“You’re charging me a ‘refracting fee’??”

Time for a new pair of eyeglasses. Even after two cataract surgeries and ocular implants, I still need eyeglasses for close-up work. You know, like trying to see through a camera viewfinder, or inserting latch hook yarn into a canvas.

So I contacted my usual ophthalmologist, Dr. Gesshoo. And as you know from reading my blog, I use code names here for my doctors’ names. You know, HIPAA and personal choices, as it is.

Turns out, Dr. Gesshoo sold her practice, and the physical operations moved from the convenient downtown Albany location to a spot in Colonie. Okay. At least they still have Saturday hours, so let’s set something up.

But what I found out was that in addition to relocating, Dr. Gesshoo’s practice no longer takes my vision insurance plan.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Miller, we can still book you for an appointment in late March.”

This conversation took place in early February.

So can I get the glasses there after the examination?

“No, Mr. Miller, you’d have to walk down to another location on Wolf Road to order your glasses. You would pay full price for the glasses, and then you would submit your bill to the insurance company and they would reimburse you.”

Um … let me explain that sentence. What they’re really saying is, “That eyeglass manufacturer doesn’t take your insurance plan, so we want you to pay full price for your eyewear, and when your insurance company ignores your requests for reimbursement, it’s not our problem, la la la la la.”

Ugh. So what are we looking at here?

“Well, you would have to pay for your exam, and then we would charge you a $48 refracting fee in addition.”

Excuse me. Did you just say “refracting fee”? What is a refracting fee?

Apparently the “refracting fee” means that for $48, they will actually WRITE the eyeglass prescription down so that you can take that prescription to an eyeglass manufacturer.

Call me Johnny Nash, because I can see clearly now.

Chuck needs something better. And it’s not with Dr. Gesshoo any more.

Search, search, search. Here’s another ophthalmologist, with offices in Latham. Give it a try.

I arrive for my appointment. Instantly, the receptionist greets me. “Welcome, you must be Mr. Miller. Charles or Charlie?”

“Chuck is fine,” I replied.

Then off to the ophthalmologist himself. He has me look through various optical devices and lenses and whatnot. “Based on your current glasses,” he said, “your prescription hasn’t changed much. But we can give you some improvements.”

I’m good with improvements.

I then glanced around the ophthalmologist’s office. I expected to find a framed diploma on his wall, as most doctors do. But in addition to the diploma, I saw what appeared to be a framed copy of a book cover.

“Is that your book?” I asked.

“It is,” he replied. “I write fiction in my spare time.”

“That’s nice. I’ve written a couple of books myself.”

“Oh? On what topics?”

“Well, my most recent book was called Collarworld, a fantasy novel about what happens to our pets after they pass over the Rainbow Bridge and wait in the afterlife until they are reunited with their masters.”

At that moment, the doctor went from his ocular instruments to his laptop computer. “Is that Collar World, two words?”

“One word,” I said.

Wait a minute. In the middle of my eye exam, he’s actually looking up my book on Amazon?

“I like collecting author signed copies. I hope you’ll sign the book when you pick up your glasses next time.”

Umm … wow. No, seriously. Wow.

Eye examination over. Now it’s time to pick out a new frame set. And the receptionist walked me over to the display of various frames.

Now here’s the thing. I have a huge problem with monopolistic companies. Especially ones that force competitors out of business, buy their assets, and then operate that company as part of their corporate umbrella. And in eyewear, that company is Luxottica. Luxottica has driven other eyeglass manufacturers out of business, then taken over their corporate identities and continued operating under those identities to create a false image of competition.

“Oh, we don’t sell Luxottica products here,” she cooed. “We purchase our own frames from independent manufacturers.”

Wait. An anti-monopolistic ophthalmology practice who also impulse-buys their customers’ written works? Where have you been all my life??

Suffice it to say that my new glasses are being manufactured, and they should be available for me by the middle of this week. And as an added bonus – maybe I’m being vainglorious, maybe it’s just a nod to myself – in addition to the usual scratch-resistant coating and anti-glare features, I also requested the glasses be photochromic.

Photochromic lenses. They are waycool. Essentially when sunlight hits them, they immediately turn into sunglasses. Wow. I’ve even written a “Christmas in Iverhill” short story about photochromic glasses.

So it’s bye-bye Dr. Gesshoo.

In other words, these eyes no longer cry every night for you. 😀