Monday, December 6, 2010

New Patient

I have had the same General Practitioner for the past 15 or so years. I loved him. I rarely went in because I'm rarely sick, but he's been straight with me every time I've needed him to be. I credit him with me getting my diabetes life back in order.
December 1st his office closed. He has moved into a different kind of care and is no longer going to have an office. I didn't think a whole lot about it because I figured I'd go pick up my records and switch doctors sometime after the new year.

I'm never sick. I've not had more than a cold in almost 3 years. But this weekend I got hit hard. Bronchitis and a fever got me. I knew I needed to see a doctor, so I went into work for long enough to reschedule my appointments at work and started calling around town.

Every single office that I called said the same thing: It would be 1 to 2 weeks for a new patient. I'm sick. I need care now.

On my insurance, my ER co-pay is $75 and the closest walk-in or urgent care clinic is almost an hour away and it was snowing all day. So I opted to call the new doctor in town. I really didn't want to go to him (for reasons I won't discuss online) but I was desperate.

Anyway, I went in and ended up with a shot and some anti-biotics. I'm already feeling better, though still not great. And let me tell you, shots HURT! My hip is still sore. And despite the fact that I have good health insurance, the office requires all new patients to pay $50. I don't pay co-pays. I only pay 20%. But yet I had to pay $50 upfront.

My annoyance with the day, however, is that no one would see me without a wait time of several weeks. I wasn't sick enough to go to the emergency room. I'm not a "doctor hopper". I wasn't wanting pain pills or other narcotics. But everyone said "one to two weeks".

How is that fair to people who are honestly sick? People like me, who's PCP has left town or the office has closed. Or people who are new to an area and haven't had a chance to get a new doctor yet? How is that good medical care?


tmana said...

I have been led to understand that traditionally, doctors would leave some slack time in their schedules to be able to see urgent cases, tend to emergencies, and spend time with patients who would require a bit more time than the standard appointment slot (for example, new patients for whom the doctor needs to establish baseline information).

Today, health insurance companies and Medicaid/Medicare force doctors to double- and triple-book just to hit the required number of patients per day for the insurance companies to keep agreeing to pay them and to be able to keep their heads above water financially. This has all but cut out the "slack time" built into the doctor's schedule and requires him (or her) to set aside additional time to get a new patient "settled in" to the practice -- something that, unfortunately, cannot easily be done "on the fly".

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry you were sick, but I am glad you are feeling better.
This is not fair at all!!!!
Regardless of the lack of fairness, I have experienced the same kind of situation. I am now a little paranoid and have multiple doctors that I see, just to make sure I have back up. I guess that is a little paranoid. If you think of a good solution, let us know.
Wishing you lots of good health and fast healing.

Jami said...

This is the exact reason I ended up not going to the doctor for my gall bladder. Well, that and me not having insurance at the time. I know better know. I was told in January that i would have to wait until March to be seen. MARCH!
I hope you feel better soon!