Vanc Clinic has Online Urgent Care Scheduling

Pretty cool, I needed to take my little girl in to urgent care for an ear infection.  Of course I called the pediatrician's office first but no appointments were available until next week.  However the scheduling person said, "You can schedule an appointment with urgent care on the web site."  So I tried it out.  You can only schedule a day or so in advance it looks like.  Which makes perfect sense to me.  It was quick and fairly easy.

When we got there and told the person at the desk that we had an appointment she said, looking at her computer, "Oh yea, here you are.  Good thing you scheduled because the wait is pretty long right now.”  She was right.  The waiting room was full but about 10 minutes after sitting down to wait we were called in.  Nice setup.  Of course that’s the good side of the story.


Here’s the rest of the story:  This year we got new healthcare from work.  An HRA.  Which apparently means that they put money in an account for you to draw from when you go to the doctor.  So that means no copay, which is great.  Well apparently not for prescriptions, since I had to give $10 for the $70 prescription.  But I’m sure an HRA is great, because my HR people told me it was.

The problem was, when this all started and I sort of needed to get into urgent care within the next few hours I realized that I had a problem.  I had never looked to see if my preferred local doctors office, The Vancouver Clinic, was covered under my new insurance.  A quick call to Vancouver Clinic got me the answer, "There's know way for us to know that.  Is there any other way I might help you?"  OK fair enough.

So why not check the website of the health insurance company.    Except I don't know what that web site is.  So I connected to the network at work.  Well first I had to go into the other room and fish around in my laptop bag for a while to find the RSA key which would allow me to login to work.  Seventeen clicks and a few “Please wait while we install software’s” later.  I hit the main corporate network.  Looked around a bit until I found the HR web site.   Looking at the HR page, and even searching for the words "health" or "insurance" found no good info.   But looking closer I found a button labeled "benefits."  OK we're in business!

Well maybe not.  Lots of data on that “benefits” page, found something about health care coverage pretty quick.  Clicked that link.  It's a PDF, so we'll wait for that to load for a bit.  Start skimming, scroll-scroll-scroll.  On about the last page of this 30-something page thing there are some URL's.  One is to the insurance company's web site!

Now we're on the home stretch, "Welcome to Anthem!" said the web site.  "Find a Doctor" that looks promising.  OK enter my zip code, within 20 miles, yep that'll work.  Question four; what type of insurance do you have?  I hit the pulldown and nothing on that list matches what my insurance card says.  Of course I am on the Anthem web site and my card says BlueCross BlueShield, so maybe I’m in the wrong place.  Open a new tab and a bit of google revealed that Anthem and BlueWhatever are the same thing.  Yay!  Back to Question four; what type of insurance do you have?

Since nothing is listed here I select PPO, since my card does have a logo on the bottom that says “PPO” right under where it says “HRA”.  That opens a new question.  PPO, or PPO Basic.  I select one at random and hit submit.  Yay a list of doctors and a map showing where they are … But wait a minute, this really is a list of doctors!   Dr. John Smith at such-and-such address and Dr. Jane Doe and other-and-such address.  This does me no good, it doesn’t list the names of the place where they practice.  Nowhere would it say, “The Vancouver Clinic.”

I guess I can look at the map, try to a find doctor with a number next to it that signifies it is in the correct place on the map and then call the number for that doctor to make sure that they are, in fact, at the Vancouver clinic. 

Have you forgotten why I was doing all this?  Because by this point I had.   At this point you could stop reading and skip to the end.  But I couldn’t, I’m stuck in this nightmare.  I have to soldier on.  I try to remember that the goal here is to figure out if Vancouver Clinic is covered under my insurance.  Meanwhile my daughter sits miserably in the chair behind me.  So, no pressure.

Time to call this doctor I’ve selected in about the right point on the map … wait, there are no phone numbers listed.  Maybe if I click on their names.  Nope, no phone numbers available for any of these doctors.  Is it hot in here?  Maybe the AC isn’t working properly.  If I die of frustration at this point at least somebody else will have the problem of taking my daughter to the doctor.  At least she’d be distracted from the throb in the side of her head by my frustrated corpse.

OK back button … back back back.  Oh look, there is also a “Find an Urgent Care Link”  lets try that.  Same problem.  Question four; what type of insurance do you have?  I still don’t know the answer to this, but this time I notice there is a radio button for, “Search for all insurance types.”  Lets use that and see what we get.   I get a list of urgent care clinics with a highlighted note at the top of the page saying, “Your insurance may not cover all of these locations.” subtext, “because you didn’t choose your insurance type,  Dummy!”

Examining the list I see that Vancouver Clinic isn’t on there, but the company names are.  No phone numbers, but at least I have a company name and address this time.  So that’s progress.  Still I have to know what is covered on my particular HRA-PPO-POS plan.  So I call the insurance company.  After about five minutes saying into the phone “Find a Doctor” and “Find Urgent Care.” And an automated system telling me, “I didn’t recognize that response.”  And reminding me that I’d really be better off graduating to the twenty-first century and doing all this via their web site. I finally say, rather urgently, “Agent!” 

The nice lady with the southern accent that comes onto the phone points out that there is yet another option for Question four; what type of insurance do you have? Which I hadn't noticed before now titled, “I am a current member and want to search using my plan.”  I’m not sure how I didn’t see this since it’s conveniently printed in light grey text on a white background and is placed ABOVE the default option.

So I think the lady on the phone, hang up and enter the data from my card into this new option on the web site.  It works!  Here are a list of all the urgent care places in my area that are supported by my particular HRA-PPO-POS-PITA.  Vancouver clinic isn’t on this list either.  In fact there are a total of three locations within the city where I live.  That’s OK only two hundred fifty thousand of us live here.  Three locations should be enough since they’re probably 24/7 operations.  I write down the location of the one nearest my house and we’re out the door!

Arriving at the location with miserable girl in tow we walk up to the entrance of this Family Urgent Care Clinic.  There is a sign taped to the door, not an official sign.  But something that somebody knocked up in Word in about 10 seconds, Calibri 72-point font at it’s best.  “Urgent Care Will Close Today at 2:00PM”  A quick look at my phone lets me what I have already guessed.  The time is now 2:14PM.  Not to be deterred we walk in anyway.  

A small Asian woman tells me, “urgent care closed!” 
“Yes I saw the sign.”
To which she responds, “urgent care closed!” and shakes her head.

Back in the car where the AC works hard to cool off my temper.  Thankfully before I embarked upon my quest for unlimited free energy … I mean my quest for insurance supported urgent care.  I had made an appointment, online, at Vancouver Clinic for 3:00PM.   “2:18 is close enough,” I think.  Followed by, “This is why I take care of my money.  I have a credit card with plenty of free spending power on it.  This is America.  In America the best insurance card is a credit card.”  And so we went to Vancouver clinic, and from there all went fairly well.

The lady at the counter copied the incomprehensible information from my insurance card into her computer.  This took almost 15 minutes.  How you can spend 15 minutes inputting the data from a mostly blank three inch rectangular card which your company doesn’t accept, I don’t know.  Maybe she was using the Anthem web site too.  I had to sign a document, which I didn’t read. But I felt confident assuming it said, “We’re probably going to bill you a fairly silly amount of money for this and you here-by agree that the bill should make no sense to man or beast.  In fact if you call us about this bill even we won’t be able to tell you what any of it means.”

So we have a diagnosis of “some fluid behind the ear drum but no infection.” A prognosis of, “If she spikes a fever bring her back in.” and a prescription for nasally administered steroids.  Presumably if you build up the muscles of the nose it will beat the ears into submission.