Musings of a Medical Zebra

A Zebra Speaks

Blue Cross Denied My Pre-approved PET Scan!

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December 22nd, 2014 Posted 12:38 pm

Last week I received an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) for my PET scan. I was quite surprised to find that my insurance – - by “my” insurance I mean the insurance my husband and I have through his employer – - denied the claim, making us responsible for the entire $4,100 bill. According to the insurance, Blue Cross, the test was medically unnecessary.

I began making phone calls in an attempt to sort out the mess. My doctor’s nurse seemed like the place to start, since she told me that she’d be taking care of the pre-approval. However, when I spoke with her on the phone, I learned that she doesn’t take care of the pre-approvals directly — rather, my doctor’s office contracts with a company that does it for them. I also learned that the test was pre-approved and that the nurse was given a confirmation number corresponding to the pre-approval. She gave me the confirmation number, along with the name of the company that was responsible for the pre-approval.

Meanwhile, my husband called Blue Cross and was told by a representative that they didn’t receive a request for pre-approval. (Isn’t that convenient?!) She asked if we had anything in writing that shows the PET scan was approved. (Nice!) My husband told her we have a confirmation number from the company that got the pre-approval. Of course the confirmation number meant nothing to her. (Again, convenient!)

I called the office that is handling the billing. The woman on the other end was interested in the confirmation number, so I gave it to her. She told me she would research the issue and call me back within a week. A couple hours later, my phone rang. It was the billing office. I was told that they were going to file an appeal. She said it would take 4-6 weeks to get a decision. I’ll hear back from them at that time.

I plan to call the company that handled the pre-approval. I am hoping that if I give them the confirmation number that they’ll be able to provide me with proof — perhaps a letter from Blue Cross — of the pre-approval. Providing evidence that the test was pre-approved should make the appeal unnecessary. That’s what a reasonable person would think. Unfortunately, insurance companies can be anything but reasonable.

I plan to make a couple phone calls this afternoon. I’ll update this when I have new information to share.

No PET Scan; Prolactin High

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November 8th, 2014 Posted 6:08 pm

I noticed a few weeks ago that I was retaining a fair amount of fluid. When I weighed myself, I learned that I had gained over 15 pounds. Given that my pain and fatigue have been worse lately, it made sense that my prolactin was high.

When I saw my internist on Thursday, he took one look at me — I am clearly retaining fluid in my face — and commented that my prolactin had to be high. He ordered some labs, which I will get drawn in a couple days, and told me that it will take 5-10 days to correct my prolactin once we get my labs back and my medication is tweaked. Given that prolactin blocks pretty much everything, my thyroid, among other things, is likely out of wack. He also told me to put off the PET scan until we get my prolactin level back to normal because the high prolactin may interfere with the scan, making it appear as though I have health problems that I actually don’t have.

Hopefully I can get the labs drawn on Monday and get my medication increased by the end of the week. I look forward to feeling better.

Posted in EDS Stuff

PET Scan

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November 3rd, 2014 Posted 11:54 pm

It occurred to me as I was leaving the pain clinic today that I haven’t posted for a really long time. Rather than catching up on everything that’s happened in the past couple years, I thought I’d talk about my appointment today and leave the rest for another post.

I had a follow-up appointment with my pain management doctor this morning. My rib dislocations became more frequent last year. I now have a couple ribs that are chronically dislocated – - one is stuck under my right shoulder blade and the other two, both are on the right side, are located in the middle of my rib cage. As you can guess, this has lead to a fair amount of pain – - so much so that I rarely feel well enough to leave the house anymore. Though I am taking a pretty good dose of pain medication, my pain level averages a 7/10 daily. Unfortunately there aren’t many medication options available, as I have already tried most of them – - this is something I find scary.

Today my doctor decided to order a PET scan, which I am scheduled for next week, to get a better look at my ribs. We’re hoping it will provide us with new information – - what I am not sure – - so that my pain can be dealt with more effectively.

On that note, I think I’ll end this post & get some sleep. Goodnight.

Posted in EDS Stuff

Burned Cat Needs Your Help

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October 9th, 2012 Posted 2:05 pm

The link below is for an article about a cat from Saybrook, IL, named Dutchess. Dutchess received second and third degree burns as a result of a fire that destoyed her family’s uninsured home. Dutchess is receiving burn care at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Dutchess’ family is unable to pay for her medical care. A fund has been set up for her. Its goal is to raise $5000. Thus far, over $3000 has been donated from people all over world. If you can help, follow the instructions at the end of the article.

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/people/2012-10-09/donations-around-world-help-burned-cats-medical-care.html

Posted in Misc. Stuff

Iron Infusions

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July 19th, 2012 Posted 5:10 pm

I found this post in my drafts. It was written on 9/15/2011, but apparently I never got around to posting it. So, here it is…

Over the past couple of months I’ve received seven iron infusions. My ferritin and iron levels were very low. I do not tolerate oral iron, so IV iron was my only option. Luckily I am not scared of needles and I’m an easy stick because I had to get a new IV each week. The first two forms of iron caused adverse reactions. The reaction I had to the second form was delayed by several hours. It caused my hematologist enough concern that he requested  I see him the next day.

I wasn’t a stranger to the problem causing iron.  I was infused with it three times — one infusion per week for three weeks. Everything seemed fine until  four hours after receiving the third infusion. At this point, I began to itch.

