Companies and business with “loyalty programs” seem to abound these days. Purchase 11 large pizzas and get your 12th for free. Pay full price for 10 haircuts and get the 11th free. Fill up your gas tank 5 times and get a discount off your 6th fill-up. Fly x amount of miles and earn a free airline ticket. Buy 12 donuts and get your 13th free. These businesses are encouraging loyalty and rewarding you for your repeat business. The concept makes a great deal of sense—both the business and the patron benefit. I wish my gynecologist’s office worked the same way.
I’ve been looking for a way to get a screening at least partially covered. I started with my OB/Gyn’s office. They said they would charge me full price for an office visit and a breast exam. I explained my insurance situation and explained that I had already had a manual breast exam less than a year ago and that this was for the same lumps, now larger. It didn’t help.
So I asked if there was any way I could speak with my doctor and maybe just get a referral to have a mammogram or an ultrasound—I figured this would at least eliminate one charge. She told me that I could not and said that I would have to come in for a breast exam before I could get a referral. She added that the facility where I would have those services performed would charge me a separate fee for their exam.
I assume that if I go in and spend a couple hundred dollars, I could hear the “You’re too young” explanation again, but judging by how much the lumps and my breast itself have grown, I believe I would be sent to the breast center. Then I would also have the burden of paying for that (much more expensive) visit. When I asked the office’s gatekeeper if she knew of any resources for obtaining assistance with diagnostic visits, she said there weren’t any the office was aware of. I told her, ‘thanks anyway’ and said that I would pass on the office visit and on getting the manual breast exam because paying full price out of pocket would be too much for me. She said okay and added a “Good luck to you.” That was the end of the conversation.
I hung up, feeling defeated. Now, it is not that I expected them to give me a free office visit. I understand that the doctors need to be paid and that the facility has an electricity bill. But I have been a loyal patient for a long time. I had good insurance before, so it’s likely that my doctor and her staff have been fairly compensated for any services performed on me in the past. I have been here many times over the years for my regular check-ups and for issues I’ve had along the way—like multiple bouts with mastitis while I was nursing. And I was seen there and in the hospital quite a few times during my twin pregnancy—at least until the doctors collectively decided I was too ‘high risk’ to continue with their group and moved me over to the perinatology group at the hospital. But after my babies were born, it was their office I faithfully returned to.
I have shared moments of joy and sadness, hugs and tears with my doctor. I encouraged all of the women in my family to change gynecologists and move over to this practice, for goodness sakes! I have been a very loyal patient. Shouldn’t that count for something? Though I don’t expect a free visit, I thought the office might offer some kind of discount or just refer me directly to the breast imaging center to save the expense of an office visit and manual breast exam.
After regrouping, I began calling organizations like Planned Parenthood. They were friendly enough, but no one was able to assist me with getting a mammogram or ultrasound at a discounted rate. Or with getting the referral I need so the breast center will see me. There ARE programs out there to help, but not for someone “as young as me.”
I will still pursue this, but it is Saturday now, so it will have to wait until Monday.
In the meantime, today we are headed to an Easter egg hunt or two with my boys and with my sister, brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew. This should be a nice distraction. My little ones are so excited to spend the morning with their cousins. I guess they aren’t exactly little ones anymore. They are 5, so they aren’t that young, but since they are only in the 2nd and 3rd percentile for height and weight, they are still physically small. But something tells me that even if they were 6’3”, they would still be my little boys.
I am looking forward to a special day with the kids. But in the back of my mind I am concerned. What will I do if this really is something? And by something, I mean “the big C.” Having no insurance makes you feel like a leper of sorts. A leper with cancer, now who is going to take that on? I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. These are likely just benign lumps—statistically, they should be “nothing”, so I am probably okay.
But what if I’m not? They don’t have a frequent flier card for this. If my own doctor won’t work with me when I have a true medical problem, why would a doctor who doesn’t know me?