Health Care Hurdles

Health Care is good here in Minnesota if you can get over the hurdles.  I have experienced difficulties in access and expenses. 

In spite of paying for Part B Medicare, and an additional Health Partners monthly premium, almost every encounter with the health care system involves added costs, even for a phone conversation or e-mail with a doctor!  So, while the top brass of the so-called non-profits are handsomely compensated, the patients are nickel-and-dimed and the lowest tier of medical helpers, i.e. the people who answer phones, are laid off. 

A recent experience illustrates the welcoming and unwelcoming features of our healthcare system.  A medical issue cropped up on a Saturday night.  These things always seem to happen outside of office hours.  I worried that I would not be able to get timely advice.  My experience with the helpline is that–although nice and well-intentioned—the nurses only know about the most common conditions, medications, etc.  So they can’t be of much help.  They would probably advise me to go to an urgent care center.  I did not want to do that, unless absolutely necessary, due to inconvenience, expense, and the potential exposure to Covid-19 in the waiting room.  So I rejected the idea of calling the helpline.

Also, I had an infusion scheduled for the following Tuesday morning.  I did not know if I should cancel the appointment, due to this new symptom, or go to my infusion appointment and possibly be turned away.  I have seen that happen to other patients.  The infusions cost me over $400 per dose, out of pocket, and I did not want to be charged for a missed appointment.  (I don’t know if I would have been charged, or not, but that was a concern.)  Also, the doses are given at specific intervals, and I did not want to have to reschedule, because the appointments can be hard to reschedule.  So I felt it was imperative to get advice from my gastroenterologist, or her nurse, at least 24-hours in advance of the appointment, which left me only a two-hour window on Monday morning to get in contact.  This I failed to do.  I called numerous phone numbers, was frustrated by a phone-tree that did not give me the option I wanted and spent over 10-minutes on hold before I was able to leave a message for my doctor’s office. 

The nurse did call me back but, in the interim, I had decided to cancel my appointment and take a chance with rescheduling.  The nurse calmed me down and was very nice and knowledgeable.  She encouraged me to go ahead with the infusion and I was able to reschedule it.  So all was well. 

when I recounted my experience to the infusion nurse, she told me that having trouble getting through on the phone was the most common complaint she heard from patients.  She said that when Health Partners did cost-cutting, due to COVID expenses, they laid off the clerical staff who had answered and routed the phone calls.  That nurse also was extremely nice and professional.  I’ve almost always had good interactions with doctors and nurses.  It is just the difficulty of accessing health care and the expense that bothers me.

P.S. A good book helps pass the time during a two-hour infusion. For more on The Lost Girls of Paris, Northernmost, or any other book, see https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39816076-the-lost-girls-of-paris.

A good book helps pass the time
A new acquisition to read soon

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