05 June 2019
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A Shocking Medical Revelation

If I were a doctor and I told you what I'm about to, I might be subject to fine or imprisonment. HIPAA, the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act," is very strict. But I think I can legitimately tell as many millireaders as I care to a very personal fact about the perpetrator of this blog. Here it is:

I Have Never Had Measles!

(The sky was cloudy as I wrote that; it may have just gone a shade darker.)

Measles is a "childhood disease." I was a child once. Many would argue that I still am, but I'm talking about chronological age here. My childhood cohort didn't have the benefit of any vaccines for measles, mumps, and chicken pox, all of which are contagious. I actually remember suffering from the latter two, but not the first. Even so, I was exposed to it frequently, and should have contracted it, so for most of my life I was of the belief that I either did have measles and didn't remember, or that I had somehow acquired immunity, perhaps from a sub-clinical case, and thus had every reason to be unconcerned, which I was.

I re-evaluated my lack of concern in view of the recent news of a significant measles outbreak* in New York City, which I frequent. I communed with my personal physician (whom I am sure is innocent of any HIPAA violations),and he suggested that I get tested, which I duly did. The test showed that I had no immunity, and he recommended that I get vaccinated.

Which brings me to the point, if there is one, of this blogitem.

Q: Oh? Are You Going to Whine About the Insurance Companies Again?

A: No! I committed a full whine when I wrote about my influenza vaccination. This time the insurance company comes off much better.
Well, then, what are you going to whine about?
A: You know me so well! This time, it's vaccination bureaucracy.

I walked up to the pharmacy counter and asked if they had the MMR vaccine. They did. I rolled up my sleeve**. They looked at me in horror. Apparently you can't just get an MMR shot. You have to fill out at least two sheets of paperwork that slithered from a toner-deficient printer, possibly the same model that prints Apple "manuals." I found a bright light to help make sure I checked all the "NO" boxes. I averred I'm not allergic to latex, not pregnant, wasn't suffering at least at that moment from any horrid diseases, have no uncontrolled leaks, and can exhibit verticality without undue effort. Can we please get on with it?

Eventually we got on with it. But every bit of the transaction, beyond the actual vaccination, consumed my time and that of the pharmacy employees. How much of this assiduous disclaiming and record keeping is due to legal fears, and how much to gratuitous bureaucracy I can't say. But beyond "roll up your sleeve" it all seemed to be wasted time and effort. I could go on, but that would be wasted time and effort, too, since I know it won't change any time soon. And I'm less unhappy than I seem. I got my vaccination, and I made a profit.

You Made a Profit?

Indeed I did. I told you the insurance company came off much better. I handed in my insurance card as part of the process, and when it was all done, I was issued a charge slip with a balance of $0.00. Apparently the vaccination was fully covered. Even better, I received incremental "points" in the pharmacy's "loyalty program." If I hold them 'til next Easter, when the pharmacy sells Peeps, and then several days beyond when they can be as much as 90% off, I'll be able to use the points to subsidize ammunition for a marshmallow fight.


Why did I get the MMR vaccine? I usually perform, at least informally, a risk/reward calculation for pretty much everything that involves both. This would have been a very difficult one had I attempted to overthink it. I do get influenza vaccine every year. It's inexpensive, and the odds of getting flu, perhaps a serious case, are significant. Little risk (cost), possibly significant reward. But MMR, at least until I went to get it, had an unknown cost and an almost insignificant reward, since I am very, very unlikely to get measles. The outbreak is small and measles typically afflicts young children, with whom I rarely associate in any event. Was I foolish to bother? Most likely I was, but if in the extremely unlikely event I did catch measles as an adult It could be quite serious. Sometimes homo economicus, normally a boon companion in my alleged mind, is frustrated. But he has subsequently forgiven me and has offered to help me fling the Peeps.

* I've been reading that the "measles outbreak" is caused in part by lack of herd immunity due to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Silly parents! Vaccination is very important and almost inevitably harmless. If you don't believe me, ask your astrologer.

** You may have deduced from my T-shirt of the Day series that I rarely have a lot of sleeve to roll up. You'd be correct.

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