Monday, February 6, 2012

Fun with Health Care

O has ear tubes and bio mom has told me repeatedly that he gets "lots" of ear infections. He's been with us 7 months and there's been nary a sign of one, but I did take him in to an audiologist to get his hearing screened (it's perfect) and they verified that the tubes are in place and functioning properly.

When L and O first came to us, I hunted for a pediatrician that would accept Medicaid, so I could do their initial taken-into-care-health-check. I found one that was accepting new Medicaid patients and tried to make them an appointment. Then it turned out that they were already on Medicaid before and they had been to the doctor the month before they came to us. Which meant that Medicaid would not pay for the initial-taken-into-care health check, so it didn't get done.

O's 4th birthday is in a few months and I'd been idly thinking I should go ahead and call that pediatrician and get him on the schedule for a well-child check. It's a new calendar year, so we should be able to get a visit in now. A couple weeks ago, he woke up saying his ear hurt. I looked at it and couldn't see any drainage from the tube; he was running no fever and acting perfectly normal, so I made the decision to wait it out a day or two. The next day, he told me that sleeping made his ear feel better and I merrily went back to idly thinking about getting him on the pediatrician's schedule.

Today, he woke up and said his ear hurt. I figured I'd give it a day again and took him off to speech therapy. After speech, we went grocery shopping. As I was strapping him back in his seat to leave the store, I noticed that the ear nearest me--the one he said was hurting--was oozing something yellow. Yuck. I asked him if his ear still hurts--it does. I asked him which ear it is that hurts--the one with the gunk. OK, really gotta get him in to see a ped.

So, we went home and I called the pediatrician I found when they first arrived 7 months ago. They are no longer accepting new Medicaid patients. Guess we missed the boat. I pulled out the two-page list the agency gave me of providers to try and began the spiral radius search again. After I'd tried everyone in my town and the 2 nearest ones away, I began to panic. So, I tried the county Health department, figuring they HAVE to take Medicaid, right?

Well, they do, but they can't prescribe him an antibiotic if he does have an ear infection. Thankfully, the lady on the phone had the presence of mind to ask me why I want to make an appointment and told me this before we spend any time in the health department's waiting room. She also told me that urgent care places will generally take kids over age 2 with Medicaid. I'd already tried one of those--from my list--but I started down that road. The first one I called doesn't take Medicaid, but told me of another one that does. I called that one, confirmed that they do take Medicaid, they will see a 3 year old with a possible ear infection, and discovered that I can't make an appointment. Just gotta go hang out in the waiting room. With a sick 3 year old. What fun!

In the examination room, the doctor confirmed my suspicions. The yellow gunk is pus. He'll prescribe an antibiotic, but I should schedule a follow-up with his ENT or his pediatrician in 4 days. Who is that? Well, umm....I had to explain how I, as a foster parent, have had a child for 7 months without him ever seeing anyone. As soon as I get to the "they'd seen someone right before they came to me, so Medicaid wouldn't...", he nodded and offered to get the staff to hunt up some offices to try. Hallelujah!

After a 1 hour wait for the medication at the pharmacy, we've finally gotten home. Poor little guy is obviously exhausted, but says the medicine is "tasty" (praise the Lord!) and sucks it down without resistance. Now, I'm trying the numbers the urgent care office gave me and leaving messages left and right--looking for someone less than an hour away with openings for new Medicaid patients!


  1. In defense of the bio mom - my son got tons of ear infections BEFORE he got tubes. Maybe that's what mom meant. :)

    As for Medicaid -- isn't it awful?! I'm surprised they said they wouldn't cover a physical when your little guy came in to care. We have to get our kids examined within 72 hours, no exception. I've never had any problems getting visits covered. But then again, I do live in a strange part of the country. Every SINGLE doctor down here takes Medicaid. I think they might be working the system a little differently than the rest of the country does.

  2. You're right--that's probably what she meant. I didn't explain it clearly; I didn't mean that I doubted her, I more meant that I hadn't had to deal with one yet!

    The Medicaid thing is just so weird! I was told in training the same as what y'all do--72 hours, no exceptions. (Except I think it was that I have to have scheduled the appointment within that time frame, and that if the earliest appointment I can get isn't in actually in the window that's OK.)

    My agency caseworker said that these kids' county is weird. The county said that the foster care Medicaid wouldn't start til beginning of the month following their entering care and that they had to stay on their existing Medicaid for the remainder of the month. It was bizarre. And they are apparently the only county in our area that does it this way. (I live near the border of 3 counties, so I could get kids from any of the three--one reason we researched agencies to begin with.)

    Finally found him a pediatrician, so hopefully we're set for any more "emergencies"!

    Thanks for commenting!