In Tuesday’s Expert Perspective, Ron Manderscheid outlined three common kinds of challenges to accessing mental health care: insurance-related, provider-related, and distance-related challenges. We’ve heard first-hand from Jennifer and Doug how these barriers have impeded their access to mental health care.
Today we hear from Brandy, whose distance-related and other challenges are not uncommon for people who live in rural areas and elsewhere.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after having my second son. As a nurse, I know how critical care is for the mentally ill. Well, my experience has not been very positive.
When I was first diagnosed, it took a year to get in to a psychiatrist and I was treated by my nurse midwife until then. Finding a psychiatrist in a rural area that is covered by whatever insurance I had at the time was the problem. I once drove 2 hours for all my appointments because the only provider with an opening that carried my insurance was 2 hours away. That lasted a year and that wonderful psychiatrist retired.
My latest experience is with a provider 45 minutes away. First, let me explain that I have literally thousands of dollars in medical bills due to mental illness, even though I am normally covered by a healthcare insurance. That’s just in copays, out-of-pocket, and anything that goes over the mental health benefits coverage, which is minimal, I must say. I am a registered nurse—I should be able to pay my medical bills and feed my children!
Finally, when I recently had a two-month gap in coverage, my current psychiatrist refused to refill my medications without seeing me. (I couldn’t get in to see him because I have to pay $200 up front for an appointment because of past-due medical bills.) That didn’t matter to him. It seems to me that he had written me off as the stereotypical noncompliant bipolar.
When I finally got my tax returns and was able to go in, I was an emotional mess and I was angry. I clearly let him know the situation and that I felt he had let me down in our care partnership. I haven’t been back to see him, but I believe he now sees me in a different light. I work hard to take my medications, remain stable, and be a good nurse and mother to my children and I would just like it to be a LITTLE less hard to do that.
Have you had to wait a long time or drive a long distance to see a provider? Do other parts of Brandy’s story ring true? Comment below and let us know what you think!