At first, I didn’t think much of it. When the itching woke me up — this was roughly 9 hours after receiving the infusion — I decided to look in the mirror. My chest and back were mostly covered with a rash. It hadn’t dawned on me what was occurring, so I went back to bed. I managed to fall asleep . I woke up again, due to itching, around 7am. I got out of bed for the second time to look in the mirror. This time, my eyelids were quite swollen, as were my arms and legs. I loaded up on benedryl, and called my hematologist a couple hours later. He requested that I see him. By the time I arrived at his office — the next morning — the rash and swelling were gone.

Posted in EDS Stuff

Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome

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May 10th, 2011 Posted 6:51 pm

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about six years ago. Upon diagnosis, I was given the drug Cymbalta to help with my pain. The initial 30mg dose caused me to feel a bit spacey, but  that subsided after a couple weeks. My dose was eventually increased a second and final time to 60mg. Again, I felt spacey for a couple weeks. Once that subsided, I started feeling better; the drug helped with the pain I was having at the time.

Before swallowing my first dose — as is the case with all new drugs — I read the prescribing information. Of course the drug had its fair share of potential side effects, but all drugs have side effects. I was not deterred. I was warned by friends who had taken the drug that discontinuing it was difficult and extremely unpleasant. Still, I was not deterred. I figured I’d be on it for a long period of time, if not indefinitely, so why worry about discontinuing it? As it turns out, there are plenty of reasons to worry about discontinuing Cymbalta. Check this out.

Posted in EDS Stuff

Making Progress

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May 9th, 2011 Posted 6:29 pm

I have been seeing a new doctor in Chesterfield since March. Over the winter, I suddenly gained 15 pounds. I knew my diet wasn’t the problem, but I wasn’t sure what the problem actually was — my internist wasn’t sure either.

I found out about  my newest doctor through word of mouth. He had helped a fellow EDSer with sudden weight gain. Her situation sounded very similar to mine. I decided to make an appointment.

I am being treated for a number of health issues that he diagnosed via blood and urine tests. Apparently, the weight I had gained was fluid. The treatment I am receiving has enabled me to lose the fluid — apparently I have been retaining fluid for years, it has only recently gotten worse — and gain muscle over the past seven weeks. My doctor is happy with the progress I have made thus far, and so am I. I will continue to improve as the weeks pass. All the fluid I have gained recently and the fluid I have been carrying around for years will be gone — hopefully by the end of June.

The biggest relief for me is that my heart has improved. The fluid retention made my clicking heart valve even louder. As the fluid has left my body, the click has gotten quieter. :) More details to follow at a later date…

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) Awareness Month

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May 3rd, 2011 Posted 9:50 pm

May is EDS awareness month. Please take the time to read some of my blog posts, check out the EDS info I have included, read more about EDS via a Google search, etc.

Posted in EDS Stuff

Tired

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February 1st, 2011 Posted 11:23 am

Tired — that word sums up the last several months. Fortunately, I have a new sleep specialist. Not only is he a great doctor and a nice guy, but he also has an interest in EDS. At my first appointment, we spent 20-30 minutes just talking about EDS — the types and their manifestations.

When he was in medical school, EDS was still classified using Roman Numerals. For him, Classical EDS was split into two types — EDS Type I and EDS Type II. Now it’s one type and called Classical EDS or cEDS. Similarly, Hypermobility EDS was EDS Type III and Vascular EDS was EDS Type IV. They are now hEDS and vEDS, respectively.

Of course we didn’t just talk about EDS. The bulk of my time with him was spent learning about the various drugs that can be used to help me sleep, and those that can be used to keep me awake. Unlike my previous sleep specialist, my current doctor understands the most important reason for me to remain alert during the day  — so that I can drive, thus maintaining a certain level independence. :)

Currently, I’m taking a drug to keep me awake during the day and a couple drugs to help me to sleep at night. Though I still have a few nights a month where I am only able to sleep for a couple hours in a row, I would say that my ability to stay asleep has drastically improved. My level of alertness during the day has made some improvements as well, but not in proportion to my sleep. I still spend about half the week too tired to make it through the entire day without a 2-3 hour nap.

I meet with my sleep specialist again in February.  Perhaps he will have more suggestions, which will lead to further improvements. I will keep you posted. :)

Howe and Howe Tech — Ripchair

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January 5th, 2011 Posted 11:01 pm

Wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone who could benefit from the wheelchair — a.k.a. the Ripchair — that Howe and Howe Tech built for Rocky could afford one? As it stands, according to Howe and Howe Tech, the Ripchairs cost $40,000 a pop. That’s just the cost to build one; that figure does not include profit.

It would be a dream for the company to see the chairs get to each person who needs one. Though they are pursuing ways to make the chairs less expensive, it will likely be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make the Ripchairs affordable. What the company needs is a financial backer(s)  — we’re talking very generous people, like Oprah — to make this dream a reality.

If you are reading this, and you know of such a person/people, please contact Howe and Howe Tech to let them know. They can tell you how to proceed from there. Their contact info is below:

info@howeandhowe.com

Also, I’d like to thank Howe and Howe Tech for taking the time to respond to my e-mail. You guys are amazing and the work you do is awesome. :)


Posted in Misc. Stuff