The first step is the hardest

Pictured: Again, not medicine.
Pictured: Again, not medicine.

I didn’t mention this when I posted last week’s column, but it wasn’t what I had intended to submit for the newspaper.

I wrote that on the Thursday night before Friday’s deadline, and churned it out in about 45 minutes. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a column idea until then; I just wasn’t happy with the other one I’d put together the night before.

The original submission was based largely off this post, in which I bemoaned how tentative I’ve been in being a grown-up, biting the bullet and setting myself up as a patient of a doctor’s practice, just in case I ever need treatment.

I scrapped the column mostly because I felt it didn’t go anywhere, and also because it wasn’t really grounded in Maine or anything recent. Well, that definitely changed.

I took my first tentative steps towards establishing myself as a patient on Wednesday morning, because I wanted to see a doctor about a non-urgent thing that I have no real reason to elaborate upon. Y’all don’t need to know all my secrets, after all.

Wednesday is my weekday off gym, so I had set aside those few hours before work to sorting my healthcare out and possibly (wishful thinking) securing an appointment. It would be a quick check-up, so I was hopeful.

What I didn’t expect was that I’d get a complete runaround. The office of the doctor I’d nominated to my insurance company as my primary care physician – an extremely vital piece of the puzzle if you want your insurance to, you know, pay for anything – told me that I wasn’t eligible for an appointment until they’d received my medical records from my previous physician. The one in Australia.

I made the receptionist very aware of the fact that obtaining my records from back home was likely to be a wild goose chase, and since they wouldn’t be treating an issue that had anything to do with my history, did it really matter? She held firm and said that if my records hadn’t arrived after “three to four weeks, we can probably just schedule for then.”

Like I said, it wasn’t an urgent issue by any means, but I certainly didn’t want to put off seeing a doctor for an indeterminate length of time that could be up to a month. I told the girl on the phone that it would be faster for me to fly home and be treated by a doctor there. She didn’t have much response to that.

To put it lightly, I left the conversation unimpressed, then proceeded to cold-call a handful of other practices in the area to see whether they could get me in. I couldn’t believe my ears when I found that each of them went to a voicemail, at 11:00 a.m. on a weekday. This is a town where there’s seemingly more medical practices than restaurants, yet evidently no one works in them.

By the time I had to leave for work, I was livid, and frankly a little scared. For the first time since I moved here, I genuinely felt like I was utterly helpless and in way over my head. Snow, ice, driving tests, learning the lingo? None of those seemed like difficult or particularly harrowing challenges, when faced with something that involved my wellbeing.

I relayed said frustration in the afternoon meeting, and one of my coworkers said it sounded like a column idea. I then realized that what I’d written for last weekend was suddenly relevant and Maine-centric, so it wasn’t a waste of 1,000+ words at all.

Despite finding fresh column material – something I’m never upset about – my frustration continued into Thursday, when I remained luckless with getting a human being on the phone. I was set to give up when I got a call from a friend here who’s in the healthcare industry, who imparted some wisdom on me and promised to try and pull some strings if I had no luck.

Thankfully I managed to land myself an appointment an hour before work this afternoon, although not at the office of my nominated primary care physician. This is a problem in and of itself, because it causes billing hassles between that practice, the nominated clinic and my insurance provider. Jesus Christ.

I was extremely grateful to all the staff at the clinic I visited, because they could clearly see how wound up I was about the whole process. All I could do was laugh when the receptionist told me how much I owed if the insurance company wouldn’t cough up (read: bullshit expensive for what it was), but at least my mind was put at ease with regards to the health side of things.

As I wrote in that blog post last week, healthcare was one of the things I basically just overlooked when I moved here, but it appears to be just as ugly as everyone from both here and outside the U.S. makes it out to be. And I say that before I’ve figured out how to pay the bill.

It’s a good incentive to live well and stay healthy though, I’ve gotta say.

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