August 09, 2012

It's been a while since a good complain-y post, right?

You know it's going to be a good day when it begins by chatting your friend with the following:

"what i would like to know is: 
a) who is this person
b) are they using my insurance, and
c) will I need to sue someone"

See, the other day I called my allergist's office for a few reasons: I'm paying an exorbitant amount of money for these 10 week supplies of allergy drops, yet they are running out around week 7; and since my testing last year I've never had any sort of follow up and I wanted to know what their planned next steps for me were.  Do I get retested at some point to see if I'm better? A new CT scan of my face? ANY SORT OF FOLLOW UP at all to see how I feel? You know.

The allergy nurse said that actually, I should be coming in for an annual visit right about now. (Would have been nice for THEM to let me in on this timetable, but whatev.) I agreed to call back when I was in front of my calendar.

So first thing the next morning, I called their office and asked to make an appointment.  They requested my birthdate, then my full name.  

Receptionist: So you need an appointment? mean, aside from the one you have for today?

I was... confused.  I was fairly sure that last September, while scratching my skin off after being given 75 shots, I had not made an appointment for a random day in August of the following year.  

Me: I.. do not have an appointment today. When was that made??

Receptionist: I see you also had one on June 8th.

Me: Uh, WHAT? I have literally not been inside that office since I was tested last fall!

(This turned out to be untrue, as I had technically set foot in their office once since then to pick up a round of allergy meds.  Chris usually gets them for me because the office is on his way to work, and also because he is a sweetheart.)

Receptionist: I also have an appointment for you from April.

Me: OK, WHAT NOW? Did someone SHOW UP to all of these appointments!?  What are you talking about?

After this, there was a flurry of re-identification - is this my phone number? (Yes.) Is this my address? (Yes.) And this is my birthdate, right? (Yes.)  The receptionist put me on hold while she tried to "sort this out."

Spoiler alert: she did not sort it out.  She instead transferred me to the voicemail of the allergy nurse with whom I had talked the day before. I left a somewhat confused message asking her to figure out why I had at least 3 appointments I did not make over the past few months.

This morning, I missed a call from her while I was on the metro.  The resulting voicemail basically consisted of "so, you're trying to make an appointment? Please call the receptionist!"


I called the front desk again.  I got a new girl, who goes through the exact same thing (asks my birthdate, confirms my name, then asks what I would like) and when I start my story, she cuts me off with "Oh, you were just in for an appointment yesterday, it looks like?"

For those of you keeping count, this is now two different people, on two different days, who upon getting my birthdate + name, independently shared the information that I had an appointment scheduled for August 8th.  

I explained the rest of the story ("Yes! Except I didn't make that appointment! And I didn't show up! Did someone else show up!? WHAT IS GOING ON??") and after another stint on hold, she came back and said she couldn't figure it out, but the allergy nurse would call me back soon.

I was in a meeting this time when the nurse called, so I called a third time this afternoon, and got YET ANOTHER receptionist - this place is tiny, by the way! - or else (legitimate possibility) the receptionists have no short term memory. In any event, I had to re-explain the entire story a third time, which went exceptionally well.

Receptionist: So.. you're trying to make an appointment?

Me: What?? No. That's why I originally called, but now I'm trying to figure out why there is so much activity on my chart that I had nothing to do with.

Receptionist: I'm going to transfer you to our allergy nurse's voicemail.

Me: Well, the thing is, I keep leaving her messages explaining the situation and she keeps replying that I should talk to you if I want to make an appointment.

Receptionist: So you DO want to make an appointment.

Me: NO. 

Receptionist: You JUST SAID you wanted to make an appointment.

Me: No, I said that the allergy nurse THINKS I want to.. nevermind.  Look. Can you please tell me if my insurance has been run at all over the past 8 months.

Receptionist: Um.  I... don't know.

Me: Can you look at my record? And let me know if you have submitted any claims to Aetna under my account in 2012?

Receptionist: I... uh... don't think we can see that? I don't know?  

Me: Oh my god.

I was finally passed over to the allergy nurse again, but this time she was there in person to actually take my call.  

Me: Hi. I'm very confused.  Please explain to me why there were multiple visits logged for me over the past several months.

Nurse: Let me just take a look at your file here.  Hmm.  OK, I'm looking at it, and there's nothing - just your testing last September.  That's it.

