Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Strategies and alternatives for coping with fibromyalgia, bipolar disorder and other chronic illnesses

Who Can You Trust with your Healthcare?

Posted by wendyburnett on January 29, 2010


Who can you trust with your health? For those who are healthy, that isn’t much of an issue. Almost any doctor is capable of treating a cold, a cut, or a sprained ankle without making you sicker. For those of us with chronic health issues, this is a more important question, whether we realize it or not.

I spent years assuming anyone with a medical degree could be trusted to do what was best for my health, until my ex-husband switched our insurance plan to an HMO because it was cheaper than the other options. Of course, my regular doctor wasn’t on “the list,” so we picked someone new, just because he was convenient.

It didn’t take long to discover that if what was best for me conflicted with what was best for his wallet, the wallet was going to win, hands down. The first hint was the fact that he kept wanting to take me off of medications I was on, or switch them to something cheaper, even though at that time the copay was the same no matter how much the medication cost. This was right about the time that Prilosec was introduced, and one of my other docs had given me a month’s supply of samples to try for my GERD. It was the first thing I had ever taken that actually did any good. (I’d tried Tagamet, which did nothing; then had switched to a combination of Zantac, Reglan, and some huge horse pill looking thing; but I was still eating a bottle of 150 extra strength antacids a week.) When I got near the end of the Prilosec, I went to the new doc to get another script, and he refused to give it to me.

That made me a bit suspicious, and I started doing a bit of research. I found out that the particular HMO I was in gave their doctors a bonus at the end of the year, and that the size of the bonus depended on a number of factors; such as the number of prescriptions written, whether those scripts were for generics or name brand meds, how many referrals they gave to specialists, how many lab tests they ordered, etc. The fewer prescriptions and referrals a doctor handed out, and the fewer name brand meds they wrote scripts for when they DID write a script, the larger their bonus at the end of the year. In other words, the doctors were paid more NOT to treat their patients, or to give them the absolute minimum treatment possible.

Not long after that, I decided to go back to school, and was required to get the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine to be admitted. I got the first shot (it’s a two part thing) and immediately had a severe reaction. The joints in my hands swelled immensely, and throbbed horribly, so back to my doctor I went. Once again, he refused to give me a prescription, claiming it was because I didn’t NEED one. Instead, he gave me samples of a new anti-inflammatory. When I got home and read the insert, I discovered that the medication was not recommended for acute pain, and could take up to three weeks to begin having any effect at all.

That was the last straw for me, and I immediately called the insurance company and changed doctors, getting an appointment with the new doc just a few days later. The new doctor did bloodwork and wrote me a prescription for some medication that would actually do me some good. When the results of the lab tests came back, we discovered that the MMR had triggered a huge rise in rheumatiod factor (in other words, I had rheumatoid arthritis.)

That’s when I learned that not all the people that you should be able to trust with your healthcare can be trusted. There have been more betrayals of my trust since then, but I have learned that when it comes to my health, I shouldn’t trust anyone until they earn it.

I’ve learned that anyone that minimizes my symptoms, accuses me of faking, or tries to tell me that my treatment choices are “wrong” can’t be trusted to be supportive or do what is best for my health. That is not to say that someone who suggests new options for me to consider shouldn’t be trusted, but if they try to pressure me into something I immediately put them on the “doubtful” list until I figure out if they’re doing it because they really believe it will help or because it will benefit them in some way.

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6 Responses to “Who Can You Trust with your Healthcare?”

  1. “. . . doctors were paid more NOT to treat their patients, or to give them the absolute minimum treatment possible.”

    Welcome to managed care. I hate that sh*t.

    • Ginny –

      Me TOOOOO! The insurance companies don’t give a sh*t about anything except saving money and making a profit, and will do ANYTHING to prevent having to pay on a claim. Hubby cut off the tip of his finger on a saw a couple of years back, and the health insurance company refused to pay the ER bill because they said that it was an accident and the homeowner’s was responsible. Of course, the homeowner’s folks said it was the responsibility of the health insurance, because THEY only covered stuff that happened to OTHER people on our property. It was a hell of a mess.

