Monday, October 8, 2007

Thank you for the 'opportunity'

It's chemotherapy time again so I'm already in a bad mood, but today I'm doubly aggravated because once again I need to hold the hands of the stupid health-care industry to make sure I get my stupid drugs.

Before we left for LA I met with my oncologist (actually the nurse practitioner, Jennifer) and was cleared for another month of chemotherapy. The new cycle would have started on that Saturday or the following Monday, which would have been a week ago today. But since we were going to be out of town Jennifer said it was cool for me to delay it a week. OK, so far so good.

The way this routine works, or is supposed to, is that Jennifer calls my prescription in to Caremark, the big mail-order pharmacy that my insurance company insists on using for this very expensive drug. Caremark then calls me to confirm and set up a delivery time, and then a day or two later I get the drugs.

Except for three months running now I've never received the confirmation call, and I've had to track down the order, wade through phone jail, wait on hold, get the offending parties to talk to each other and then wait, again, for a confirmation call and eventually the drugs. Both the pharmacy and the University of Washington neurology clinic have denied responsibility and blamed the other party for the communication breakdown. It's like having third-graders for brain surgeons.

If it didn't have the one mitigating benefit of postponing the noxious treatment slightly this monthly song and dance would be a total pain in my ass.

When we left off, Jennifer was to call in my new order to Caremark, with instructions to deliver to my house, same address, and to leave it on the porch without me signing for it. That way, when we returned from Los Angeles I could start the cycle, on Sunday (last night) I was figuring. But we got back to a week's worth of mail, a couple of stray newspapers, Michelle's macro lens from Amazon, but no drugs.

So I just called Caremark (which is on speed dial, by now). Yes, the woman said, our records show we made a delivery to you on August 29th. Right, I said, that was last month's cycle. No, she said, we haven't received a new order, but you can call your doctor and talk to them.

I explained how the system has worked in the past and complained that I've had to call Caremark for three months running now, instead of the other way around.

"Well, sir," the phone woman said, "we have a lot of patients and unfortunately we don't always have time to call each and every one of them. You always have the option of calling us a week before your prescription runs out and we can get a head-start on refilling it."

Right, I said, except it's not a prescription that "runs out," it's a monthly cycle that requires a monthly visit to my doctor to determine whether it's going to be renewed and, if so, at what dosage.

I'm not nearly as cool as Michelle during these annoying phone confrontations. She gets the scary calm voice. Me, I get sarcastic. Look, I said, I'm over here with brain cancer ingesting poison pills every month and paying you guys a lot of money for the pleasure of doing it. It doesn't seem like I should be the one calling everyone to make sure they can do their jobs.

"Yes," she said, "but we have a lot of patients and unfortunately we don't always have time to call each and every one of them. In my experience it's best that you as the patient have the opportunity to call us a week ahead of time."

Argh!

On the other hand, who am I to judge? Maybe she had a brainectomy herself, and she had to take this stupid job because she was about to lose her disability insurance. It's enough to make you want to marry some Canadian dude, Jeanne Sather-style, and leave this ridiculous system behind.

6 comments:

kateco said...

make the pie higher

Mark said...

ha! that made me smile. thank you, kateco.

i'm a pitbull on the pantleg of grumpiness.

michelle said...

hehehe

Rita said...

John 11:35.

At least you're still able to find some humor in it. Just listening to that telephone litany made me crazy. Like you, scary calm escapes me at such times.

Your remark about third-grader brain surgeons made me think of Tony. He's always said he wanted to be a brain surgeon. He's 9 now, maybe he's ready.

Hang in there, Mark.

On other fronts - you're fast approaching the one million mark.

Rita said...

John 11:35.

At least you're still able to find some humor in it. Just listening to that telephone litany made me crazy. Like you, scary calm escapes me at such times.

Your remark about third-grader brain surgeons made me think of Tony. He's always said he wanted to be a brain surgeon. He's 9 now, maybe he's ready.

Hang in there, Mark.

On other fronts - you're fast approaching the one million mark.

Rita said...

Told you it made me crazy!

If I knew how to erase one of these I would.