15 September 2015

Intro to Cholecystectomy, Vol. II: Dealing with Bureaucracy

See, after I stayed in the hospital for 3 days, I immediately went to my GP. After all, he needed to know what happened, so that I can get the situation remedied. So the following work day, I went to his clinic without an appointment, and luckily, I just showed up, and he immediately saw me.

I gave him the letter the hospital gave me when I was released, detailing their diagnosis and the recommended cholecystectomy. Since I wasn't in emergency pain, the gallbladder removal could wait. Therefore, the hospital that I was taken into didn't do it. I had to do it through proper channels.

My GP gave me two official documents. I received a red prescription, which I simply showed at a random drugstore, and I automatically got some medication as a result. It was an official document saying that my GP thinks it is essential for me to get that medicine, hence the insurance company will pay for it.

I also received a yellow referral letter, which I had to show to the hospital. My GP told me that I should make an appointment to the hospital, and then after that, I will come back to his office. I should have asked what appointment, but then, given that it was my first time to get an operation, I expected the worst.

So I called the hospital, and told the operator that I needed to get my gallbladder out, so I would like to set up an appointment. I was relayed to the proper office, and they offered me July 16. I thought that was the appointment for the operation, and since I had to be out of town the following weekend, I asked if there was an appointment available after that instead. So they gave me July 21. I didn't really ask more than that, I just put it in my calendar, expecting that I would be operated there. I knew that there are several steps to having an operation, and I thought that everything would simply start happening on that date.

I was wrong.

When I went to the hospital on that date, I was told that I only had an appointment with the surgeon to introduce myself. I took my referral letter and he read it, and then told me pretty much everything that I already knew, about the operation. He gave me some official looking documents, basically documents that I had to sign saying I consent to being operated on. And then there were bureaucratic issues that I had to take care of. In the meantime, I was given a schedule. On August 5, I had an appointment for the preparatory session, which included getting bloodwork done, getting an ultrasound or something, and having a chat with the anesthesiologist. On August 6 I was to call a number to schedule my surgery, and on August 7 I have my surgery.

Good, so now I have a schedule. But there were a couple of paperwork that I needed to take care of first. I had to get a red official-looking document from my GP telling the world that I really need to get my gallbladder out. I wondered what was the difference between this paper and the first paper I got from him. Well, apparently, the first paper was just a referral letter, without which the hospital wouldn't talk to me. Now that the hospital would talk to me, I needed the GP to tell the hospital that I need my gallbladder out.

Once I got that paper, I had to take that to the insurance company, and get a stamp saying that they would indeed pay for the procedure. Otherwise, the hospital wouldn't operate. So basically, on July 21, after leaving the hospital, frustrated because I already mentally prepared myself for the surgery that ended up not happening that day, I just ran back and forth from the hospital to my GP to the insurance company. And at the end of the day, I had all the relevant paperwork that would make it ready for me to be cut up.


  1. Have you ever thought how different the situation would have been if it had happened when you were living in Buffalo? Did you have medical insurance back then?

    1. Zhu,

      Yes, that crossed my mind. As a student, I did have medical insurance, as every foreign student in the USA is required to have one. However, it was crappy compared to what I have right now in Germany. There was co-pay, and knowing what I know about the American health care system, these are expensive. Heck, once I just went on a consultation with a specialist in Buffalo General Hospital and I had to pay 50 USD!