Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why I Hate Managed Care in General, and the Medical Model in Particular

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So this arrogant psychiatrist in another state, who has never met nor spoken to my patient, decides in less than 10 minutes on the phone* to deny coverage for depression and ADD because she's made only minor progress in 12 weeks of outpatient psychotherapy ("three months!" quoth he, obviously horrified).

Oh, yeah, and because she's not getting "standard" (read: "cheaper") treatment, to wit, psychotropics.

He actually asked me why I was asking for more sessions! Um, because she's still depressed? still has family issues? Still doesn't know what she wants to do with her life? After all, he says, it's not working, is it?

Yes, it is. It may be slow, but it is working. Her problems have been years in the making and we're not going to turn them around in three months. He seemed astounded by this concept.

He implied more than once that my treatment of her was substandard. She wants a non-drug solution and I'm not forcing the issue, partly because her depression is moderate, therefore not an emergency, and partly because most of it is environmental in origin, not endogenous. As for the ADD, well, it is definitely holding her back, but it's not going to kill her, and I see the decision whether to medicate or try adaptations and accommodations as a personal one. I respect patients' ability to make decisions like that for themselves, and support their right to do so.

And by the way, the standards of care are written by--wait for it--the American Psychiatric Association.

Not to mention, success with medication is hardly guaranteed. I have had dozens of patients who have not responded to medication after medication after medication. Do insurance companies then want to stop paying for any more drugs? No. This is about money, pure and simple, and it pisses me off. This, people, is why we need national health care.

So if your insurance company doesn't want to pay for ongoing psychotherapy, fine. If it doesn't fit within their definition of "medically necessary," fine. I get that, and I have no problem with it. But don't imply that my work is substandard, dude. Do not go there.

*actually, he'd clearly already made up his mind before he even picked up the phone, based on a one-page request form I'd faxed in. I suppose I should have claimed "moderate" progress on the form. Her role functioning has improved because she's learning to structure herself better ("yes, but is her concentration better?" the insurance company care manager wanted to know) and she's made one of the major life decisions she came here to make. But I really feel we're just getting started. "Moderate" to me implies that we're about halfway through. "Major" progress would be close to the end, right?

While I was writing this the care manager called to see if I wanted to appeal. You betcha! And she pointed out that this all happened because I didn't return their calls quickly enough to suit them. I got passed on for this "peer review" thingy (Do you really think he's my peer? Do you think he's got a doctoral degree in psychology and 30 years experience providing psychotherapy?) partly to punish me.

Anyways, if I had, she went on to say, she "might" have given me two more sessions!! to get the client to agree to a med consult.

Makes me want to set my head on fire. 
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Nic said...

Stories like that make my blood boil. Reminds me of the insurance company refusing to pay $5,000 for a custom molded seating system for a friend who was having chronic pressure sores. Despite letters from 4 different specialists. Well, in the end my friend ended up needing both a flap surgery *and* leg amputation, at the cost of nearly $500,000.

Virginia S. Wood, PsyD said...

Nic, that's awful. I am so sorry about your friend.

He could have died. Pressure sores are no joke.