[I wrote the below post one year ago. I recently found out that Blue Shield, my healthcare provider, dropped my medical group (Cedars Sinai) from its network. I’m not sure why, but I imagine it has something to do with Cedars Sinai being far more expensive than the other medical groups from which I’m supposed to choose.) I’m pissed off about it, needless to say. It means another round of jackassery as I attempt to find a doctor who knows what the hell s/he is doing and who understands my particular condition. Since it’s a slow news day, I figured why not rehash old nightmares with my new Balloon(bagger) friends?]***
Today, I had what some might describe as a traumatic health care experience. I like to describe it as “fucking ridiculous.”
I’ve got this little bastard of a tumor (pituitary adenoma) in my head. Y’all all probably know that by now. You’re probably all like “yeah, pituitary tumor, blah blah blah. Just shut up about it already.” And that’s when I’ll be like, “No, YOU FIRST!” And then you’ll look at me in a confused manner because let’s face it, what I just said doesn’t make any fucking sense.
But let’s carry on anyway, shall we?
I’ve been wrangling with my insurance company for a couple weeks now, trying to get them to find me a damn endocrinologist who can give me some damn information about my damn tumor.
I like to refer to my tumor as “Tumer Willis” because 1) I’m AWESOME; 2) I just thought of it; and 3) I can avoid making another Kindergarten Cop joke.
For some stupid reason, as of last week, my Blue Shield-assigned medical group had only one endocrinologist in-network. So I got a referral to see the lone endocrinologist, Dr. X. Well turns out that Dr. X is not a pituitary specialist. He’s a diabetes specialist. Which I exactly don’t have.
So, I manage to get an emergency appointment with a top notch endocrinologist at Cedars-Sinai (also known as the place where Britney went after she lost her shit.) After much wrangling with Blue Shield (I wrangled and my primary care physician wrangled and even her nurse wrangled), I got nowhere. But suddenly (of course) they magically found another endocrinologist in-network: The mysterious Dr. Suk. So I get a referral for Dr. Suk.
Things didn’t bode well when I called Dr. Suk to make an appointment and was informed that I could “stop by” between 2 and 6 in the afternoon.
Er… stop by? Who the fuck just “stops by” to see an endocrinologist? OK, fine, hypochondriacs…maybe. But who else? Answer? No one. That’s who.
So I stopped by Dr. Suk’s “office.” I say “office” because her “office” was in a partially abandoned apartment complex, the entrance to which had a broken heavy link chain. You might think I’m kidding —
— but you’d be wrong.
On the placard next to her apartment door office entrance, it said “Dr. Suk: Internal Medicine/Endocrinology.” (Based upon the clientele I saw loitering around the building, I imagine that, after hours, she probably switched the “Endocrinology” sign for a sign that said “Waxing and Massage-Walk-ins accepted.”)
Begrudgingly, I stepped inside the office…and immediately regretted it.
The receptionist clearly had no idea what was going on which I found interesting considering she had no appointment book to manage. Just a sign up sheet. Later, when I saw her begin taking people’s blood pressure, and doing actual, you know, doctory stuff, I realized to my horror that she was also the nurse.
The “nurseptionist” shoved some forms in my face, rifled through a stack of faxes to look for my bloodwork which my primary care physician had faxed over days ago, then rifled around some more searching for the referral authorization form from Blue Shield. Finally, satisfied that she was a moron, she handed me some forms to fill out.
Each of the forms appeared to have been run off of one of those ditto machines that anyone born before 1984 might remember. And for those of you born after 1984, you probably don’t remember archaic ditto machines or the ever present genius that is Purple Rain (soundtrack, not movie), and I therefore no longer want to talk to you.
Just kidding, younglings. You know Angry Old Black Lady has nothing but love for ya. Now get off my lawn.
One of the forms asked me to agree to a contract which would be outright unenforceable in court. Entitled “CONSENT TO TREATMENT,” it was a form that said, basically, “I agree to let you treat me, but if you fuck it up, then we’ll just say ‘my bad’ and you can’t sue us.” So I pointed out to the receptionist that the form contained unenforceable language and language to which I would not agree in any event.
As soon as I said that, she looked at me like “Whaaaa!?” So I just stared back at her and said “I’m not signing this. This contract waives my right to sue you for malpractice.” In my head I was thinking, “There’s no way I’m letting these assholes touch me anyway.”
At this point, I began to feel a bit devilish. I grabbed all the forms and sat down in the waiting room. Then, I called my friend Mme. Marbles, Esq. and told her that the doctor was trying to make me sign a form that waives all of my rights to sue for malpractice. Mme. Marbles said something like “Well, that’s weird. You can’t waive your rights to sue for intentional conduct, and you certainly have a right to be treated non-negligently!” I was all, “I KNOW, RIGHT??”
In fact, I did know this, but because the nurseptionist had just casually handed me the form, and the form was so clearly mislabeled in large letters “CONSENT TO TREATMENT,” as opposed to “CONSENT TO LET US POTENTIALLY KILL YOU,” I suppose I was taken aback by the brazen illegality of it all. As the waiting room started to fill with Spanish speakers, however, it began to make a little more sense.
I got off the phone with Mme. Marbles and started texting her back and forth furiously about where I was and what in the sam hell was going on. Her last text message to me? Classic: “DUDE. Where ARE you?”
“The lesser known eleventeenth layer of hell, presumably,” I thought.
