Friday, April 01, 2016

Health Insurance is Hard & Makes Me Cry

My hunky husband, Chad, closed his business this past summer after a successful six year run. (That is not my story to tell here.) One of the consequences of closing his business was that we needed to find new health insurance, since his business would no longer provide that for us. Chad did all of the tedious research to find a health care plan that fit our healthy lifestyle and hardly-ever-visit-the-doctor needs. We got the (not at all) illustrious bronze plan, which is basically just catastrophic coverage that helps keep us out of bankruptcy if something awful happens health-wise. Bronze coverage should be cheap, but it is not, as I'm sure many of you are painfully aware.

We hardly ever go to the doctor, but I recently spent three weeks with itchy hives on my chest, arms, ears and shins. I thought it was an allergic reaction to soap. I threw out the soap, but the hives stayed. 

I decided I should go see my new Primary Care Physician on my new health insurance plan about these bothersome hives.  

I tried to call my new Primary Care Physician listed on my insurance card. The phone number on the card was incorrect. I did an internet search to find the correct phone number for Dr. A, and called.

 *************

Receptionist: Hello, Dr. A's desk.

Me: Hi. I'm a new patient for Dr. A. I'd like to make an appointment to see her.

Receptionist: Dr. A is a hospital-only doctor. She doesn't see patients who aren't in the hospital.

Me: Oh. Umm, she's listed as my Primary Care Physician on my insurance card.

Receptionist: Let me guess. You have BCBS?

Me: Yes.

Receptionist: You're like the hundredth person to call. We called them several times to correct this, but they keep sending patients.

Me: Oh. Oops. Thanks for the information.

Receptionist: Sure. Have a good day. Bye.

 *************

I called BCBS. I got the royal runaround from an unhelpful "health advocate" who told me that I had to wait sixteen days to see a new Primary Care Physician, even though it was BCBS's fault that I'd been paying for months to effectively have no Primary Care Physician. My "health advocate" told me to take some Benadryl for the hives, and to find a new Primary Care Physician on the BCBS website. I explained that Benadryl wasn't working. (I took the pills and applied the ointment to no avail.) Then I cried. The phone call was recorded for security and quality control purposes. Fortunately I was very nice to my health advocate even while I cried, in case someone reviews that recording.

I filed a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance. For a government agency, they have a very user-friendly website! (I am not one to sit idle in the face of injustice. I start ripping red tape, filling out forms in triplicate and raising a stink.)

During this debacle, still having no Primary Care Physician, I was enjoying my usual breakfast of peanut butter on a flax waffle with sliced banana. This has been my personal breakfast of champions for years. That morning, my chest hives suddenly flared up even worse. My lips got puffy like Goldie Hawn's fresh from collagen injections. My ears got itchy. My throat tickled a bit, causing me to cough. My face flushed. It hit me like a mean wallop that my beloved peanut butter might be to blame. 

I didn't eat peanuts or peanut butter for two weeks. The hives cleared and my self-inflicted scratch marks healed. (So itchy!)

Two weeks later, I told myself it was ludicrous to suddenly become allergic to peanuts, and ate three small bites of peanut butter. My chest and face flushed red. My face got itchy. My throat tingled in a bad way. My lips swelled. DANGIT!

During the two weeks I refrained from peanuts, I also found a new Primary Care Physician on the BCBS website. According to the BCBS website, Dr. H accepts bronze coverage and is currently accepting new patients. I called BCBS again, and got a much more helpful health advocate who immediately changed my Primary Care Physician to Dr. H, and made the change retroactive. I did not cry this time. I sincerely thanked my health advocate for her help.

The new health insurance card with my new Primary Care Physician listed on it arrived in the mail. I called the phone number on my card to make an appointment with my new Primary Care Physician. Again, the phone number printed on my insurance card was incorrect. I did an internet search to find the correct phone number for Dr. H, and called.

 *************

Receptionist: Hello. Dr. H's office. How may I help you?

Me: Hi. I'm a new patient for Dr. H. I'd like to make an appointment.

Receptionist: Dr. H is full for patients this year. You might try and check back with us in like... September?

Me: Oh, sorry. I thought he was accepting new patients. You might want to tell BCBS that Dr. H isn't accepting new patients. They referred me to Dr. H.

Receptionist: Oh we are accepting new patients, we're just full for this year.

Me: Okay... I'll check back in September. *big eye roll*

Receptionist: Oh, also, there is an annual fee if you want to be Dr. H's patient.

Me: How much is the annual fee?

Receptionist: Sixteen hundred and fifty dollars... per year.

Me: Thank you for the information. Good bye.

 *************

What? What do you mean Dr. H is accepting new patients, but not until September? What do you mean there is an annual fee to have a doctor? What? 

Now I will wade back into the BCBS website and try to find a new Primary Care Physician amongst their sketchy data. Before changing my Primary Care Physician with BCBS yet again, I will call and thoroughly vet the doctor's office. I will make sure they are actually a Primary Care Physician. I will make sure they are currently accepting new patients. (Now. Not in September. Now.) I will make sure there is no annual fee for them to be my doctor. (Because how is that even legal?) I will make sure they actually take my lame bronze BCBS insurance. (For which I will likely never meet the high annual deductible anyway. *knock on wood*) 

In the meantime, I made an appointment with my doctor of nearly twenty years, who unfortunately doesn't accept my new health insurance. He's retiring very soon which is why I thought it would be best to get a new doctor on my new health insurance plan. I'm going to pay out of pocket. I will not be able to apply the cost of my medical care to my high annual deductible. I'm doing this because I don't want itchy red hives, or to possibly die from something supremely ridiculous like anaphylactic shock due to an allergic reaction. 

The takeaways from this mess are: Health insurance makes me cry. I miss peanut butter.









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