Me: OK.  It's just that a lot of people have told me about these other appointments.

Nurse: Yes.. Hmm... Well, there is nothing on your chart about them.  You can just forget about the other stuff.

Me: Ah. Yeeeaaah.  I would like to, but I find it alarming that two different people on two different days told me the exact opposite of what you are telling me now.  

[Sidebar: "YOU CAN JUST FORGET ABOUT" the fact that 2 other people in this office implied a stranger was coming in for your appointments and having them logged in your chart? ARE YOU KIDDING? OMG.]

Nurse: Well... I can look into this more, I guess.  Do you want me to call you back? Or you can just wait until your next appointment and work it out then?

Me: I. Would. Like. A. Call. Today. Please.  

Nurse: Ok then. And did you want to schedule your next appointment?

SO the (even) long(er) story short is that it's LIKELY nothing bad; the receptionists (ALL THREE OF THEM, on DIFFERENT DAYS) apparently read the notations that the nurse had my allergy drops ready for pick up as me having a full-fledged appointment. I called my insurance company just to cover my bases, and no one submitted any claims from that office.  

I still think I'm going to switch practices.


  1. Oh, yeah, time to go somewhere else. I mean, if they can't even figure out their own notes--any of them!--what else are they doing or not doing. Wow.

  2. OH MY GOD. Those are the only words I can come up with.

    Like seriously, even if nothing has actually been billed to your insurance, the fact that there is someone out there making appointments under YOUR NAME? WTF?!

    Definitely change practices. And perhaps call your insurance company to alert them?

    I hope this doesn't turn into something awful :-(

  3. Sometimes I wonder whether people know you have a blog and beg to give you good stories to post on your blog, because SERIOUSLY??? Talk about incompetence! Good grief!! Well, at least you had the foresight to cross-check with your insurance company. And yes, I'd say you deserve better treatment than that ... time for a new allergist, indeed! (BTW, I've often been struck with how incompetent staff in doctors offices are and wonder whether the doctors themselves know and whether it's my duty to inform them? I never have, but still do wonder...)

  4. OH God. Run, don't walk, to a new practice. Good luck.

  5. Did you feel like you were being punked? Because I feel like that's what I would have thought. What other good explanation is there for incompetency like that?

    Glad you got it straightened out!

  6. I think my favorite part is after all of this they were all, "ok so when should we book you for your appointment?"

    !!#&*#@&@^*#! WHAT??! I hope the next doc's office is better.

  7. Let's just say the two people seriously misread the notes in the file. The Doctor has some serious training and communication issues to deal with.

    Hopefully you can get in to a new practice soon.

  8. Alice, I think you need to contact Aetna about this and check your claims with them. Unfortunately, this is the most common type of health care fraud out there (happens a LOT with Medicare beneficiaries, but also with private insurance). Basically, many providers take advantage that people (me included) usually do not check their insurance statements and create and submit fake claims (including fake appointments to back them up). And yes, change doctors... But check your claims with Aetna first.

  9. Holy poop I would have been freaking out. Yeah, time to move to a new practice!!

  10. Time to get a different doctor (or at least a different office!) and call the insurance company. Because this is seriously messed up!
    If it helps, I was freaking out with you while reading...

  11. WTF!?!?! I would have shown up at the office and had everyone meet in the same room and the same time and get it straightened out.

    And then call the insurance company and triple check everything.

    And then hot foot it to a new practice. Gah.

    Only you, Alice!

  12. Jeezy peezy, they sound incompetent.

    Sorry about the harsh language there.

  13. Ri-fucking-diculous.

  14. Um, yea.... Hmmm. Which practice is this? I'll steer clear!

  15. ARG.

    I had a recent experience with a particular specialist where I finally resorted to writing the man a letter just to find out my (not particularly important but still paid-for) test results.

    It wasn't a mean letter. It wasn't even a lawyerly letter. It was just a plain, old-fashioned letter, because all other methods of modern communication FAILED.

    There are many more delightful gems of absurdity to this story, but I will save them to relay to you in excruciating real-time detail should you wish to feel that someone understands exactly what you are describing.

    * spontaneously combust *

  16. How maddening! Oh my god yes switch practices!

  17. Oh my gosh! What a bunch of idiots! Yes! Plese switch!

  18. Whoa! I would have no confidence in them. I'm glad you're switching practices :)