It’s never a good idea to look for a restaurant when you’re hungry.
As I cruised down El Camino Real, looking for the Veggie Grill, I pulled into several parking lots of other likely venues. Despairing of finding the healthy choice that Miss Google had helped me select, I finally slotted the rental car in a handicapped space in front of a row of eight restaurants. I tried to find the door for one and ended up in another, ordering freshly made but gluten-hostile pasta from a smiling Hispanic woman.
I ate the vegetables and dodged the tortellini.
On my way back to the motor inn, I spied the original subject of my quest, a storefront vegetarian restaurant that had gotten four stars on Yelp. Too late, but noted for future reference. Cars sped around me as I aimed for the narrow entrance to my motel and brought the rental car to a hault just before my cell phone died a horrible death from over-use as a GPS.
As the engine shuddered to a stop and the local public radio announcer’s vice faded, I thought about the eight hours which I had spent at the Stanford Neuro-science clinic. An hour for check-in and the H&P by a physician fellow; forty-five minutes with the Spasticity God, and an incredible five hours unwinding the failure of the pre-authorization department to locate the correct person at my health insurance to allow the muscle-specific, EMG-directed, low-level botox shots to be administered that day.
I had been skeptical of the proposed treatment. I’ve been offered botox on other occasions and know at least one person with spasticity who receives it. But that person grows increasingly disabled, hunched over a walker though cheerful and determined. I knew that if anyone could figure out exactly how to use botox for my tricky muscles, this Stanford guy would be the one. Motivation kept me pinned to the waiting room as noon approached.
But the pre-authorization lady left a message on my cell that the Insurance Masters declined to approve before a lapse of a minimum thirty-six hours. Something bothered me about the information given, and I placed a call to my friend Katrina who works for Blue Cross in Kansas City, tendering the number and name of the person who supposedly mandated the delay. A half hour later, I had my suspicions confirmed. The clinic’s staff had called the wrong department and in fact, had I left it alone, eventually that verdict would have been pronounced.
I found the clinic manager and started the process all over again, gone twelve-thirty now and most everyone there at lunch. I started the mantra which I would intone through the afternoon:
I just want to let you know, the folks at the KC office of BC BS are in the Central time zone; they’re two hours ahead of us. I was told that they were working on it.
An hour passed. Two. Five-o’clock-central crept closer. I quietly inquired and was told that we were waiting for the doctor to write his notes. I held the clinic manager’s eyes; I thanked her for the update, but I cautioned: “If we don’t get it done by 3pm California time, it will not get done today.” I was assured that they knew the problem, that they were working on it, that they just needed that one more piece of information. I inquired again; at 4:45 Central time, 2:45 California time, the doctor finally entered the note of my nine-a-m visit.
And the clocked ticked one stroke past too late. No insurance authorization until next week; no treatment until my February 2016 scheduled return.
There is one other option, the lady said. You could pay for it yourself and if the insurance company approves it, we could refund your money.
Note to self: If you have to ask how much something is, you cannot afford it.
I see this another way, I replied, quietly. I feel as though the original mistake arose when the pre-authorization unit called the wrong number, a mistake that would not have gotten corrected today had I not called my friend. I feel as though my need for this treatment before next March could be addressed by Stanford assuming the potential risk of non-payment by Blue Cross.
A half an hour later, Stanford had done so. Incredible though it might seem, my patience through the day, my refusal to get upset, my calm demeanor, my respectful acknowledgment of a situation gone awry, carried the day.
Strike another blow for the conversion of our society to Non-Violent Communication. Or at least, my corner of it.
It has been a very long day, but I’m not complaining.