Your Medical Rights

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I am going to try to make this brief so you can recall the few, but important issues everyone should know.

When you visit your primary care doctor, specialist, hospital emergency room, or urgent care center you have the right to refuse a physician assistant or nurse and ask for a doctor to examine you.  I understand someone without any urgent matters who needs to see a medical professional for antibiotics, or has arrived for an x-ray, etc., has a different feeling about whom they should see.

American-MedicalIf you arrive at any of the medical centers mentioned here – your condition should tell you when a doctor is needed for your medical needs.  At times, a patient overreacts or the facility under reacts to a situation.  Another problem is far too many people use some of these facilities and understaffed.  No matter what the circumstance you still have the right to see a physician.

Urgent Care in some cities or states are not opened around the clock – take the area where I am from, in this county Urgent Care Centers are open every day but Sunday – so on Sunday the Emergency Room tends to be overcrowded with minor health care needs which can be serviced without a physician.  How many times have you heard someone becoming ill during the holidays, or on a weekend?  Seriously, more patients with life-threatening conditions arrive at the E.R. during holidays or weekends.

In any case, seek proper care when needed, and the quickest way possible.  Do not think about driving yourself to the E.R. if you are the patient with chest pain, etc., far too many patients believe they will be fine and would have been if they followed the basic rule, call 911.

It is your body and you know it better, so if you feel you need a same-day visit by your doctor, insist on seeing them, or go to one of the centers listed above.  Most doctors have answering services, with key-in numbers – for the reasons you are calling.  If you do not hear back from your doctor, call again – tell them you are on your way to this care center, (your choice) and follow up later.  It is important not to think about the cost of medical care while you are undergoing a need for immediate care.  Too many people do not call their doctor, or do not use the ambulance because their health care coverage does not cover it unless it is a true emergency.  Believe in yourself, remember it is your body and it has a way of telling you what is wrong.

When you do visit your doctor or are let go from one of the centers listed above, even if you are leaving a hospital following treatment, the first thing you do is sign a form for your records, each and every time.  Ask, sign, and be sure you bring them home or have a date noted when to expect the records in the mail.  Of course, if you are going for an MRI or CT Scan, etc., the results will not be ready when you leave, but insist, and I mean insist, that you sign a release to have copies mailed to yourself not only to the doctor who asked for the test. Not only is it smart to have a complete history by retrieving records, but it would also cost you an arm and a leg to have your records sent to you if the day arrived when you had to change doctors.  The copies at the time of the visit are normally no charge to the patient, so start asking, and receiving.

A huge topic of discussion has to do with your personal medical records.  I have written about fraud and abuse of a patients medical record before, and not long after that article, it was reported on the national news that 460 million dollars, so far, was found to be charged to Medicare, falsely by physicians, with only two thousand doctors facing charges, with more to go.  Where this enters into your life, is asking for your medical records – be sure everything written on the paper is correct, and if you have questions, ask someone other than the doctor who wrote the original record.  Many insurance companies have individuals who follow your specific case, and this is so important to you and to your future regarding insurance.

Asking for your medical records, on each visit, gives you the opportunity to keep an accurate folder for your own health care, also, it gives you the opportunity to be sure what you were charged for actually occurred. I sometimes wait for the second visit to ask for both copies, and one time I did so, there was a long line at the desk, and I had a husband who needed to return to work.  A copy was handed to me at the second visit and I brought the paper home and immediately checked it over; everything on the paper as part of my medical history was incorrect.

At first, I thought perhaps they mixed me up with another patient, all the pertinent information was right, including address, phone, social security, and insurance numbers, but the exam was nothing I experienced.  The records read I returned for a second series of treatments (shots) – I never had the first shot, remember how I refused the treatment.  I had to find out what happened since all this additional workup was charged to my insurance – I felt I had to call the doctor first and give him the benefit of the doubt.

