I received a Medicare Summary Notice in the mail last week. Remember when there was all that hullabaloo last month about my breasts and the moles and the possible cancer? And we all held our collective breath and wondered out loud about that golf ball only to find out during the mammogram and ultrasound that I have the wonderful fat free breasts of a twenty year old.
Well, the Medicare Summary Notice for those of you who are not lucky enough to receive those copious and confusing pieces of paper yet, tells you what bills have been submitted to Medicare by your care providers and how much of those bills Medicare elected to actually PAY and how much you may be BILLED and then there are notes just in case all of that is not confusing enough.
Trust me, even if you're quite intelligent and got all A's in math, this shit is damn confusing.
So I looked at this particular Medicare Summary Notice and it was pages and pages because of all those various doctors visits. And one thing I noticed was that Medicare did not pay a single penny for my annual gynecological exam. Not one cent.
Now I ask you, the lovely and smart people of the Internet, does this make any sense at all? I thought it was just an oversight on their part, so I spent a large portion of my day today trying to get to figure out just what went wrong.
Of course because I'm NakedJen, even this wasn't so easy. First you dial an 800 number. Then you answer the voice-automated systems questions for what feels like forever. Eventually, if you're good and kind and patient, a human voice can be heard on the other end of the line. This human voice will then ask you EVERY SINGLE QUESTION ALL OVER AGAIN THAT YOU HAVE JUST ANSWERED TO THE VOICE RECOGNITION SYSTEM! Oh yes, our tax dollars are at work in full force on this one. It is really a good idea, though, to just stay in some place of zen and provide them with all those answers all over again. Eventually they will ask you for your birth date. If you're me, you'll tell them that it is January 21, 1964. Because that is, in fact, the day you really were born. They'll then tell you that date is incorrect.
You will stammer. You will begin to explain that you realize that they have the WRONG date in their system, but you, your naked self, have gone to the local Social Security Office with your birth certificate what feels like a GAZILLION TIMES and had them update the records to reflect your correct birth date. And you have NO IDEA WHAT DYSLEXIC IDIOT mistyped your birth date into the system to begin with, but after updating it A GAZILLION TIMES, you'd think by now it would be correct.
The snippy (yes she was now snippy) person at the Medicare office will tell you that because you do not know your birth date she can give you no further information and she will hang up on you.
At this point, I chatted with DearSweetDave who reminded me what birth date they actually DO have in their system. So I called back. Went through the entire exercise again with the voice recognition software. When I got to speak to an actual human being, I didn't hesitate for a second. I told her my birthday was January 24, 1964. And onward we went. What was my question? How could she assist me?
I felt like such a poser.
I asked about my office visit on August 9, 2005. The one where I had a pelvic exam and pap smear and breast exam? The one that cost $422.00? I asked ever so nicely why that particular visit to the doctor was not covered by Medicare? Her answer??
MEDICARE DOES NOT COVER ANNUAL EXAMS. EVER.
I was totally flummoxed. Not ever? I asked this woman if Medicare would prefer that I actually get cancer instead and then we deal with that? I asked how it possibly made sense that I NOT GO TO THE DOCTOR BECAUSE I CAN'T AFFORD A $422 OFFICE VISIT, and instead get CANCER and the Medicare system then has to pay for all my care for that?
She explained that if I was truly upset about this I should talk to Congress. They make the decisions. The Medicare offices just follow the rules set by those people on the Hill.
I did speak to another person at Social Security about this later in the day because it turned out that since nothing is simple in the world of NakedJen that the Social Security office not only has my BIRTH DATE WRONG, but they also have my SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER WRONG, as well. I might as well just not exist.
This other person, who was quite competent, by the way, explained to me that the reason Medicare does not cover ANNUAL EXAMS or preventative doctors visits of ANY KIND, is that originally Medicare was created for people over the age of 65. Our good congress people figured those folks didn't need preventative care. They were OLD.
Well, there are those of us who receive Medicare benefits who are very much well below the age of 65. And we're disabled. Which means we don't have loads of cash lying about. We're on fixed, limited incomes. We need to be able to go to see our doctors. Sometimes for preventative care. Those visits should be covered. Or at least provided at a reasonable fee.
