DR. HOOK- Nothing but the... Insurance can make patients lie

George Washington never told a lie.

"Father, I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the cherry tree." 

When Abraham Lincoln was our president, he was called honest Abe. Wow! And this was before TV shows like Leave It to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show where everyone was so ethical. I'm so glad all politicians don't lie. (Strange, I can't tell if I was in a coma when I wrote the last sentence.)

Professional athletes declare adamantly, "I've never used growth hormone, steroids, or any performance-enhancing drugs." Two weeks later they say, "Well, maybe I have. I think I misunderstood the question because I was obsessed by the thought of losing my multi-million-dollar endorsements."

True, the media loves to sensationalize everything and stir the pot more than Rachael Ray and Bobby Flay making soup on the Food Network. So I can see why celebrities deny certain allegations when really it's none of our business.

Do patients lie to their doctors?

"I've never told a lie," is an oxymoron. So it can be difficult to know whether a patient is "covering up" something. I've "caught" patients "embellishing the truth," leaving out important pieces of information, or just plain ole lyin' out their you-know-what.

During their physical exams, I've busted plenty of patients on their smoking or chewing tobacco. 

"Doc, how did you know I use tobacco?" 

"Ah, that isn't caviar stuck between your cheeks and gums." "Unless you gargle with a product called ‘Ash Tray'..." 

Also, living in a relatively small town has disadvantages when it comes to lying, because eventually the truth is going to leak out. I've seen my patients lighting up at restaurants or on the street, and of course I approach them, "Ahem, are you auditioning to be the Marlboro cowboy?" (Am I not just a witch?)

When it comes to alcohol consumption, I've learned to multiply by two or three whatever the patients say they consume. 

"So you report you have three drinks a week. Hmm, that means you probably have six to nine drinks. How big are your drinks? Oh, you drink three 40-ounce glasses of vodka!" I love the patients who deny drinking much, but every time I see them at a party they have a lampshade on their head.

Marijuana is used much more than I had realized. As many "normal folks" as I know who use marijuana, you would think we truly live in America, The Melting– er– Smoking Pot.

Life and Health Insurance are the culprits for most of the patients' lies. You can't get life insurance if you hiccup or have gray hair. Health insurance does everything possible to deny coverage. Mr. Health Insurance says things like, "So you puffed a cigarette once when you were 10 years old, and now you have lung cancer. Coverage denied!" "Ah, you ate a Twinkie when you were 14, and now you have diabetes. No insulin for you!"

When you see the doctor, if you use health insurance, you sign away your rights and allow the company to review your medical chart with a magnifying glass that also has magical powers to draw their own conclusions– conclusions that usually work against you. That's why many of my patients are afraid to report anything to me– they don't know how it will work against them in the future.

It's frustrating that many patients feel they need to lie to protect themselves from losing health insurance benefits. It makes it difficult for me as a physician to provide complete, proper care. Too bad our noses don't grow like Pinocchio's every time we lie. But then again, we would all go blind– from our noses poking out each other's eyeballs. 

Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice. Email him with your questions.