Friday, March 23, 2007

MORE FUN WITH MANAGED CARE. Two Saturdays ago Jacqueline and I flew home from a vacation to Phoenix and Las Vegas, a vacation that started with her being sick and ended with my being very sick (I came down with something the second we landed in Las Vegas, so there was a lot of me staying in bed while she lost money -- very "Lost in America").

As the plane descended, my eustachian tubes did that thing they do when planes descend -- that thing that a lot of people have trouble with but which I can always clear up simply by starting to yawn. Well, I yawned, and my ears stayed blocked. And stayed blocked. And stayed blocked. I did some research and found that you're supposed to get help if the blockage persists for more than two hours, and so I called my doctor's office first thing Monday the 12th, and I got a same-day appointment. She gave me drugs for the head cold that she thought would fix the ears as well, and she told me to come back in a week if things were still stopped up.

The cold symptoms went away this week, but the ears stayed blocked, and so I called for another appointment yesterday. My doctor was booked up, but the office squeezed me in with another doctor. He prescribed steroids (steroids that leave a yucky taste in my mouth but which I hope will help my tennis rise to Mariano Puerta-Guillermo Canas heights) and referred me to an otolaryngologist. I muttered the usual "What about my insurance?" question and he told me to check the coverage and call right back. Ask for him and he'll get a referral faxed over. (Ask for him? You can do that?)

Well, the ENT doctor does indeed take my insurance, and I was able to get an appointment for next Thursday. I called my primary-care physician's office and asked for the doctor who told me to ask for him, but they said he was seeing patients. So I left a message.

This morning I was awakened by a phone call from a woman asking how I wanted that referral delivered. I told her about the doctor's plan to fax the referral to the specialist, and she seemed puzzled. (Wasn't he supposed to take care of this?) "Do you have the specialist's fax nubmer?" Um, no, the faxing part wasn't my idea. I told her the doctor probably knew it, but she still seemed puzzled. All right, then, mail it to me. Whatever.

This afternoon at 1:25 I was in the shower and heard the phone ring. When I got out, there was a very snotty message from the referral guy saying he had no idea why I wanted this referral and asking me to call him back. (If he didn't know the reason, how did he know I needed the referral?) I called back immediately and got a recording saying the office was closed until 1:30 for lunch.

At 1:31 I got through and was told the referral coordinator had gone home for the day. But, but, but ...?

The receptionist offered to help me, and so I tried to contain my exasperation as I explained the whole affair.

"Do you have the specialist's fax number?"

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