  2. One of the other lessons I learned years ago – and have been re-learning recently – is that certain chronic conditions are simply dismissed by many doctors. So, if you need to change doctors (yours retires or moves to another practice and you are passed along to the replacement), they are often less familiar with such things as sleep disorders, chronic fatigue, fibro, etc. They rule out major diseases (again), tell you you’re fine, anad send you on your way.

    This isn’t the first time or the second or even the third this has happened to me; I doubt it will be the last. What an extraordinary waste of time, money and prolongation of stress, distress, inability to work, and outright pain. And then the search for a “savvy” doctor starts again, after you’ve hauled around to reclaim your medical records. And you hope you find a doctor in your network, such as it is. And who will ask questions and actually listen. I believe that is part of the diagnostic process, after all.

    Never dull. . .

    • Yes, yes, yes. It happens all the time when you have to change doctors. I’ve got a list of questions I ask every new doc on the first visit, and if I don’t like their answers, they’re history. I have way too much to deal with already, and DON’T need a doctor telling me there’s nothing wrong with me that an antidepressant or stress reduction won’t fix. I had one tell me that the only thing wrong with me was depression, and I totally went off on him with, “of course I’m depressed you stupid mother f**ker, I’m in constant pain and have idiots like you telling me there’s nothing wrong with me!” Needless to say, I never saw him again. (I’m sure he was just as happy about that as I was, too.)

      Convincing a new doc you aren’t just looking for pain meds isn’t easy, either. They all seem to think that everyone that complains of pain is just a junkie looking for a fix of some sort, and want to give you crap that you’ve already tried, and KNOW doesn’t work.

  3. LA said

    Wow. Just wow. This is an important post. I think most of us trust people with M.D.s implicitly. After years of working with doctors (editing articles written by them), I believe that most really do have their patients’ best interest at heart. That said, other things do come into play. I won’t list them all; that would take forever. But I will note one thing: They’re not always right. And if they’re a doctor-to-the-stars or a wannabe celebrity, especially watch out. Good for you for taking matters into your own hands.

    • Thanks. I’d like to think that the majority of healthcare workers have their patients’ best interests at heart, but my experience has made me rather cynical. I didn’t talk about the gynecologist that gave me a “choice” of whether to treat precancerous cervical changes with birthcontrol pills or surgery, then INSISTED I take the pills even when I told him that they gave me migraines (I took them for two days, had a migraine for a week and told him to schedule the surgery or I’d find someone who would – his revenge was to send me home from the hospital with pain pills I’m allergic to and refuse to replace the script with something I could take;) or the gastroenterologist who said he couldn’t treat me unless I lost 30 pounds because I was “too fat” (I was about 20 pounds overweight at the time – I thanked him for telling me he was incompetent and changed doctors.) Then there was the rheumatologist that said that I don’t have arthritis, only fibromyalgia, even though 3 other rheumatologists have diagnosed arthritis; and the misogynistic breast doctor that wanted to remove my nipple because I had an abscess that he claimed would never heal if he didn’t (I went home and got rid of the abscess with natural remedies within a week.)

      And then there were the dozens of IV techs that refused to listen to me when I told them that you can’t PUT an IV in my hand, the only place I have veins large enough to handle a needle are in my forearm (I’ve been having needles poked in my veins for 50 years, I SHOULD know what works and what doesn’t,) the ones who insist on trying to take blood from my left arm, even though in 50 years only 2 people have been able to do it; or the multiple other folks who have told me, “that doesn’t hurt, quit complaining.” (Honey, I broke my tailbone in 3 places and never took a day off work or took a single pain pill, if I say something hurts, IT F**KING HURTS. Now get out and send someone in that knows how to do this.)

      It took me a very long time, but I’ve finally learned to stand up for myself when dealing with medical personnel. Usually I’m polite about it, but in some situations, polite just plain doesn’t work.

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