There’s nothing that promotes the grinding of your own teeth quite like dealing with a health insurance company.
Yesterday, the wife ran out of blood sugar test strips, and we had to pick up some more from our local pharmacy. Normally this isn’t much of a big deal – her doctors want to make sure that her blood sugar remains under a certain threshold to limit the possibilities of birth complications, as excess blood sugar levels during pregnancy can be bad for a developing fetus. Since we found out she was pregnant, her doctors want her to control her type II diabetes with insulin instead of oral medication, so the wife checks her blood sugar several times a day, writes down her numbers, and then we fax it in to her endocrinologist. If her numbers are high, she gets a call from the doctor’s office with instructions on how to adjust her insulin dosage; in other words, she needs to test her blood sugar constantly to make sure our child develops safely. Unfortunately the wife’s insurance company doesn’t seem to understand how important this is, as it’s been a constant fight to get them to sign of on the things she needs to test her blood sugar – yesterday we had to pay out of pocket for her blood testing strips because her insurer wouldn’t agree to pay for any more this month.
Now this wouldn’t have been much of a problem if the blood sugar meter she received from her insurer didn’t use test strips that cost an arm and a leg. $30 for 25 test strips may not sound terrible, but when you’re checking your blood sugar three times a day is barely over a week’s worth of strips – at this rate we’d have to shell out around $100 to stock up for the rest of the month, which is most likely when the wife’s insurer would agree to pay for a few more test strips themselves. Of course, that doesn’t take into account that eventually this month the wife will run out of lancets as well – those little pigstickers for drawing enough blood to test with a glucose strip – and like every other time we’ve gone to the pharmacist, it was like pulling teeth to get them to pay for more than just a handful of lancets despite the fact that she’s diabetic, is carrying a child, and has been told – by her doctors – to test her blood sugar levels on a very rigorous schedule.
This isn’t the first time the wife’s insurance company has messed with her. In fact it’s a rarity when one of her prescriptions doesn’t need a pre-authorization, that bizarre bit of red tape that makes a written prescription more or less useless, as an insurance company will hold her medication ransom until her doctor’s office calls them up and tells them, “no, really, she needs this stuff.” Of course, it doesn’t help when the doctor’s office can’t get in contact with someone from the insurance company – because, unlike medical professionals, insurance companies aren’t open on holidays and weekends – and sometimes the wife ends up having to go quite a few days or sometimes even a week without getting a prescription refilled. However, between all of the wife’s medical issues, this means that she regularly has to cope with not just having the medication she needs to function on a day-to-day level but also has to cope with withdrawal symptoms and side effects once the last of her medication leaves her system, which makes her life absolutely miserable.
Dealing with all this can be incredibly frustrating for both the wife and myself. For the most part, we’ve adopted a ‘”grin and bear it” approach” when it comes to the vagaries of her insurance company – it’s not like I make anywhere near enough to afford even the generic versions of her medications out of pocket – but now her insurer isn’t just messing with my wife, it’s messing with our unborn child as well. It’s one thing to drag your feet on authorizing certain medications for chronic conditions, but it’s quite another to give someone trouble over necessary medical equipment meant to safeguard the health of not just one life, but two; without those test strips and lancets, my wife can’t test her blood sugar, which prevents her doctors from receiving enough information to monitor her glucose levels and adjust her insulin dosage. This in turn could lead to a host of birth complications, up to and including preeclampsia.
The problem is that no one at the insurance company cares more than they’re legally obligated to about my wife’s health, nor do they even know who she is besides a collection of medical data. She’s a cost/benefit ratio, not a living, breathing human being, and the insurance company makes arbitrary decisions based on financial criteria instead of what’s best for her and our unborn daughter. They don’t know how much misery she’s in whenever she has to deal with her medical issues without the aid of her prescriptions – nor do they particularly care – and they certainly don’t seem to think much of the risks that go along with gestational diabetes, based on their decision to not cover more than a handful of necessary blood testing equipment every month.
Watching my wife being treated this way by the health insurance industry is absolutely infuriating, made worse only by the fact that there’s not much to be done. Yes, we could switch insurers, but there’s no guarantee that an alternative choice would treat her any differently. In this instance, it’s a case of “go with the devil you know,” which is about as palatable as eating rotten garbage.