Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ode to Kaiser Permanente

I am a Kaiser baby. So is Steve. Children of teachers, Kaiser is generally the chosen HMO of the Teachers' Unions, and as Steve is a teacher, it is the only insurance that both of us have ever known. Also five minutes from our house, our children were born there; I have had 30+ years of excellent neurology care for my epilepsy first by Dr. Rosenberg and second by Dr. Kaplan; we adore the our pediatrician, Dr. Cantrell; and, my doctors have taken superb care of me through my breast cancer fight.

Now, in a fight for my life, we have chosen to leave Kaiser for a PPO form of insurance, most likely to receive care through UCSD. In my mind's eye, I know this is the right decision. However, seeing Dr. Kaplan yesterday, potentially for the last time, my heart told a different story. Always my protector, Steve had not wanted me to go to this appointment alone. His foresight amazed me as pulled out of the Kaiser parking lot with tears streaming down my cheeks. He knew it would be hard for me. Deep down, I knew too, but like usual, I just chose not to think about it.

I have to admit, I was excited when Dr. Kaplan told me that UCSD has an Epilepsy Center. Fancy. Scary. What if they do not like me taking Tegretol? The drug that has been working so well for me since I was 12 years old, it is NOT the most state-of-the-art for the type of seizures to which I am prone. I know I have to be prepared for a slew of tests and a change in medication. However, what if I have a seizure in the interim? I would loose my driving privileges again, a loss of freedom that would be tough to take. Again, I choose not to give these fears too much heed. It will be what it will be. It will be up to me to be my own advocate.

My emotions from yesterday gave me a sneak peek as to what it will be like for me to leave Dr. Sweet and the rest of my care team. I will add them to my Christmas card list. I will make every attempt to keep in touch and who knows, maybe we will even be back, one day. With Kaiser, I feel safe. In the coming year using a PPO, if I cannot re-create the same safe haven, we can always choose to re-enroll with Kaiser during Steve's open enrollment period, this time next year. I doubt that will happen.

So, what is ahead for me? CHOICES!!!!! For all intents and purposes, I may never have anything else but the same chemo I am having or another common chemo regimen for the rest of my life. This IS a likely scenario. However, if there is a cure out there, whether it be at UCSD or Vanderbilt University, I will now have the choice and my insurance coverage will follow.

Coming into this season of Thanksgiving, some of my friends are posting what they are thankful for each day on FaceBook. I love reading these posts and sharing their joy. I have to say, though outside of the obvious friends, family, etc.,  topping my list right now are three things: that Steve has a job, so we have access to a great group health plan; that I have wonderful parents who have helped us sort through all of the insurance red tape, find and pay for the insurance plan that is going to work best for us; and lastly, I am thankful for HIPPA, the law that insured that I cannot be discriminated against as we make this change.

Living from test to test, scan to scan, access to a great PPO that gives us choice and freedom to move between health care institutions is the best gift for which I could ever ask. And for this I am most thankful. It has given me hope.

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