MY THOUGHTS - I ALWAYS LOVED THAT OPENING LINE FROM JOAN RIVERS. It sounded like we were asked to have coffee together.

I loved her wit and ability to talk about tough subjects and not just because she gave my daughter her first TV Production job.

So, let’s pretend we’re having coffee together because I do have something serious to discuss.  It’s a recent experience and it probably happens to many Seniors every day.

Have you noticed the preponderance of TV and print commercials for Medicare? Its sign-up time. Notice how the only plans really promoted are called Medicare Advantage? They include everything: doctor, hospital-, vision-hearing, rides for appointments, drugs-…everything except Thanksgiving dinner. This is known as a supplement to your bare Medicare, which is paid out of social security and only pays 80% of the approved medical bill.

Because Healthcare companies change Plans and medical providers, some annually, you must see which includes your particular Doctor, if you already have previous medical relationships.

I follow UCLA which happens to have the contract this year with United Health, the largest healthcare company in the United States. I find its doctors to be knowledgeable and caring; their administrative procedures usually efficient; and pretty good at solving things quickly like billing problems etc. That is until six weeks ago.

Out of the blue I woke up one morning with the start of an infection in my hands. Since I have an aversion to Doctor’s offices, I decided to treat it myself (Web MD). Unfortunately, it spread throughout both hands, and I had a problem opening doors, cupboards. picking up packages, getting dressed, etc. I basically lost the use of my fingers except for mild tasks.

It also hurt and NOT being into pain, I wrote in my UCLA medical portal to ask if either an office or tele medicine visit to my Dermatologist was appropriate? UCLA has notices on their web site and on signs in their various buildings about their respect for patients and answers to communication within two business days.

I received an answer from the Dermatologist’s office within two business days informing me that I should be seen, and they could give me an appointment on April 3, 2023. They suggested I try another office which might have an earlier time. I replied that I really needed to see the Doctor or any Doctor in their office. They said they would put me on the “waiting” list and suggested I go to UCLA Urgent Care.

I went to Urgent Care and the very nice Family Doctor on call prescribed a topical and further suggested I see a Dermatologist. I explained how I was unable to get an appointment in the San Fernando Valley and since my hands were useless…driving a far distance was not an option. He said he would try to get me an appointment and his office called the next day to say they were unsuccessful. This is not a “poor me” article because I was able to go out of the system and see a doctor, who doesn’t accept medical insurance at all. My long -winded point is that here are all these Healthcare Plans trolling for renewables and new patients promising super benefits but not enough doctors or nurse practitioners to cover the patient demand.

I did notice that UCLA does have both medical and a Cosmetic Dermatology Department at the SFV facility. I wonder if I would have gotten an appointment quicker if I had asked for a Botox or Facelift instead of a hand infection.

I did my research into consumer complaints on healthcare companies, and it was overwhelmingly negative. I think United Health was right up there. There was not too much difference in complaints between “Non-Profits” and “For profit companies”. I imagine that those who believe healthcare is a privilege not a right are Ok with a six month wait to see a Doctor if you can’t afford out of plan care. Maybe one of the questions to ask the agents selling the plans is “How long a wait to see a specialist?”, especially if you have a history of a particular ailment.

There are many samples of Patients’ Rights and specifically Medicare Patients’ Rights online. AARP has an entire policy book. I asked the Medicare office if there were other types of rights included in their on-line information such as: how long should a patient have to wait for an appointment? They said there wasn’t but maybe some of those customer service issues should be included. After all, Seniors are in the majority of needing medical care.

I can hear the cries now, when I suggest that Healthcare companies should all be non-profit. A senior’s wait time for treatment is limited. Maybe if making a profit for shareholders was out of the equation, healthcare companies can pay their doctors more and allow them more time to take care of patients. We can still be a capitalistic economy without every company needing to have public shareholders or show a profit.

Maybe the Dermatology SVF office needs an office specialist to help plan their patient load so there is time to take care of people not sick enough for the emergency room but needing immediate care, as well as the annual check-ups and Botox. In case you were wondering…I still haven’t received an appointment at the UCLA/SFV Dermatologist.

As usual send comments… but be gentle!


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist and a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])