I had another chat with DearSweetDave. Here's the transcript:
goddessnakedjen: they do not cover PREVENTATIVE office visits EVER
goddessnakedjen: they would rather i get CANCER and then deal with that
goddessnakedjen: then have me go to the doctor for a preventative screening visit
goddessnakedjen: and pay for that
dsals: which appointment was this?
goddessnakedjen: the woman actually told me if i have a problem with that then i should talk to congress because they make the rules
goddessnakedjen: it was in the doctors office
goddessnakedjen: to have my pap smear and pelvic/breast exam
goddessnakedjen: they totally covered the mammogram and ultrasound that RESULTED from that visit
goddessnakedjen: but not that visit
goddessnakedjen: it's so fucked up
goddessnakedjen: i don't understand it
goddessnakedjen: why on earth would they NOT cover an annual exam for a woman??
dsals: maybe you need to run for congress.
goddessnakedjen: i'm going to call back AGAIN and see if i can get a better explanation from another person
goddessnakedjen: i won't win
goddessnakedjen: if i run for congress
goddessnakedjen: because i've done too many drugs
goddessnakedjen: and been associated with too many shady characters
goddessnakedjen: it's just fucked up
goddessnakedjen: i wonder who in congress is on the medicare decision making board
dsals: well at the very least this sounds like good bloggin gmaterial.
goddessnakedjen: oh yes.
goddessnakedjen: it is very good blogging material
dsals: i need to go pee.
goddessnakedjen: so i got someone very competent just now
goddessnakedjen: at social security
goddessnakedjen: and she even was able to SEE that my birthday has been updated umpteen times
goddessnakedjen: but for some reason, the MAIN birthday is still the WRONG birthday
goddessnakedjen: and she doesn't know why that is at all
goddessnakedjen: and can not figure out why it hasn't pushed the WRONG birthday out
goddessnakedjen: when the latest record says, January 21, 1964
goddessnakedjen: however, the record that comes UP says, January 24, 1964 across the board
goddessnakedjen: so weird
dsals: very weird.
goddessnakedjen: so she also said that medicare does not cover annual exams
dsals: nice that someone was finally willing to look at the screen instead of just telling you to go away.
goddessnakedjen: because medicare was originally created for OLD PEOPLE
goddessnakedjen: and they didn't worry about annual exams
goddessnakedjen: but she said i should definitely write to my congress person
goddessnakedjen: so i will do that
goddessnakedjen: i will write to both feinstein and boxer
goddessnakedjen: who are OLD WOMEN
goddessnakedjen: who will want to know that medicare will not cover annual exams for women
goddessnakedjen: meanwhile, i will also blog about it
goddessnakedjen: and encourage the rest of the world to also write and complain
goddessnakedjen: and i'll pay the bill
goddessnakedjen: so that i can go back to see the doctor
goddessnakedjen: about my finger
goddessnakedjen: which is not happy
dsals: were they not going to help you until you paid your bill?
goddessnakedjen: oh no.
goddessnakedjen: they would see me
goddessnakedjen: i just want to also pay that bill
goddessnakedjen: because i don't like outstanding medical bills
dsals: well, I'm still very glad you took the exams, even if we have to pay for them.
goddessnakedjen: even though last year i had outstanding medical bills for over a year
goddessnakedjen: yes, me too
goddessnakedjen: i mean, i've had cervical cancer
goddessnakedjen: i can't risk having it again
dsals: and you couldn't have gotten the other tests (which medicare did pay for) without doing the exams first.
goddessnakedjen: i wonder, if i had disability because of cervical cancer if that would have been covered?
goddessnakedjen: i mean, the exam??
dsals: who knows?
goddessnakedjen: it's just fucked up.
goddessnakedjen: so off to congress i go
goddessnakedjen: to lobby
goddessnakedjen: on behalf of women everywhere
dsals: okay. good luck to congress.
dsals: I hope they survive.
dsals: (but not really)
dsals: "Jennifer Neal, world mover"
Dear readers, I each of you to also write your congress person, if you're so inclined. Why, it's national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But isn't it a shame that your grandmother (if she's dependent on Medicare) has to pay for her doctor's visit to get her breast exam? She should not have to do that. And neither should you.
Let's get this changed. If we're serious about doing something about Breast Cancer (and all cancers) this is a very good step.