Saturday, August 01, 2009

What would you do?

On our second morning in Ithaca, I woke up early in the morning with a terrible sore throat. I've had strep throat enough times in my life to realize immediately that's what it was. Almost worse than the swollen, painful throat, though, was the thought that we didn't yet have our health insurance figured out so I had no way of seeing a doctor and getting the antibiotics I knew I needed.

Jeremy was already planning on going in to talk with the HR people in his department later that day, so I thought that by the afternoon, we might have the insurance information we needed for me to see a doctor. In the meantime, however, I was in a lot of pain, so I thought I'd call my doctor from back in Tucson. I thought maybe he'd be willing to just call in a prescription over the phone once I explained the extenuating circumstances.

Well, I called his office and explained the situation, but the secretary told me that since I hadn't physically been in to see my doctor in the last 12 months, he would be unable to do a prescription over the phone. I couldn't believe it. So much for general good health being a help to me in this situation.

So I tried calling the Urgent Care doctor who diagnosed strep throat on me a while ago and prescribed antibiotics. This was a long shot, to be sure, but I was already getting desperate. But he explained that as an Urgent Care doctor, he couldn't prescribe anything without seeing me.

Even though we were brand-new in Ithaca and had no established doctor or even so much as a doctor recommendation, I decided that we'd just have to wait until we got our insurance information from Cornell and seek someone out, somehow, as soon as possible that afternoon. Except that when Jeremy went in to the office, it turned out that the only secretary who could help us was out of town. Until Monday.

The situation was just getting worse. Jeremy asked the remaining secretaries if they thought I could go to Urgent Care and get reimbursed later from the insurance company. They said, "we think so, but we're not sure, and don't quote us on that."

Still, it looked like our only option. So I called the local Urgent Care and asked them how much it would cost to have a doctor tell me I needed antibiotics and prescribe them to me, as I suspected would be the case. She wasn't exactly sure, but said it would be at least $200 for the consultation, plus any labs or tests they had to run.

With our recent run-in with American Express fresh in my mind, the last thing I wanted to do was lay out a bunch of money I had no way of being sure I would be reimbursed for. It was around this time that I went into the bedroom, lay down on the bed, and cried. I was sick, I was upset, I was desperate, and I had no idea what to do.

It seemed like such an impossible situation. Here I was, in Ithaca for less than 48 hours, not knowing a soul, certainly not a local doctor, in need of a prescription, without proof of insurance, without even the most basic information about the insurance we did supposedly have, unsure of being reimbursed if I paid out an unspecified number of hundreds of dollars, and there was nothing I could do about it. Oh yeah, and I was in terrible pain.

Well, after crying for a while, I did figure something out, and a few minutes before the pharmacy closed that night, I had my antibiotics (I'll leave it to you to guess what the solution was). By the next morning, I felt about a hundred times better than I had the day before, both in a sore throat sense and an emotional sense.

But you better believe that first thing Monday morning, we're getting our insurance information so that such a freak alignment of awkward circumstances doesn't happen again.

22 comments:

JackJen said...

I will take this opportunity to not compose a treatise on why this country so desperately needs health care reform.

I'm wondering if you got a refill on a previous prescription...

karina said...

Did your solution involve crossing the border into Canada to get what you needed? 'wink' 'wink'

Jennifer said...

I'm really curious to find out what you did because that's horrible!

It is times like that when I'm so grateful my dad is a dentist and can prescribe medicine to me wherever I am.

JosephJ said...

I was going to guess something like you went to the eye care center at the super-walmart for a prescription, then over to the pharmacy to have it filled. Or perhaps you called to see if the pharmacy had someone on-hand legally free to write prescriptions. Or maybe your husband forged credentials. :)

There's a whole slew of medical professionals that can write prescriptions, and finding one that cared enough for humankind to make a few scribbles on a prescription pad shouldn't be too hard.

Susanne said...

Glad you are feeling better now!

Nancy said...

You had your OB/GYN from your time in Middleburry write a prescription since it's been less than a year since you last saw them?

JackJen said...

Another thought: your husband IS a doctor. Does that count?

Susanne said...

