My Experience Only. YMMV.

Posts tagged ‘insurance coverage for mental health’

Mental Illness and Voting

people standing with signage on street

Photo by Rosemary Ketchum on Pexels.com

No, I’m not going to tell you how to vote. And I’m not going to say the country is bipolar just because we’re so divided. What I am going to do is talk about the issues you should be concerned with during these mid-term elections and what you need to do in order to make your vote count.

Despite the fact that mid-term elections are usually boring, plagued by low turn-outs and minor local issues, this time they are likely to have national significance. This time we are voting on people – representatives, senators, and governors – who will make the policy for our states and our nation, including policies that affect the mentally ill.

Health policy. We’re not voting directly on national health policy, but we are voting for or against the people who make those policies. Those policies include support for the ACA (Obamacare), especially its protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

This has become a hot-button issue this year and you will likely hear and see ads that tout the various candidates’ support for insurance that covers pre-existing conditions. The key here is to do a tiny bit of research. Whatever a candidate says now, has he or she always supported coverage for pre-existing conditions? Or does the candidate have a history of trying to do away with such insurance coverage? Promises are not the point here. Past actions are. Given the choice between an incumbent and a newcomer, I personally will go for the newcomer if the incumbent has a track record of trying to dismantle coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Another important issue for the mentally ill is safety net programs, particularly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Many people with mental illness depend on these programs to cover their basic living and medical expenses. Believe a candidate who wants to gut these programs. Many of them see the people who benefit from these programs, particularly SSDI, as “moochers,” “freeloaders,” and drags on society. If you or a loved one needs this kind of assistance, vote accordingly.

There may also be local issues regarding police training, housing, and the homeless that are relevant to persons with mental illness. Spend a few minutes researching before you vote. Some Internet sites such as BallotReady.org and Vote411.org can help.

Your vote. Your vote only counts if you actually cast it and that can be a problem for those with mental or emotional disorders. Going to the polls can seem an impossible feat. But given the significance of the coming elections, spending some spoons to do so can have long-term repercussions.

If you have trouble getting to the polls, first make sure you know where your polling place is this year. It may have changed since the last time you voted. Then ask around. Some cities, like mine, are offering free bus rides to polling places and some services like Uber are offering discounted fees. Neighbors who go to the same polling place or members of support groups you belong to can potentially provide transport. Don’t forget to ask friends and family, if you can. They may not realize how important voting is to you or the difficulty you have getting to the polls.

If your difficulty is not getting to the polling places, but being at them, plan ahead. There are likely to be crowds this year and you may want to have a support person with you, especially one who also plans to vote. You may even be able to call the polling place ahead of time and find out when their peak voting times are so you can avoid them. If possible, avoid the noon rush, when many people take a voting break from work, and just after local businesses close for the day.

You may have heard rumors of intimidation at the polls this year. These are likely exaggerated, as are predictions of civil unrest after the results are known.  If anyone tries to interfere with or influence your voting, find an official poll worker or ask for a provisional ballot, which is your legal right. Call the police if you have to. Rely on a support person to help you get through the process.

Remember that this year’s elections are important. If at all possible, VOTE.

 

The Quest for a Psychiatrist

I have been seeing Dr. R. for eight years. He helped me through my major meltdown and skillfully, gradually mixed the cocktail of medications that would get me and keep me functioning at an acceptable, livable level. He got me through my near-brush with ECT (although he also suggested it).

Dr. R. is moving to another state. He sent all his clients a letter listing half a dozen or so local psychiatrists he could recommend, though he didn’t know if they were accepting new patients or what insurance plans they took. This week was my last appointment with him.

I looked at the inch-thick file he was holding. “I was really messed up back then,” I said.

“Yep,” he replied.

I left with a hearty handshake, good luck wishes, a paper stating my diagnosis (bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder – I guess there was no insurance code for bipolar 2) and six months of refills on my prescriptions. That’s how long I have to find a new psychiatrist.

So where will my inch-thick file end up next? That’s a good question.

I’ve written before about finding a psychotherapist (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-1m), but oh, I hate the process of finding and breaking in a new shrink.

At least this time I probably won’t have to go through the whole Reader’s Digest Condensed Version of my screwed-up life, since what I really need at this point is someone who will prescribe and monitor my meds, though it will also be nice to have someone standing by in case of another major meltdown, should I have one.

My first avenue of exploration is whether my primary care physician will prescribe my psychotropics, so I can continue with just a psychotherapist. Dr. R. says that most GPs would shy away from the somewhat lengthy list of meds, but every time I see Dr. S. I update him on what meds I am taking, and I always mention the psychotropics, which have mostly been the same for years.

I have an appointment to see Dr. S. next month and sent a query about the prescription issue (his office has a robust online presence), so with luck, I may have a solution before Halloween.

My next step would be to start with the list that Dr. R. provided. Only one of the offices is at all close to me and I’ll likely start there. Does the doctor accept new patients? Does the practice take my insurance? What’s the charge if they don’t?

I’ll also need to contact my insurance provider for a list of local psychiatrists who do take that insurance, but with that I’ll be flying blind. Dr. R.’s recommendations are people he knows, and knows are good.

I hope they’re as good as Dr. R.

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