Yesterday, I went to the doctor, and he prescribed medication for reflux disease. When I went to pick up my prescription, the cashier told me the pharmacy could not fill it until they received authorization from the doctor. I asked whether the doctor’s prescription was not authorization. It turns out, according to the pharmacist, that the insurance company will not pay for the medication without a written justification from the doctor.
Rather than needing doctor’s authorization, the insurance company was rejecting his authorization. So, I get no treatment for my reflux, which hardly seems fair, but the situation is exasperatingly complicated.
It could be that my doctor, under the influence of pharmaceutical reps, prescribed an expensive medication that is no more effective than cheaper alternatives. If so, it may be in the best interest of everyone, except the doctor and pharmaceutical company, to reject payment for an expensive medication that offers no additional benefits over other medications. Praise to the insurance company for holding the line on costs.
It may be that the doctor knows that the new and expensive medication is more effective and has fewer side effects than alternatives. He may have prescribed what he feels will promote my health and healing better than any other treatment available. In this case, all thanks go to my doctor, and the insurance company is really quite evil.
Or, it could be that the insurance company rejects any expensive treatment with the hope that patients will give up and find cheaper treatments or go without treatment. This, of course, might save money in the short run, although rejecting claims costs money in itself. Sometimes, rejecting a claim is more costly than simply paying it. the amount of staff time and resources tied up on this one prescription is enough to give one pause. The pharmacy says the insurance company won’t pay for the prescription, but I did not press them on how they know this. It is possible they simply consulted a list of preferred medications. It may be that they checked a computer database. Or, they may have actually made a phone call. Any of these options require employee time.
After determining that the drug was not a “preferred” drug, the pharmacy faxed a form to my doctor. If things go as planned, a member of the doctor’s staff will obtain a statement and signature from him before completing the form and faxing it back to the pharmacy. This is an inefficient system at best.
In this case, the patient, me, is going without treatment for reflux, which is causing real problems and can lead, if untreated, to serious problems such as esophageal cancer, which frequently terminates in death. So, who is to blame for the suffering of the patient? Greedy pharmaceutical companies? Doctors under the influence of greedy pharmaceutical companies? Greedy private insurance companies? Or pharmacists who raise problems when there is no problem? I really don’t know the answer.