Saturday, October 29, 2011

Doctors, Doctors Everywhere . . .

So the move to Virginia has been colored a bit by two things-the fact that we almost bankrupted ourselves to do it and the fact that I had a routine exam go south on me just days before we moved. The money thing, which is scary on so many fronts (including the "if this is cancer, will we have any money at all for any sort of copays or scripts?" angle) is proving difficult to solve because my desire for a year of frugality in order to bail us isn't going over well. It seems to me that, when you're only barely making the bills, it's time to live like you're as poor as you are until things are paid down rather than spend through the last dime, then hope nothing else goes wrong. Better short-term impulse control than long-term poverty.

And the medical thing?

Well, by the time I'll see a doc about it, 16 weeks will have passed since it was discovered. Four months. Have you heard the one about Steve Jobs lately? Decided to sit on his pancreatic cancer for 9 months, trying alternative therapies? Yeah. So I decided to take our fancy letter from the feds that states that, while we have no insurance cards, we are, in fact, insured, and visit a gynecological oncologist early, before my December appointment with the urogynocologist. So I shave my legs and arm pits, gird my trembling loins, and head into the office of a Dr. E. P., a local physician. First, of course, I speak with his billing department to ensure that my letter from FEHB is adequate. I was assured it was.

At the doctor's office? The front desk staff was ridiculing and ugly. You know, with the sidelong glances at each other and repeating back what you've said in sing-songy, disdainful voices. A lot of raised eyebrows and snickering. You know the types--they were the popular, gossipy-girls in high school and never moved beyond that. And then came the wait. An hour and a half, almost, I waited. And watched, as woman after woman limped gingerly through the waiting area and out the doors. Not good. When they called me back, the (much nicer) young lady asked if I needed to go to the bathroom. I said that I had actually intentionally made sure I did, just in case they needed a sample. She smiled, said they wouldn't need a sample from me today, and then led me to the bathroom. I should have known then we had a problem.

When I was led into the amazing Dr. P's office, he shook my hand, and then made a show of shuffling through my records. Then he said that they couldn't accept the FEHB letter and asked if I could fork over cash. Which, of course, would be refunded, should my insurance come through at a later date. I was mortified. Devastated. I asked how much cash. He said that his time was worth 300 dollars for an initial exam/consult. I goggled. He backpedaled and said that $150 was what insurance would usually pay, and he would accept that. He actually told me that, with the economy ruined by President Obama, things are "rough all over." I wonder, are things really as rough from behind the wheel of a brand new Mercedes as they are from a piece of junk, near-10 year old Sonata? As you've read the bit above about the money, you know we don't have $150. Viciously humiliated (and on the verge of tears), I told this doctor so. His response? Maybe I should ask my husband! Yeah, because I wouldn't know if we had the money, silly, scatterbrained female that I am. And hey, maybe hubby's holding out, right? I told him I was certain of our financial situation, but then asked to use his phone to call my husband.

He refused. He refused to let me use his phone. Like I'm some 12 year old in the principal's office or some boulevard rat at Village Inn. Bastard. As I stood to leave, he shuffled my file again and said he was very concerned about my heavy periods. I was taken aback, said, "My periods aren't even in the top ten of gynecological concerns I have right now--besides, they've lightened considerably since I began losing weight." He said, "That may be (?), but they're still a concern." I considered him for a moment, and then said, "Not of yours." He tried to hand me a business card so I could "come back with money or when my insurance problems were worked out." I looked at the card, looked at him, and said, "I won't be needing that."

Understand, I wasn't asking this man for charity. I wasn't asking him for payments. I was asking him to accept a letter from the federal government stating that I do, indeed, have medical benefits through my husband's employer, and that any treatment I receive will be paid for. How tough is that?

I didn't cry until I got to the car. Not so much because of humiliation (though I was humiliated). No, I cried because I am scared to death about this thing, and I had worked up the guts to walk into the office of someone who might well give me devastating news or propose a horrifying and potentially maiming or life-altering solution, and I was turned away. All that courage screwed up and nothing.

It's no surprise that I've got almost constant stomach pain now. Since that day, in fact. I am stressed beyond my ability to communicate it. I am so tired. Tired of being afraid, tired of worrying and considering the possibilities. I wish I could express my feelings fully, but I can't. But I am not unreasonable. I am not paranoid. I am not obsessing any more than any reasonable person in my position would be. Fact is, I get through most days without crying. I get through most days without freaking or lapsing into depressed states. I am sad, though. And I am scared. Think about it--two doctor's appointment co-pays and two more scripts and there goes our "disposable" income. For a month. If that possibility isn't something to fear, I don't know what is.

A small note--I found this asshat physician on Facebook. Turns out he's a deep-sea fishing, yacht loving TEA BAGGER. Suddenly it ALL makes sense.

1 comment:

  1. HUGS! I don't know anyone who lives near you, or I'd be on the phone asking around for a good doctor recommendation. Of course, you have to find a better doctor than that guy. I've been harassed about insurance and asked for cash payments by receptionists, but never the doctor himself, and only once was I turned away for not having cash up front.
    Keep in mind that blood sugar issues cause problems with your periods and hormones, your body chemistry has been seriously changing lately. Hopefully that's all it is, so it's not lethal, and you're already on the right track to get it under control. Also, menopause symptoms start happening up to a decade before you actually hit menopause itself. In the meantime, start asking anyone you know for suggestions, who is their OB/GYN, or their wives? It's not an unusual thing to ask when you're new to the area. Good luck!