Oh, as for what I would do...hmmm. I guess I would just bite the bullet and go the urgent care place. Doctors' bills can be paid off and thank God, we have jobs so we can afford to pay off a bill unlike so many others in this country. No, it's not something I'd *want* to pay - who does? But when I'm in bad pain, I'm grateful I don't live in the Sudan where I am just left to rot like a piece of trash.

Hopefully Obama will save us if he has his way with health care and you won't have to worry about these things from now on. :)

EmmySue said...

Minute clinic at a walgreens?

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Internet doctor!

Bridget said...

I think JosephJ was closest. I called a doctor friend and had him/her do what my own doctor wouldn't, and phone in a prescription. Saved!!

Jeanerbee said...

Similar problem here - Eli's ear tubes got infected and he had an awful fever and it was a Sunday and we had no doctor or insurance info yet. We went to urgent care anyway and just hoped we'd get it sorted out later. And the idiot doctor only gave him ear drops.... so our EQ pres who happens to be a resident prescribed some abx for him. Should have just called him first! So glad you are feeling better!!!! And I'd love to hear what you figured out =)

Liz Johnson said...

That's so frustrating. When we lived in Mexico (where antibiotics and other less-harmful drugs did not require prescriptions), we stockpiled and just treated ourselves. It was awesome. In fact, my parents just barely ran out of the stockpile they brought up from Mexico 4 years ago. I think it's time for my dad to make a business trip or something...

Ashley said...

That is funny that the urgent care would charge you that much. We have a friend who thought that their daughter had broken her leg (she is two). He didn't have insurance so he called the urgent care and asked how much it would be. They said it wouldn't cost more than $500 for everything if he would pay cash. Luckily it wasn't broken but he found out that doctors visits don't always cost as much as you would think.

Laura said...

I am glad that you were able to get some antibiotics. I have no idea how you got it though. So I am curious to know how you obtained them.

I haven't checked your blog in awhile and wanted to say something about Ithaca being so green. Being so green it also has bugs. When you are outside make sure that you check for ticks when you come back in. Lyme disease is pretty common in the north east. We have to check for ticks here.

The Ensign's said...

My guess is that you called Michael Jackson's doctor and got him to prescribe you an antibiotics for it. Am I right??

Kat Clark said...

Was it Jason? What a nice guy whoever it was. BTW, not to get all political on your blog here but I do feel slightly frustrated that such a large number of people are excited for Obama's proposed health care reform. I wonder how much they know? If the plan were already in place this blog post could have been even more of a disaster than it already was. Just imagine an urgent care facility or family practice doctor's office full of everyone sick in Ithica. All of them there because they have "free" health care and so why shouldn't they show up for every tiny cough or runny nose? Meanwhile, the doctor is over-booking because he isn't making any money off of the nationalized health care system and can't refuse to treat people with this health care because it would be discriminatory. Either way, what frustrates me the most is that people think there should/could already be a proper solution to this enormous and complicated problem. Sorry. I'll leave it alone. Glad you feel better.

JackJen said...

There's a pharmacy here that actually has free antibiotics...a good business model for them and a nice alternative for me. (Especially with some recent medical procedures that required several antibiotics).

ALL FREE TODAY!

Suzanne Bubnash said...

You said it well Kat.

My Canadian friends always say when referring to their health care: "you don't want what we have."

Lilianne said...

AMEN, Kat!

We definitely don't want what Obama is proposing. Seriously people! LEARN about it - don't just blindly support everything that this man proposes!

When the government starts deciding for YOU if you or a loved one can live or not, I'm sure you'll be mourning your support for such a bill!

Kristen said...

Oh I am so glad a few people responded to the health care reform comment. I realize that isn't what this post was intended to elicit, but I hope more people will take an interest in actually learning the details of Obama's plan and consider the negative effects that will follow. Nothing is free. Yes, our healthcare system could benefit from some carefully planned changes, but his aren't the answers. I am very glad you are feeling better Bridget. Strep throat is awful!

Susanne said...

Bridget, your blog looks very nice!
Living Back East...can't wait for the stories you'll tell! :-)

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