Thursday, June 28, 2007

Health update

My parathyroid cancer surgery scheduled for July 19 (see here and here) has been approved by my health insurer at the in-network rate.

This is a huge weight off my soldiers. I faced the prospect of having to pay a considerable sum to cover the out-of-network deductible. Now, that worry is behind me. I can't begin to thank the doctors, surgeons and their staffs who went to bat for me to get me over this hurdle.

For any of my readers in a similar bind, here are the steps that worked for me in dealing constructively with the insurance company. I pass them on for what they're worth:

1) Be kind
2) Be humble
3) Be flexible
4) Be persistent
5) Be patient

I found years ago that screaming at the person on the other end of the line causes far more setbacks than victories. It's counterproductive. People tune out pretty quickly when they're screamed at or made to feel inadequate. Plus, they've got your health care in their hands. They can make things happen, or not.

A wise owl doesn't shit in his own nest, so to speak.

Often, you'll speak with several people at the insurance company and get several conflicting answers.
This is where those five steps come in.

So ...

No more paperwork, nothing else to do but show up at the hospital on the appointed day and hope for the best. Meanwhile, I'm due for a final intravenous infusion of medication next week. I'm looking forward to it because the headaches I'm experiencing are getting more intense and less responsive to Advil, as they do when my serum calcium level reaches a certain point. But the IV drug has some pretty potent side effects of its own. It's a trade-off.
So it goes.
One moment at a time ought to do the trick.


Jean said...

Although it makes me very angry and bitter that you should have to *negotiate* for your health insurance to cover this, I think you are completely right and will try to always remember your advice here.

Michael said...

Hello Jean,

Yes, the way our health-care system is structured, we really have to jump through hoops to get things done. The system has numerous faults, and things will get worse before they get better.

In the past, I would've taken a hard-line approach with the insurance companies in looking after my interests, and would have accomplished little or nothing in the process.

Dealing with these companies has been a learning experience for me.

Mike Cross said...

"Wise old owl"? "Completely right"? I somehow doubt it!

You might as well skip numbers 1) to 5) and just write: Be Buddha.

But in that case, are you advising us to be Buddha for the sake of being Buddha, or are you advising us who are not Buddha to pretend to be Buddha for the sake of getting something that we want?

In the latter case, I am afraid that the person on the other end of the phone is liable to catch a whiff of insincerity.

I'm not doubting your own kindness, humility, et cetera, Michael. Just wishing to express what i have found from years of personal failure: that precepts, even a buddha's precepts, on their own aren't much use.

I think this is why Master Dogen recommended us so keenly to practice sitting-zen.

Anyway, all the very best to you, old owl.

Michael said...

Hi Mike,

No, it's not "Be Buddha." It's more like, "Don't be an asshole." It's about treating someone the same way as I want to be treated. Some call it the Golden Rule. I call it reaping as one sows.

As you imply, people can detect insincerity quite easily. And thus far, I haven't elicited such doubts because I say what I mean. Am I sometimes insincere? Of course. And nine times out of 10, I'm found out. I'm not a very good liar.

Anyway, it is good to have all the paperwork preliminaries out of the way. It makes getting past through and past the surgery so much easier.

EdaMommy said...

Best of luck to you.

Michael said...

Thanks, EdaMommy! I appreciate your good wishes, and also the time you take to convey them.

Anonymous said...

You are wise and you have saved all of us by reminding us how to deal w the bureaucracy.....

Michael said...

Hmmm ... the fact is, I'm not so wise. I just got tired of beating my head against a wall.

Anonymous said...


Just wanted to chime in (finally) after lurking on and off to say hi and thank you for your inspiration, through your words and through your photos. The advice about the insurance companies is especially helpful, as we all know what a pain they can be. Keep that positive attitude going. From one who is also dealing with both personal and family health issues, your brother in solidarity.

Michael said...

Thank you for such kind and powerful thoughts! I in turn wish you good luck in overcoming the problems facing you and yours.

Solidarity can move mountains.