On the phone with the health insurance for two hours today, trying to sort out the fiasco which began LAST OCTOBER. 11 months I have been dealing or dodging; small pittance compared to the overall 11+ years of wiggy health bullshit.
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Last night, a friend of mine told me that her mum is her health advocate, manages her doctors and things, goes to her appoints with her. I\’m so glad that she has that, because right now she really needs it, but at the same time, I can\’t help but feel jealousy. The last time I was able to get someone to go into the doctor\’s with me was in 2002.
After my rheumatologist suggested I get married to solve some of my problems (not exaggerating, those were his words), I dragged my dad to my next appointment, hoping for…I don\’t know what; clarity, perhaps? Resolution? Respect? Instead, we arrived on time and two hours later were still sitting in the waiting room without having even spoken to a nurse (which is actually really normal for most of my doctors). My dad kept getting upset because the concrete building made his mobile phone reception shitty, so he wasn\’t able to conduct his buisness. After two hours in the waiting room, we got shuffled into an exam room where I had my blood pressure taken and current medications queried by a nurse, then we waited for another half an hour. We saw the doctor for about three minutes, who then turned me over to the nurse\’s station to have blood drawn. About a fifteen minute wait for that, then another ten minutes with billing before we were able to leave. About three hours, then the half hour drive back home. My dad\’s response was \”Who has time for this? I don\’t have time for this. You do this every week?\” Yeah, dad. That\’s my life.
It\’s hard to have a job or go to school or anything else when you have two or three doctors appointments every week, all of which eat up about three or four hours plus commute time, not to mention whatever side effects may come from trying new treatments or getting poked during an exam or whatever else. Welcome to life in the gimp lane; we go slow because there\’s no race when there\’s no finish \’cos there ain\’t no end in sight. It\’s fucking chronic; a goddamn life sentence. At least (USAian) prisons have cable.
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Allergy shots this morning. First week since getting back to the States without a big swelling reaction in the ragweed arm. Phew. It\’s tiny, like a walnut. After getting shot up I presented the financial office with my evidence of accounting failure, and of course, they don\’t have the slightest idea what it all means (\”we\’re not responsible, that\’s the billing office, which is outsourced\”), so I was instructed to go home and call my insurance company again. Which brings me back to the beginning. It was really funny and went a little something like this:
1:37pm Call Ins. Co. After teleprompting, a live person says:
\”And your primary care physician is Dr. O___?\”
To which I reply, \”No, I called last week on the 16th and had it changed to Dr. A___, but I haven\’t received my new card yet.\”
\”That\’s not in the system.\”
\”It\’s not in the computer that you called last week.\”
(At this point all I can think of is Little Britain\’s \’Computer Says No\’ skit, which is so infuriating realistic that it makes my skin crawl.)
\”Okay, well, I called last week on the 16th. My records show at 10:26am. I spoke to A____. I then had my first appointment with Dr. A___ the next day as my primary care physician (PCP).\”
\”Dr. A___ isn\’t in the computer as your PCP.\”
\”Uhh… okay. Why might it be that I called (the insurance company) and spoke to A___ to change my PCP to Dr. A___ but it didn\’t get changed in the computer?\”
\”I don\’t know, it wasn\’t me you spoke with.\”
Well no flies on you, then! Fuck. So after getting the PCP change request put in AGAIN, and hoping that I won\’t be back-charged for the visit because she wasn\’t technically my PCP when I had the physical done, we got to the reason I was calling: the financial fiasco.
\”Yeah, I\’m having a problem with the billing at my allergy center…\”
\”I don\’t do billing. Hold on, I\’m gonna transfer you to Outreach.\”
1:43pm Am now speaking to someone at Outreach. (What the hell is Outreach, anyway? [Having wasted some time with searching, this is Outreach. How humiliating.) Nice enough lady at Outreach, A___, says she can\’t help me with my concerns, and that what I need to do is call the Health Choice Member Action Line. Right-o.
2:02pm Am off-hold from the waiting system at the State\’s Member Action Line. Ms. H___ listens and says she can\’t help me, that it\’s too complex (\”too many issues involved\”), and that I need a Special Needs Co-ordinator, and don\’t I have one of those?
\”I did, at Hopkins, but she stopped calling me back and then her extension stopped working. I wasn\’t assigned to anyone else.\”
\”When was that?\”
\”Late 2002, early 2003.\”
2:10pm She dials up a conference call to the Special Needs center at Johns Hopkins and finally gets through to a B___. B___ says to wait a moment, then puts us on hold. Then Ms. H___ at the State\’s Member Action Line puts me on hold, too.
2:15pm A man\’s voice sudden speaks into the silence, announcing his name as M___, the Special Needs co-ordinator at Johns Hopkins. He doesn\’t say a co-ordinator, he says the co-ordinator, which is exactly what B___ said she was five minutes earlier. Hrm.
