01 July, 2011

Venting Frustration: Mental Health

I think Jake might need to go back on a medication to help him concentrate at school, and be able to sit down for dinner, which he can no longer do unless he is in his wheelchair. He stopped taking the previous meds in the fall, after several weeks of behavior that did not dictate further use of the medication, but before the next round of school I think he should be evaluated... so I put in a request with his psychiatrist at the medical foundation we visit; a place about which I usually have lots of good things to say.

In response to my request for a morning appointment any time between now and the end of ages, I got an email back, saying that since it had been over a year we needed to contact the Intake Coordinator via the website or by phone. The visit to their website didn't take me any further in the process.

So I called them, and was told that we need to do a "patient intake."

Fantastic! She asked for all of our insurance information, and verified our billing address, and my husband's ID numbers. And I got to hear about how the doctor we've seen for five years is going to be an out-of-pocket expense, and of course I know that because it is very expensive to go to an out-of-network doctor; but he is worth it. This guy knows his stuff, and more importantly he knows my kid.

But wait!  As it turns out, Jake's 'regular' doctor is no longer accepting 'new patients' because we are now considered a new patient. I can call back in three weeks and see if he has opened his practice to 'new patients', and continue the intake process. Even though we have seen this doctor six or seven times in the last five years (more than he's seen his dentist or his neurologist), we get to start over.

Oh, and because we are a new patient we get to pay over $500 for a 1-1 1/2 hour parent/child visit, then several hundred more for a 45 minute patient only visit... good luck with that one. And as a reminder, I may not leave a child under the age of 13 unsupervised in the waiting room. Acknowledged.

And, this was just the first phone call before I can even schedule that appointment. Next comes the call from the other half of intake coordination... asking all of the medical history part, except it might be a short call since he's been seen here already. Well that's nice.

So are we a new patient? A kind of medium-old patient? We're like a 'restored' patient maybe? We saw the doctor 20 months ago. If I had made an appointment 8 months ago.. just to "check in", even though we didn't really need to,  it would have cost us $150, and we could just make another appointment with him now for another $150.

This is not about the money for me really though. I am just sad and frustrated, because dammit this life is hard enough already.... why else would I be calling them? At what point in this process are they taking care of the mental health of my child (or me for that matter?) How many phone calls before I can schedule an appointment? How many hoops?

But let this be a public service announcement: If you want to keep seeing your very-important-to-your-health doctor when you need to, ask what their policy is on how often you must be seen to remain an active client. If the doctor has a wait list, chances are they have some awesome policy like this one. Let me tell you how much I wish I had just sent them $150 bucks last year.

Okay then. I cannot take care of this any more today or my head will pop off. I already said the f-word in a conversation with my parents, so that tells ya where I am with it all.

and now I will return to my regularly scheduled packing for a wonderful weekend in Tahoe. We will be adding brandy to the sangria tonight. Have a lovely weekend friends.

an update: the office staff called me Friday afternoon late and we decided she would contact the doctor to get an exception. The phone call I received this morning 7/5 confirmed that the the practice is still closed and I can try in three weeks to see if there is an opening, or start over with the other doctor (who is also out of network... no thanks.)

I am not going to fight this one because I can't have a doctor/patient relationship with a provider who shows this kind of disregard; my son's appointments take approximately 35 minutes once a year. We pay $150 for this privilege. It's time to start looking for a new doctor.

I will not slander the medical abilities of this doctor because he has been extremely helpful in the past, however I will not be recommending him in the future.
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