At that point, the nurse started to look at me funny. Wanting to see exactly how weird this experience was going to get, I signed the “CONSENT TO TREATMENT” form, after striking out the “hold harmless” clause, and moved on to the second form.
The second form was a mandatory arbitration contract which essentially waived my rights to even sue the medical office in the first place, and purported to force me to arbitrate any malpractice issue that might arise. When I asked the nurseptionist about that, she said to me “It’s for your protection,” to which I replied, “I’m an attorney, and I’m not signing this,” to which she replied, “Get the fuck out!” — meaning it literally and colloquially.
Ok, ok, she didn’t say that, but by the look on her face, I could tell that she hadn’t had such difficulty with a patient before, and was likely thinking it. I mean, she was dealing with a lawyer who was calling a lawyer. “She’s got a lawyer on speed dial? Que?”
Yes, I do. I have several. Half my friends are lawyers. And besides, who mind-thinks “speed dial” anymore? It’s “Favorites,” and it’s on my supersweet iPhone, bitches.
Here’s what she actually said to me: “Well, the doctor won’t treat you if you don’t sign this.” At this point she’s getting really suspicious because I had already whipped out my iPhone and started taking pictures of the forms so I could document the crazy.
I grabbed the pen from her hand, signed my name, and next to my name wrote in block letters: “ADHESION K.” For you non-lawyer types, “K” is shorthand for “contract’ and “adhesion contract” is shorthand for “bullshit boilerplate nonsense that is offered on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis and which is unenforceable in court, but which some idiot lawyer drafted to confuse all the poor Spanish speakers who wouldn’t sue anyway.” My rage cup ranneth over.
Without getting all legalistic on you, let me just say that mandatory arbitration clauses are bullshit, and if you want to read more about how HMOs have forced such clauses upon consumers in an effort to drag out the provision of healthcare, read this L.A. Times article.
After the bullshit form shenanigans. I sat and waited; tumor pulsing. The nurseptionist called me into the guest bedroom one of the doctor’s offices and asked me to get on the scale. After I shed my jacket and my scarf (easily two pounds each) I stepped on to the scale. And I’m not kidding you when I say that the next words out of her mouth were:
“How much do you weigh?”
I looked at her for minute, yelling in my head “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?” But I didn’t say that.
Instead I said, “I don’t know, why don’t you tell me.” She sort of shrugged, played around on the scale doodads and said “128. Is that how much you weigh?” And my mind-head starts yelling again: “OH MY GOOD LORD YOU ARE A FUCKING MORON!” Instead I said, “I guess so.”
After the scale shenanigans, there was an utterly absurd “How tall are you” line of questioning followed by incompetent fumbling around my arm area in an attempt to take my blood pressure. (Which, was, I’m sure, eleventy over die in a fire.)
And then, the coup de grace: I was escorted into another bedroom office to actually talk to the doctor who, as far as I could tell, had no diplomas or certificates on the wall which, considering she likely graduated from Witchdoctor State, was unsurprising. As I approached the second bedroom office, I noticed that a sign was taped to the door:
Double-ewe.Tee.Eff. Isolation room? Really? I have a tumor, not leprosy! Was I Patient Zero now?
After that, I was fed up. I’d documented enough of the crazy and I just wanted to get the hell out of there so I could call up my medical group and/or insurance company and/or anyone who would listen so I could yell at someone.
I spoke with the doctor for about 5 minutes. I told her I needed a pituitary specialist and that my insurance wouldn’t authorize the one at Cedars-Sinai. Somehow whenever you mention Cedars-Sinai to non-Cedars Sinai doctors, they either get bristly (as Dr. Suk did) or praise their skill in a way that immediately raises a red flag (as my previous primary care physician at Kaiser did.)
This was going swimmingly.
After she refused to look at the MRI films of my brain–the same brain wherein lies the tumor–and then refused to authorize me to have another MRI (which all doctors I’ve spoken to recently said I must have as soon as possible), I walked out after telling her I needed a pituitary specialist. What does bristly Dr. Suk say? “I’m a pituitary specialist too.” Me (in my mind-head): “Right, and I’m a Supreme Court justice.”
So there you have it. Blue Shield is trying to kill me. And believe me, they are going to get an earful about it on the daily until they authorize me to go get Britneycare at Cedars-Sinai like they damn well should’ve done in the first place. And if they don’t, then by the hand of Thor, they are going to die in a very hot…
***[I wrote this in January of last year and I’m pissed off that I’m back to square one. Best healthcare in the world my shiny black ass. I have employer provided healthcare. I spend money out-of-pocket for acupuncture (which treats the symptoms of my tumor). I don’t go to acupuncture for fun. I go because if I don’t go, I end up having to go on medical leave (which I did last January — for eight weeks.) I can afford to pay these costs. I can’t, however, afford to pay for an MRI every six months, and for the battery of tests that I’m required to get. I could find the money: deplete my saving, cash in my 401K, hit up the parents for some cash, but I’m in the highest tax bracket, FFS! And I’m not “rich” enough to pay for my own healthcare?! It’s fucking ridiculous. What the hell are poor people supposed to do?! The point is not to complain; my situation is rainbows and unicorns compared to other people’s situation. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t suck for me — it does — but it is so much worse for other people. So while the Republicans are gearing up for Kulture Warz 2: Electric Boogaloo, there are people out there with real problems and real pre-existing conditions who need real help. I hate people today. I really hate them.]
[cross-posted here at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]