\”Social Security number?\”
\”And what\’s the problem?\”
At that point, Ms. H__, from the State\’s Member Action Line, picked her line back up, effectively breaking into the call. M__ says he didn\’t know it was a conference call. I say that I didn\’t, either. Ms. H says she had just transfered me to B___, and who was M___, and where was B___? I explained that B___ had transfered me to M___ and then hung up while Ms. H___ had been on hold. M___ said okay, then what was the issue? Ms. H__ H said \”she…Caller, what\’s your name?\”
Yeah, it took an hour and five transfers before someone asked me my name. Ask me my ID number, my Soc, my birth date, my list of diagnoses, but heaven forbid I should become a person by having a first name. They can see it on their screens, they just don\’t bother to use it. We\’re nobody.
Anyway, Ms. H__ got off the conference call and I spent a half an hour on the phone with M__. Supposedly I\’m going to be hearing back from a lot of people \”mid-next week.\” Supposedly there\’s going to be an \”investigative form submit(ted)\” to \”Quality Improvement\” about the doctor who OD\’d me and started all this mess with the billing in the first place. Then there\’s going to be a \”Specialty Provider Co-ordinator\” looking into the billing issue at the allergy clinic where (in M__\’s words) I am \”claiming fraud\” (when all I\’m actually claiming at the moment is a giant billing mistake and not actual fraud). On top of that, supposedly my details are being forwarded to \”Case Management;\” I\’ll be assigned a case manager (again) who will be in charge of my \”complex medical needs.\” All these folks, including M__, are supposed to follow up with me next week. I say \’supposed to\’ because I go through this trail every few months and get nowhere with it all. Last time it was nipped in the bud as I left for Brisbane. This time I might actually be here long enough to finish buisness, one way or another. Augh.
Sometimes I feel like I\’m going to be on the short bus for the rest of my life.
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After fun with the phone calls I had to jump on the metro to go to the eye doctor. The only glasses my health insurance will cover at this eye doctor\’s look like this. Mmmhm. Even the guy there said that no one, not even us poor Medicaid people, has ever bought one of those pairs of glasses. Instead, the practice had put together a small collection of frames that would cost Medicaid patients only $30, with Medicaid picking up the rest. Those frames all resemble these little tiny granny glasses. I don\’t know how anyone can actually see anything when they have to focus their vision into such small spaces; it makes me nauseous. I guess they\’re good for weaker prescriptions and people who don\’t have severe motion sickness and permanently inflamed sinuses. (Joyce may be right, \”I am not long for this world.\”)
Sooo… I went looking around the other cases, hoping to find something that might fit comfortably so I could stop relying on the allergy-inducing contacts so much. I decided, for once, to forget about price and to put my health first. Maybe skimping and going the cheap way actually contributes (definitely bypassing drugs and treatments due to price contributes, etc) to illness — after all, the rich are healthier. By the time I left the eye doctor\’s I had spent $450.00 on an exam for new contacts (not covered by the health insurance), a new pair of contacts (not covered by the health insurance), and this pair of flexible frame glasses with Transition lenses.
I can justify this (kind of): I have a week left on these contacts, my current glasses give me way too much of a headache, I tend to fall asleep while reading and have broken a few pairs of glasses that way so the flexible frames are a good investment, and I always splurge on Transitions (not covered by health insurance) because PRE-EMPTIVE (what is the real, technical word for this? I can\’t remember–brain fog setting in) health care is just as important as health care once you are already sick (I want to call that palliative but that\’s not right). Besides, it\’s really difficult to not have sunglasses in Australia and I can\’t afford to buy prescription sunglasses, too.
I did myself in on it, I know, but my prescription hasn\’t changed in a year so hopefully these new glasses will be good for quite a while. The last pair\’s frames were actually completely covered by my health insurance; I guess it really is hip to be square.
And the last bit is the most fun of all. I\’ve known my contact/eye glasses prescription but I\’ve had a devil of a time figuring out the relation of -4.75 to 20/20 vision. So I asked the doctor man and after babbling on a long time about how I\’m legally blind and should never drive or operate machinery without my glasses, he finally told me that my vision ranks in at 20/1200. As a for instance, albino rats see at 20/1200, which is largely why they use their nose and whiskers–because they can\’t fucking see. 20/1200 is currently the cut-off for how bad your vision can be before doctors will refuse to perform Lasiks eye correction, so apparently, if I want to get that done (which I do, but I\’m worried about the performance rate) I need to do it before my sight dips to 20/1300, \”at which point no worthy doctor\” would perform the surgery. Bah!
\”A person whose best corrected acuity (with ordinary lenses) is 20/200 sees at 20 feet, the detail a normally sighted person sees at 200 feet. This person has lost 90 percent of his normal visual acuity. He retains only 10 percent. If his acuity were 20/400 then he would have only 5% of normal vision.\” (Source)
My madly lacking math skills suggest to me that this means that I have a miniscule amount of normal human vision. Well, I don\’t need a doctor to tell me that… I haven\’t seen my marbles in years.
This is awesome. , , this guy did the same sort of thing I was talking about last night, except for just one vision strength. I wonder how he figured out how to do that?
What some guy looks like with 20/1200 vision from six feet away.
What the same guy looks like with 20/20 (\”normal\”) vision from the same six feet away.