Friday, February 25, 2011

A Word from the Wise

I was quickly reminded on Monday of the caution that those who suffer from Lymphedema, or any medical condition for that matter, should take with doctors, physical therapists, medical supply companies, insurance companies etc.

On Monday, I had an appointment at a medical supply company here in Chicago. Now this is a company that has chains all over the place. I have new insurance, Cigna, which is much better than the student insurance I was on before because this is my company’s insurance. Cigna requires that I go to a facility such as Scheck and Siress, a medical supply and prosthetic supply company, to be properly fitted in order for the compression garments to be covered. I am going up to 40 – 50 compression grade because of the severity of the swelling as of recent. Since I have never worn these before, a proper fitting seemed like it could only help. Well I was wrong, very wrong…

I started getting a bad vibe the moment I walked in. The woman at the front desk asked me to fill out paperwork which I was glad to do. She then started going into the payment policy and asked me how much of my deductible I have paid to date which I thought was a bit intrusive but could just be me. Then, she lectured me on how I should have pre-registered. I did this, of course, when I made the appointment. I kindly pointed out that I had no idea how much of my deductible I have paid to date since I just had appointments last week that have yet to be billed to my insurance. I then added that once it goes through my insurance, I would pay any balance but that it must first go through my insurance. She disagreed and said I had to pay today and that if I had pre-registered that none of this would be an issue. I turned beet red as I do whenever I am angry or embarrassed. I let her know that I did, in fact, register when I made the appointment and added that they should be more organized. I really know how to stick it to someone…

You can see how this roundabout conversation progressed from there. I then became very firm and said that they must speak to my insurance before I pay. I then added that no information was given when I made the appointment about the payment policy or costs of being fitted. Then she showed me to the room where I could see the fitter after sitting in the waiting room for half an hour. Therefore, surly front desk lady and I had yet to finish our delightful conversation.

As I sat waiting for the fitter for another 15 minutes, she came back and stated that compression garments need to be ordered so I wouldn’t be paying anyway until they are delivered. Really, huh, so what was the point of that conversation just minutes before?

Then the fitter came in. He seemed nice and began asking me about how I have been managing my Lymphedema and what I currently do to treat the condition. Then he began talking about Elvarex, a Jobst product for compression and said how it would be ideal for me. He brought me a sample of this massively thick and hideous stocking. Call me vain but the entire reason my doctor moved me up to 40 – 50 and not custom is that I can keep some sort of normal lifestyle with clothing not to mention the cost is upwards $300!! Then he realized that Elvarex is for people with vein related conditions. He then measured me and left for about 15 minutes to find me compression stockings. Somehow, he would not get off the topic of custom stockings. The kicker is that my doctor wrote me an Rx that was so specific as to that it had to be opaque and 40 – 50 so I couldn’t even figure out why the fitter was even going there.

After I noted several times that my doctor and I discussed this and we only want to try 40 – 50. The fitter responded that it was difficult to find compression stockings of that grade with my measurements and again said I should get custom stockings. When I prodded further, he had only checked Medi (Mediven). So then I rattled off all of the compression brands that I knew. This sent him off for another 15 minutes.
He came back excited that he had talked to the a service representative at Sigvaris and found me stockings. I was relieved. I would get my stockings and get the heck out of there. I had now been there over an hour. The fitter and I talked measurements, decided on my size and then he stated the price. He quoted $198.00. Then he added that I would need to leave a deposit. Yes, he said that despite what my favorite surly front desk lady had said earlier…

Let me draw your attention to the $198 price of the compression garment. I have been buying compression stockings for over two years now. They cost anywhere from $75 - $150 depending on compression grade, brand, style etc. In fact, the most recent pair that I purchased was Jobst and it cost $85 for 30 – 40 compression grade.
I will stop my rambling (I warned you of my tendency to do this in the very title of my blog) and get to my point.

While there are many companies out there that are in business to suit your needs, there are double the number of companies out there to exploit your needs and your wallet. I knew that price was up there but when I went home and researched further into costs, I found that I could purchase Medi for roughly $100, Juzo costs $75 - $100 and Sigvaris costs $75 to $149.

I also realized that my deductible was a hell of a whole lot higher than I had remembered and with the awesome discounts my insurance gives, I am nowhere near it. So, I would have to pay this out of pocket. Now why would I purchase one stocking for $200 when I can get it elsewhere for half that price?

This is not the first time I have experienced this and it brings me to tears every time. I do not understand why people are so ready to take advantage of those who are in need. I must have compression stockings unless I want the nickname of Elephant Girl. I do have a better job now but I still can’t afford $200 compression stockings. I have to go to my doctor 2-3 times a year for check-up appointments, I have to buy materials for the short stretch bandaging like tape, I have to buy the short stretch bandages, etc. In all, we are talking close to a thousand a year. I can’t afford to be ripped off.

Because so much of our self-esteem and obstacles in life are intertwined with our lymphedema, we are incredibly vulnerable and susceptible to people who think they can cash in on us. Until the world changes and the people in it, that will be something to remember for a lifetime.

Which reminds me of a certain letter I need to send to the corporate offices of Athletico…


Jill said...

You are such an amazing and beautiful person (: It's nice of you to write this to try to help other people going through what you are going through. I love you Linds! Now, it appears I need to go to Chi-town to kick some a$$!

Jose Gomez said...

Elvarex are very expensive. I would write Jobst and ask them why they need to charge so much. The retailer only charges what they are asked to charge. Jobst sets the price. I would give them away if it were up to me.

Lindsay said...

The cost issue wasn't with the supplier of the compression stockings but the clinic that tried to charge me double the cost of the product. My point is to be cautious about clinics and people over-charging.