Chronic illness is a part-time job. It shouldn’t be

On a wet afternoon in early November of last year, I arrived 20 minutes early to an appointment with a new (to me) pain specialist. I had first scheduled the appointment in September. Since I had never visited this particular provider before, and because he was outside of the facility where I received most of my care, my health insurance required a referral from my primary care physician. This had taken nearly two months of bugging my PCP’s office, but two weeks before the appointment was scheduled I finally got the green light by them and was told everything was “all set.” Nevertheless, when I arrived at the appointment I was told I could not be seen because the referral had not, in fact, ever been received.

I was livid. I had taken time off from a tutoring job, foregoing a not-insignificant amount of pay for an appointment that now couldn’t be honored through no fault of my own. Despite doing my due diligence to ensure all the proper paperwork had been handled, the ball still got dropped somewhere out of my sight and I was paying for someone else’s mistake. When I got home I spent the next two hours that day, as well as hours each day for the next several days, trying to get to the bottom of what had happened. This included placing numerous calls to my primary care office and their referral department, as well as my insurance company. Each party evaded blame and pointed their fingers at the other, frustrating me even more. I kept asking the same question: why was I told I was all set when I wasn’t? In the end, I spent over 10 hours trying to settle this issue and ensure that the next referral to see this provider was actually processed and received well before my rescheduled appointment in January. Of course, no one offered to compensate me for the work I missed.

Unfortunately, this is not an unusual occurrence. While this was the most egregious example in my recent history, I can’t count the number of times I have had a referral lost regardless of being told it was processed, or showing up at the pharmacy to be told they never received the prescription my doctor said they called in.

 

 

 

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