Monday, March 1, 2010

being pregnant without health insurance is terrifying

When I lost my health insurance late January, I tried not to worry too much.  I thought everything was going to be fine.  At least because I am pregnant.  If not for me, for my baby.  We take care of our pregnant ladies, right?

Turns out getting medical attention is more difficult than I thought.

I went to the local community clinic and asked about applying for Medi-Cal in early February.  I filled out some paperwork and was told I'd get notification in the mail within 7-10 days of my appointment with a Medi-Cal worker.  So I waited.  Nothing came in the mail.

I had a scare a week ago: spotting and cramping.  (Hey I'm a first-timer give me a break for being paranoid.)  Everything I read says, "Contact your practitioner!"  But I have no practitioner.  Nobody will touch you when you're uninsured.  So what was I supposed to do?  I went back to the community clinic and they didn't even bother with me, saying I'd have to go to the E.R. since they don't even have an ultrasound machine in-house.

But E.R. visits are nothing to sneeze at, financially.  So my sister recommended an urgent care that only charges $120 for a visit.

I was seen by a doctor.  He examined my cervix and said everything looked okay: it was closed.  Good news!  But then when they took out the Doppler, he couldn't really find the baby's heartbeat.  He looked high and low for a LONG time.  I was on my back, my belly covered in clear goo, and worried.

After all the looking, the doctor told me I needed to be seen by an obstetrician soon to make sure everything was okay.  He said I should have an ultrasound just to be sure.

Well, easier said than done.

On Monday I had to figure out my Medi-Cal situation.  I called the clinic where I had begun my application and they informed me that it had never been processed.  It had just been sitting there for two weeks.  I was not getting an appointment confirmation in the mail.

So I decided to go to the county Human Services building and apply there.  I figured they would probably be able to tell me how to get medical care while I waited for my Medi-Cal application was approved.  After all, I'd heard that benefits were 3 months retro-active and that there was "emergency" Medi-Cal I might be able to use.

Three hours at the Human Services resulted in: 1) An application for Medi-Cal.  That I would send in the mail. 2) Being told there is no emergency Medi-Cal.  Well, there is, but that's just for abortions or something.  3) There's something called Presumptive Eligibility that I might be able to see a doctor with.

Next step: Try to find a doctor that'll take me under Presumptive Eligibility for Medi-Cal.

But when I started research on Presumptive Eligibility, it was kind of like a snake eating its own tail.  The Medi-Cal website told me to ask my doctor if they'd accept P.E.  I called.  They didn't.  The website had a P.E. hotline number.  I called.  It was just recordings and directed me back to the website.  Okay.  The website then said my county's health department or perinatal health coordinator could give me a list of P.E. providers.  The county health department's website did not have any information.  Through some Google magic, I found the Kern County perinatal health coordinator's phone number and called her.  What did she tell me?  I could go to the community clinic.  Remember that place that didn't process my application and turned me away when I asked to see a doctor?  The same.

So we went back there.  This time thinking I just need to walk in there and tell them I'm pregnant and I need to see a doctor.  We were sent to somebody's office; I explained to her my entire situation, including the urgent care visit and my need to see an obstetrician soon.  She told me the earliest appointment they had was for mid-March.  And that wasn't even to see a doctor; that was a medical history appointment.  Plus, she explained, "We're not even sure you're still pregnant.  They should have been able to find the heartbeat."

After so much frustration to try to get seen by a doctor, this pushed me right over the edge.  It's really easy to get a pregnant lady to cry in your office if you tell her she might have already lost her baby and just not know it.

While I'm still pretty upset that this lady even said that to me, I'm also fairly confident that the tears that ensued are the ONLY reason she went into another office and came out giving me an appointment for the following Monday with an actual doctor.  A "specialist" they said.  I'm not sure what that means but I hope it's an obstetrician.

My appointment is tomorrow.  I have no idea what to expect; this clinic does not really inspire confidence.  I'm just hoping that they'll find the heartbeat and tell me everything is fine and help me set regular prenatal appointments for the future.  Or that my Medi-Cal is approved soon and I can go to a doctor on my own.

I hesitated to write about all this because I don't want to whine.  But I decided I do want to record how difficult this has been.  I feel completely powerless and at the government's mercy.  I feel like a beggar.  I feel lost.  I don't feel like they are going to take care of me.  I feel like I'm going to have to fight them to force them to give me some mediocre help.

It sucks.

If you try to deny the need for health care reform I might just rip you a new one.

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