Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's official ...

I'm depressed.

I met with a counselor from my employer’s EAP on Monday. She told me that I am “grieving,” that my response is normal, and that it is going to take a long time to come to terms with things, accept them, and transition to my new life circumstances. I have been going through all the classic phases of grief – anger, denial, bargaining, depression, bitchiness, crankiness, sarcasm, uncontrolled swearing, and whininess. OK, see, I still have my sense of humor. Kind of.

It was good to have a professional validate my feelings. It’s OK for me to feel crappy. If anyone tells me that “it will be all right” or “other people have it much worse than I do,” I have a right to slap them silly and walk away. I know other people have it much worse than I do. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a right to feel pissed off about my own rather crappy situation.

Throwing fuel on the fire, I’ve been in contact with my surgeon’s office trying to understand WHY Aetna doesn’t cover PAO. They have not given me a very good reason and I need to understand so I can take action. In typical condescending doctor’s office speak, they told me to butt out and let them handle it. They also told me, in exactly these words, that I am “not the only patient feeling the financial pressures.” Duh. My response was that I am operating on the concept of "you have to look out for yourself and your own health care because nobody else will." It’s not that I don’t want to help all of the other people feeling the financial pressures out there, but right now I can only fight for myself. It's called the survival instinct.

So who out there is curious about why Aetna denies PAOs? It’s not what you think. No, it's not that they can't spell "dysplasia." It’s not that they don’t like people who walk funny. It’s not even that there haven’t been enough research studies done. No, according to what I’m hearing, it’s because there is no procedure code for this operation. Doctors bill it using the code 27299, which means “unlisted procedure.” And, seeing that it’s "unlisted," Aetna promptly denies it.

What? Are you kidding me? This has to be the most asinine thing I have ever heard. Does this mean they don’t even read the file to find out what was done? They see that something “unlisted” was done and they just say NO? Please, give me a break. Based on all of the hip women I know, quite a few of these procedures are being done. Can’t the insurers and doctors, ahem, let’s see, I need to think really hard about this because I’m not as smart as they are… can’t they just CREATE A CODE????

WAIT, I know, maybe it’s a computer programming issue. Maybe the computers need the codes to be 5 digits, and all of the digits between 00000 and 99999 have already been assigned. That must be it. We’re out of codes! There are no more! So, medical scientists, you might as well stop doing any research or coming up with new operations and procedures, because when it comes to coding them you are SOL.

Of course I don’t really think that’s the issue, but I can’t comprehend what the issue might actually be. Someone help me out here. How fucking difficult can it be to create a 5-digit number?

The doctor’s office also told me that they won’t schedule any more surgeries until they either have authorization in hand from the insurance company OR the patient signs an agreement up front promising to pay cash for the surgery (at the bargain cash price of $70,000 for each hip). I told them to keep my July date and that yes, I’d pay cash if I had to. Send me the agreement and I'll sign it.

OK, so after this news, I decided it was time for the icing on the cake of my day … looking at my retirement funds and figuring out if I have enough money to pay for this. My retirement funds have taken a huge hit. I guess that should not be news to anyone reading this since I've recently discovered that "I am not the only one feeling the financial pressures." Could the timing for this be any worse? We're in the middle of the worst recession since perhaps the great depression and I need to sell investments?

All three of my retirement vehicles are down, way down, but the good news is that if I cash out right now, the funds I have accumulated as a result of the last 25 years of living frugally so that I can fully fund my retirement will be enough to pay for two surgeries, with a little left over to buy some new underwear. My life savings can get me my PAO. And, by July of next year, who knows, the market may go up!! Or, it may go down and I'll have to forego the underwear!! I have no idea!!

Just when I thought the day could not get any worse, I talked to H.R. at my employer about the logistics for taking a hardship withdrawal from my 401(k). I explained the situation. I told them that I was not pleased with our medical plan's policies. Here, verbatim for your amusement, is their reply.

I'm so sorry---it sounds like a difficult time. {EDITOR'S NOTE: NO KIDDING}
It's true medical plans do not cover all services. The good news is that according to our benchmark surveys, most employers have increased deductibles, premiums and co-pays this year. Our plans have none of these changes this year. While the plans won't cover everything, we're working hard to help you maintain the best coverage possible.”

What, medical plans do not cover all services? No Shit. It’s not like I’m asking them to pay for botox injections, for crying out loud. This is a real surgery, for a real condition, causing real pain and disability. It is not elective. It is not experimental. It is not optional for me.

But thanks guys, thanks for the great news! I’ll sleep so much better at night knowing that my deductibles, premiums and co-pays will not be increasing this year, even though the plan won’t cover everything … in fact, the plan won’t cover ANYTHING that I need, but at least it won't cost me more. And best of all, I GET THE BEST COVERAGE POSSIBLE. Yee haw! Party time! Pardon me while I PUKE and SCREAM and CRY and SWEAR.

It’s all part of that grieving process I’m going through.


Marina said...

I am sorry you have to deal with all this. I have always been curious about the EAP. Was it really helpful? Was it a phone consultation? Will they talk about anything?

Hannah said...

Insurance companies TOTALLY suck. Hang in there and keep pushing. There is always a way to get treatment that you need.

A side note, I'm a ski racer who had a right PAO the end of April. I too have 2 bad legs but my right is the better of the 2. Post-op my quads work fine, it's just that my sensation is really jacked up. I tried to ski (maybe to soon) and I couldn't feel where my hip was. The joint isn't getting the message that the femur is in the proper position now. This surgery isn't optional but really prepare yourself for decreased abilities. I guess being an athlete we have higher expectations of our body and when it doesn't work... well I want answers. Good Luck