Editor’s Note: The Journal reached out to readers asking them to share their experiences and frustrations in trying to see a doctor, ranging from primary care to specialists. Here are some of their stories.
My PCP and seven specialists are in the UNMH system. My insurance is Medicare with AARP United Health Care supplement. I experience the shortage of providers with almost all my doctors. My cardiology appointment for February 2019 was rescheduled to July, and then to August. My gastroenterology appointment was rescheduled from summer 2018 to December 2018. In January of this year I had a hand condition for which rheumatology said I should be seen, but I could not get an appointment until March.
I have used ABQ Health Partners, now DaVita Medical Group, for the past 16-plus years. I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, weight problems, high blood pressure, etc. The last time I went to see my sleep doctor (he had only been with DaVita for a short while) he told me he was retiring and that there was no one to take his place. I also went to see an endocrinologist and was referred to a nutrition specialist. When I called for an appointment, they told me the doctor was only accepting patients who have diabetes. So in order to see a nutritionist, I need to become diabetic. How ridiculous is that?
I am a 64-year-old male, non-smoker, non-drinker, in reasonable shape, good health, and rarely see a doctor. I pay over $500 per month for a Bronze Plan purchased through the healthcare.gov marketplace. I think the price is outrageous, but a serious accident could mean financial ruin so I pay the premiums.
About a month ago, I noticed blood in my stools. I was concerned, wanted a colonoscopy, and contacted two companies that provide that service. Both indicated I must secure a referral from my primary care physician, then they could schedule the procedure. OK, fair enough.
I subsequently called my assigned primary care physicians office. I discovered he was a gynecologist who has not accepted new patients for a long time. I asked the office staff if they knew who might be accepting new patients. They suggested I contact my insurance provider, I reminded them my insurance provider printed their name and number on my insurance card.
Next, I called a physician’s office near my home, They were accepting new patients, not my insurance. I asked for recommendations. I called both recommendations, left voice mail messages and never received a return call.
Frustrated, I called a physicians office that is a 30-minute drive. They were accepting both new patients and my insurance. Unfortunately, the earliest I could get an appointment is mid-February. I expressed my concern seeing blood in my stools. They suggested the emergency room.
When that appointment date arrives, I will drive the 30 minutes to meet a physician to request a referral for a colonoscopy. Of course, I still have no idea when I will actually have the procedure, and I hope my insurance company will pay for it.
My conclusions? The health care system in this city is broken from top to bottom. The part that works really well is the insurance companies taking our premiums.
I moved to Albuquerque in late October of 2018. About a week after I arrived, I found myself in the hospital (Lovelace Westside) with a GI bleed. I was scoped and the bleed clipped off. At discharge, I was given a number to call to be followed up in 10 days by a gastroenterologist. When I called, they told me there wasn’t an opening until January of 2019. Even after I told them I had just been released from the hospital and needed a follow-up in 10 days, they said there were no available appointments with Lovelace or University of New Mexico until at least the end of January 2019. So I gave up. (Presbyterian is not an option since they do not take my insurance.) Why did they tell me to make a 10-day follow-up appointment when there was none available for three months? I then tried to make an appointment to establish a primary care physician and had to wait until January 25. Coming from the Washington, D.C., area where there doesn’t seem to be a problem, this was a real eye-opener for me. I can understand now why emergency rooms and urgent care clinics can be so crowded.
We moved to New Mexico last August. I began the process of finding a primary care physician. After calling a list (approximately 20) of potential names, I finally found a doctor accepting new patients. Great news! I made an appointment for “new patients” for my husband and me. The soonest they had was February 21 and 22, 2019, a six-month wait to get in.