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RA, Chronic Illness, and Lost Time

One of the things that comes along with chronic illness that almost never gets talked about is the inordinate amount of time it takes.

I’m not talking about flare-ups or hospital visits; no, those are no-brainers and, unfortunately, a pretty well-known part of living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and chronic illness.

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No, I’m talking about all the time it takes to do the administrative things that come with RA. What are those, you ask? Well, let’s see.

So much time is spent tending to our needs

What’s the saying? Time is the only commodity you can’t get any more of? Well, that goes doubly true for those of us living with RA and chronic illness. Our time is always under attack, and it can evaporate before our eyes without us even realizing it. Sure, pain and fatigue play a huge part in sapping our time, but the ridiculous amount of time RA and chronic illness patients spend preparing and tending to our secondary needs would make Marty McFly himself fly into a rage.

There are so many things that we spend time doing when dealing with RA and chronic illness that I certainly can’t fit them all in one article; they are numerous and belligerent. There are a few, though, that rise above the rest, and those are the ones that take most of our time. There is one above all others that we spend an inordinate amount of time on: dealing with medical insurance.

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Dealing with time-consuming health insurance challenges

Health insurance. Yeah, exactly. I can more or less guarantee that absolutely no one read those 2 words and smiled or got a jolt of happy oxytocin juice from their brain. No — in fact, if anything, it probably induced a flash of rage with a side dish of sadness for the gobs of time that get stolen when dealing with the spectacular depths of human incompetence that seem to be rife inside insurance companies. Here’s a little taste of a recent experience of mine so you can really understand how deep the abyss of absurdity goes.

I take injections once a day of a medicine that suppresses part of my immune system – a biologic. This is something that any RA patient is familiar with and is as ubiquitous in autoimmune illness as drinking is in going fishing – it just goes hand in hand, and everyone knows you really can’t have one without the other.

Everyone, that is, except the particular customer service rep I happened to get that day when I called my insurance company.

A clerical error created a frustrating ordeal

You see, the office manager at my rheumatologist’s office had erroneously filled out my prior authorization form and checked the box indicating that this was a "new medicine" for me, even though I had been taking it for 12-plus years. You would never think a tiny little pen mark could cause so much of a fracas.

Now, I’m on the phone with — let’s call them Lisa — the insurance representative, and I said, "Hey, Lisa, I have a bit of a problem. Insurance is suddenly denying the claim for the medication I have been taking for years. Can you help me?" Lisa said sure and pulled up my account, looked at a few things, and then said, "Oh, well, you have to try these other meds [lists meds I had taken years ago] first before they will pay for this one."

At this point, I said to myself, Oh, it must just be some sort of computer error, as I tried all those meds years ago, and I told Lisa I had been taking this med for years. She responded with, "Well, not according to this prior auth form your doctor submitted." I laughed, because this is the same insurance company that paid for all the meds in question at one point and has a paper trail that spans more than a decade, and I said this to Lisa. She responded with, "Oh, no, we can only go by the latest form your doctor submitted," to which I said, "Well, just check your records. You’ll see it’s inaccurate." And that’s exactly when things went from bad to ludicrous.

Not only had I taken those meds before, but they had paid for them!

Lisa said that no, she could not go by the previous forms — only the most recently submitted info was what they had to go by. I said, well, Lisa, I understand that, but are you telling me that by simply writing it down we have changed history? Have we accidentally discovered a loophole in Einstein’s theory of relativity and his postulation that we cannot go back in time? Did you and I, an insurance customer service rep and a chronic illness patient, discover that we can, in fact, change the immutable direction of time’s arrow, crap on the rules of the universe, and spit in the eye of God by simply writing down that it never happened?

At this point I was incredulous at the absurdity of it all, and Lisa, well, her, not so much. She said, no, according to this, you never took this medication or any other biologics before today, to which I said, not only have I taken them, but you actually paid for them. All you have to do is one little search on your computer there, and you’ll see. I swear it’s real and I didn’t go back in time to change things using a DeLorean that I put a banana peel in at 88 miles per hour. Promise.

People don't realize how much time it takes

Well, after 2 hours of trying to convince Lisa that reality had, in fact, really happened, I gave up. She held firm, and I wasn’t able to get my injections for that month until the doctor sent a corrected form — which, again, apparently broke Einsteinian physics and altered history again and I was able to get my meds. That is 3 hours of my life I will never get back.

This is just an example of the type of things that suck down the time (and energy) of those of us who really can’t afford to give up more time than we already have. People don’t realize how much time the administrative tasks of RA take! Talk soon.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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