Not long after my request to speak with the doctor, (we know how long a non-urgent call takes from any doctor) my phone rang – and his voice, unpleasant, was arguing from the first sentence forward, as a guilty person in front of a judge and jury.  When I requested the call, I mentioned to the woman on the phone, “something is wrong, the records I have are not mine, or they are false.”

He never stopped talking, never giving me a chance to talk, insisting he was right, and everything written on my record was correct and each procedure was performed.  He even insisted he came into the room, examined me, touched me, and made me perform certain diagnostic testing – and yes, he declared he gave me shots, and I returned for a second series.  This doctor never stepped a foot into the room, nor did he do anything but write up phony records. I can still see him with his arms stretched out touching the door frame, and his body leaning more to the right.  I never cared for the doctor, and when I returned for a follow-up visit to see how I was doing, I asked for another doctor.  It was my own shock to find out the second doctor was exactly like the first.

As the doctor continued to argue over my visits to his office, I stopped him, and explained, “My husband was with me during both visits, and he heard what you said, and knew what you and your partner did – nothing.”  I continued to tell him he never walked in the room where I sat waiting or touched and examined the area of concern.  He never gave me shots, and then I never returned for another course of shots – these doctors never even so much as looked me in the eye or listened to me about my own body. Everything he argued about, wrote, or signed and mailed to my insurance company was false.

The doctor suddenly stopped arguing, became silent since he knew he did not have a chance when a patient had a witness in the room.  (Another important issue – if you can, bring along a relative or close friend.)  This doctor knew he was wrong, and knew his partner was performing in the same way.  Everything he wrote about my medical treatment was false – and he submitted it to my insurance company, paid, but it most certainly was a solid case of medical fraud.  Without your records, you would not have the foggiest idea when or if a doctor lied to your insurance company.

I glanced back at the file and felt the urge to contact the insurance company, and as everyone does – this fear of being labeled came into my thoughts – would other doctors stick together, and would I be refused care if I reported the fraud and abuse which was evident with these two specialists?  I waited a day or two only because the last thing he said. “A new bill will be mailed to you.”

When the new bill arrived, it stated nothing but the date, time of visit, with who, and diagnosis, but no codes which are a normal part of charging your insurance.  Not one code was on the record.  Now I knew it was time to report these two men for taking advantage of the system.

There is a feeling in our country that doctors should be on a pedestal – held at the highest level and given respect at all times.  We were brought up to believe a doctor can do no wrong.  Therefore, when we visit a doctor who tells us we need a surgical procedure, or long-term in or outpatient care within a medical facility, including physical therapy, it is time to seek another opinion.  Tell your doctor you will return with your answer, or with your plan.

Again, I will use the case above; the two doctors from the same group referred me to another doctor who, as he put it – while holding up – a door-frame, “He is a good friend of mine and qualified to perform the surgical procedure you need.”  Many doctors send you to their best friend, and it is my advice, always go to someone who isn’t the doctor’s friend, seek out a stranger – or go to another town, city, or state – it all depends on the seriousness of the procedure.  In the medical profession, doctors stick together like glue.

So we touch on another important issue – the time has come to second-guess a doctor, even if you know him when it comes to any surgical procedure – and be honest and upfront.  Tell your doctor you want another opinion before you undergo any surgical procedure.

Another reason for a second look at your records, another exam, is location – location – location.  Some doctors are up to date on new procedures, and approach the same situation with a new technique, and the in time inside a medical hospital might be anywhere from overnight to a couple of days.  So much has advanced in medicine, including surgical procedures being less invasive. This type of procedure is likely to be found at a larger medical facility, or teaching hospital.

We have one body to keep in shape, and we must trust that we are doing the right thing for ourselves and not agreeing to please a doctor – you are a number, you could also be a friend, but you have one life to live – they have many patients to treat.

This is only touching on what you should know about your medical care – but once again, keep these things in your mind if the need occurs, and don’t second guess what your body is telling you.

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