Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Did I write too soon?

A few posts ago I wrote about how delighted I was with certain aspects of my experience with medical professionals in the US. I think I must have jinxed it. It is entirely possible that my most recent experience has been the source of my greatest frustration since I moved here. And it's not over yet.

Let's bring you up to speed. The company that sponsors me for my visa offers a health cover to its employees with its health cover provider for the bargain price of $250 per month. It has been sold to me by my employer as a health cover that is unparalleled in the market due to its *cheap* price (I guess its all relative) and the fact that in network providers tend to have 100% of their fee covered, compared to an average copay of $20 of the fee with other providers.

Sounds good in theory. But as you would expect, there is a catch: who are these in-network providers and how convenient and available are they?

In December I attempted to see a GP before I was to head off for Cancun in a few days. So I consulted the website for my healthcare provider to find a GP that was listed as in network. I must've contacted 15 different GPs on the list and most of them had never heard of my healthcare provider and therefore would not see me. The few that would see me were booked up until January and there were a number of them that didn't answer the phone (how do they stay in business?) or the number was incorrect. By the end of this process I was frustrated to the point of tears and decided to forgo the doctor's visit.

I was amazed that I couldn't get an appointment for another month! How on Earth was I going to be able to see a doctor if and when I had a serious problem that could not wait a month?!? This did not make sense to me. I consulted some friends. It seems that if you are already a patient you could get a more convenient appointment but as a new patient you had to wait. I decided out of frustration to leave the issue for a while until I felt more tenacious and my patience level with this issue was replenished. I knew I would need to tackle this at some point so that when I really needed a doctor I had someone that would see me immediately.

So, almost two weeks ago, when I was speaking with my employer/sponsor, I mentioned the issue I was having with the health cover. He was very empathetic, and promised to take it up with the Insurance Broker. So, a few days later, I spoke with the Insurance Broker about the issue and he offered to provide me with a list of GPs that meet my criteria (female) that had been contacted to confirm that they do indeed cover my health insurance. This was a very nice offer I thought, but I guess the fact that I mentioned I was looking at alternative health covers was a contributing factor :) A couple days later I received a list of 4 female GPs, not all that close to me, but 3-4 stops away on the subway.

So I contacted the first on the list also closest to me. The first doctor on the list had an Asian name and was in 46th street. So I called them, and they gave me a different address on 56th street, further than another doctor on my list, but they were happy to see me in an hour! I admit, the immediate availability of this doctor, especially in comparison to the unavailability of other doctors previously contacted did raise some alarm bells, but I had begun on this path and was determined to see it through.

When I arrived at the address, it was simply a door leading upstairs and I wasn't sure which number to buzz in order for the door to open. Inadequate signage - not a good sign. So I called them and they buzzed me through. I then entered a room that was clearly a former Korean/Japanese restaurant. The former signage was still on the door. The room that I entered was nothing at all like a doctor's office! There were teacups and teapots and other asian wares on display in the room. There was a former bar where you could still see bottles hnging upside down ready to pour. And there were Korean people lounging around the reception area. It was explained to me that this was also a spa, but it didn't even look like that. I surreptitously tooks some photos, because you have to see it to believe it!

I sat there for about 10 minutes before I got the hell out of there! I didn't feel very comfortable putting my health in the hands of someone working out of this space!

I got home and booked an appointment 10 days in advance with a doctor that was not very close to me location-wise, but had a Jewish name which made me feel more comfortable! I guess it's silly for me not to see a Jewish doctor in New York of all places! I haven't had my appointmnet yet but I can't imagine it being worse than my most recent experience!

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