Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Taking charge of healthcare

One of the first pieces of advice I got when I told somebody I had cancer was to make sure I was assertive and to take charge of my own health care, since nobody will care about it as much as me.

That advice was given by somebody in the online world, who is unfamiliar with my personality.  Nobody who knows me would ever advise me to be assertive. In fact, they are usually wishing I had a bit more of that shy gene.

I do have a laziness problem though, particularly when it comes to doing stuff I don't want to do.

I was told by my surgeon on September 1st that I needed an MRI and that it would take a week or less for the insurance company to approve the test.

Today is day 9.  My most definitely unassertive husband, who usually believes in "letting people do their jobs" decided to remind me that I should have the appointment by now.   I knew that, of course, but not being in a hurry to hear I need my breast chopped off, I had decided that this was time for my unassertive side to be set free.  I had vowed to be more trusting of people, like he is.

But, since he called me to remind me, that means he's worried, and probably imagining that cancer growing so fast it pops through my breast and strangles him.   I decided to appease him, go back to my true nature, and call the doctor.

I called at noon, when everybody at school is at lunch and I have a second to myself.  Unfortunately, their office staff is gone then too, so I reached somebody in India, at least judging by the accent and the echoing conversational delay.  The office will be back open at 1:00, the kind lady tells me.

At 1:05 I called back.

I got a busy signal.

Seriously, dude, a busy signal?  I've not heard one of those since 1982.

At 1:09 I called back.  Yes, a busy signal again.

I feel like I've gone back in time.  I can't even leave a message!  I can't even reach India!

I tried again at 1:57, and this time I reached an actual office-staff person. I explained that I was waiting for insurance approval for an MRI. They said they'd check, and I was put on hold.

I held for a couple of minutes. 

I was cut off.

Whew!  I'm back in 2009 again.

I called back.

I repeated my name and explained that I'd been cut off.  The person, again, put me on hold.

And again, I was cut off.

I redialed, and this time, in a menacing but still nice voice (after all, these are the people who work for the guy who is wielding the scalpel) I say,  "I'm Ann, and I've just been cut off for the third time...."  She mumbled something about her not being responsible and she transferred me to somebody else.

Success!  The call went through.  I explained the problem (again) and said I'd been waiting for almost ten days, and I'd been told less than a week.  The woman I was speaking to said that people at the insurance company were probably going on vacations, and maybe that's why it took longer.  She'd call the insurance company and see what was going on, and she'd call me back.

Three minutes later, the phone rang.  Oh, they have the approval, they'll fax it right over to the radiology company.

Vacations, huh?  That approval paper was probably vacationing in my file this entire past week.  It was sucking down margaritas right next to my pathology reports, while I trudged along at work, waiting for a call.

I have a feeling that if I hadn't picked up the phone, I'd be waiting on that MRI until long after my chemo was done.  Or, at least, until my oncology visit the 14th, when he asks why I hadn't decided on surgery yet and I explain I'm still waiting on an MRI.

This is a prime example of why you have to keep on top of things.  And, despite my lack of desire for the things that are about to happen to me, I guess I have to make them happen anyway.
But what I want to know is - what if you are truly too exhausted and ill to make people do their jobs correctly?

At least we still have private health care and it only took one phone call (with a few hangups) to get it sorted out.  Can you imagine if the government ran it?  Can you imagine how many calls I'd have to make?  How many busy signals?  How many places I'd have to go?  Have you ever tried to get a new social security card, file for unemployment, or have you ever gotten the runaround at DMV - or a school district? (I work for the government - I know.)

Now try it hairless and sick on chemo.

No thanks.

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