Full spectrum

Clayton, NY, by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I visited the eye doctor yesterday, capping off a week which had me at a different doctor each day – Monday, Dr P; Tuesday, shrink; Wednesday, GP; Thursday, dermatologist; Friday, ophthalmologist. It takes a village. A village with a good scheduler.

My eye doctor, Dr. D, said he’d spoken at length with my retina specialist (they work at a clinic together once a week) about me. Nice to know I’m being talked about. Though I’d prefer it be in more entertaining circles. I continue to be an interesting case.

Dr. D tested my vision, covering my glasses with tape on one side, instead of the eye shade his assistant usually uses. My left eye, the one with the swollen retina, with which I’ve been unable to read for weeks, showed a lot of improvement. I was able to get within two lines of 20/20, and actually able to guess pretty well the last two lines. Exciting! I thought I’d noticed some improvement, but it takes a professional to prove it to you. I suppose I’ve found my ways of compensating in the meantime.

It was a good way to end the week, because the afternoon before I had spent over an hour on the phone with our medical insurance, trying to unravel why a refill of the steroid eye drops I’ve been using for weeks and which I’ve refilled a couple of times already, were suddenly costing $120 instead of $10.

First, I spoke with a woman who was unpleasant and gave me wrong information. She then transferred me to someone who seemed more promising in terms of getting me an answer, but before she transferred me, she demanded to know whether she had helped me. I gave her an earful, and she actually argued with me about my assessment.

I was transferred to a much sunnier and more capable of empathy operator whose oft-repeated phrase was “I’m sorry, I know this is frustrating” – which was better than her predecessor’s, “Bear with me” (followed by another five minutes of blaring music on hold). But Ms Empathy did no better at solving my problem, and I eventually hung up because I started sobbing and couldn’t stop. Reduced to tears by incompetence – now that was an unwelcome first for me. And the fact that it sat a lead weight on me for the rest of the day was also not great.

Yesterday, while in the waiting room at Dr. D’s, I defied the No Cell Phones sign and decided to have a rematch with the insurance people (it also drowned out the awful pop radio). I was armed with a printout from my pharmacy, and was not going to back down until they fixed things. Again it took almost an hour (good thing that’s how long you wait to see Dr. D), but I emerged victorious. But was I actually victorious, if I had to spend more than two hours of my life getting the insurance company to admit their mistake, and the process made me miserable?

When I finally went to pick up my correctly-priced eye drops, I commented on my ordeal to the pharmacy clerk (who now seems to know my name). She said I’d be surprised at the number of people who would have just paid $120 for a 15 ml bottle of eye drops. This makes me crazy. But also perhaps a little grateful that right now, fighting this sort of fight is my full time job. I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of job satisfaction, but it will have to do for now. 

2 thoughts on “Full spectrum

  1. You are victorious in that all this ordeal that you had to go through will make it easier for other patients, hopefully. I wish you didn’t have to shed your precious tears on the whole thing though.


    1. I think part of the reason for my frustration in this case is, I actually won’t have helped anyone else. The insurance company saw this as an anomaly, fixed it behind the scenes with no real explanation of why it happened, and that means it can happen again, infinitely, to millions of other people. And it does, every day. Sickening!


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