placed me in a crisis and I don’t like being here.

In fact, it is making me ill.


Jackie K. Cooper was born in South Carolina and now lives in Georgia. His short stories have been used as commentary on Georgia Public Radio. He also keeps active appearing as an after dinner speaker for various events. Cooper has authored five books: Journey of a Gentle Southern Man, Chances and Choices, Halfway Home, The Bookbinder, and The Sunrise Remembers.

Visit his website, or email Jackie.


© Jackie K. Cooper

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2010