Tuesday, January 24, 2012

T Minus 29 Days - Insurance and the Many Machinations

"We didn't choose to be bureaucrats,
No that's what our mighty Ja made us;
We'd treat people like swine and make them stand in line,
Even if nobody paid us!"

-- Hermes Conrad (Futurama), The Bureaucrat Song
Only 29 days remaining! I've had way too much to do to prepare, but I suppose I should be grateful, because it's made the time go by quickly. On the electrolysis timeline, I only have one session left. Things in general are also coming together really well!

The craziness kicked off in earnest when Robin with Dr. Bowers' office sent me a surgery info packet a few weeks ago, which included a checklist of various forms and such to send to them, recommendations for hotels, a list of important dates, etc.

Among the things to send, they requested HIV test results. Normally these tests can cost around $150, but the Utah Pride Center does free testing on certain days, so Erin came with me and we both got tested. Of course, both our results were negative, but it's always nice to know, and it's very cool that we have such great local programs.

I also had to send off my letters of recommendation, an information release form, medical history, an anesthesia evaluation form, my name change court order, a picture of myself, and a one-page self bio. No, I'm not making that last bit up. =P

At the start of the year, I switched to a new insurance plan with Anthem Blue Cross that covers trans surgery. I was still nervous about my chances for approval, and trying really hard not to get my hopes up, just in case. As soon as Robin had all my info, she contacted the insurance to get the pre-authorization started. It was only a few days later (last Friday) that I heard back from both the insurance rep and Robin, telling me that I'd been approved! SO EXCITING!

This is such a huge weight off my shoulders. I've said many times how terrible I felt having this huge cost looming over Erin and me (even knowing it'd be worth it). My out-of-network deductible was $3,000, which is a substantial discount from the $22,500 I'd planned on paying. After surgery, we're hoping to take a vacation or two, then start looking for houses. =D

I'm a little sad that we won't be able to thank Robin in person, since she works in Trinidad, CO. I know it's her job, but Robin has been amazing to work with, and I can't imagine coordinating all of this paperwork without her help. I can definitely see why Dr. Bowers kept her on in Colorado, even after moving her practice to San Mateo.

In addition, I've been researching plastic surgeons for the possible breast augmentation I mentioned in my last post. Oddly enough, Salt Lake City has a thriving plastic surgery industry, with a lot of good surgeons with good rates. With the power of the internet, I found a nearby surgeon who gets great reviews, and decided to schedule a consultation. Of course, one of the first things I asked the girl on the phone was if the doc had any experience with trans clients. I was surprised to hear that he very much prefers to not work with trans people, and also that the rep had no idea why. "It's just his policy." Although I wouldn't want to work with someone that doesn't want to work with "my people", it was still incredibly disappointing. =/

After that, I decided to call one Dr. Beck in California. Not only does he have a lot of experience with trans clients and enjoy working with us, he often works with Dr. Bowers, to perform aesthetic surgeries during the same session as the SRS. I had a phone consultation with him a couple of weeks ago, and I really liked his demeanor and his recommendations. At first I was wary of the prospect of healing from both SRS and a BA at the same time, but the idea of having it all done with and not having to be put under twice is quite appealing. After insurance came through, I went ahead and scheduled the BA with him.

On another front, Erin and I have both put in for medical leave from our respective work places. Mine is still in the works, though I'm pretty sure it will be approved. Erin's, well... a couple of days after she turned in all the paperwork, they said that her request was denied because "they don't recognize domestic partnerships."

When Erin explained that we're actually married, they told her that even if we're married in another state, it wouldn't count since same-sex marriages aren't recognized in Utah. *facepalm* She then, of course, had to divulge my history and explain it in detail before they decided to look at it again. Thankfully, in the end, they did approve it. It's just frustrating that we'll always be forced to come out in order to validate our marriage, and that they wanted to discriminate in the first place.

Originally, we'd planned to drive to Cali in order to save money, but between Erin not liking to drive, the possibility of hitting snowstorms on the way back, and me being unsure how I'll feel sitting in a car for that long, we decided it's smarter to take a plane. We booked our flights a couple of days ago, and we'll be leaving February 17th and coming back March 3rd!

I'm still working on hotels. We're trying to save money wherever possible, but I also think it would be a good idea to stay somewhere with a kitchen, since we'll be there for a while. Decisions, decisions.

And last but not least, I still need to find a local doc who can give me a post-op checkup a few weeks after the surgery, to monitor on healing and such. My primary care physician said she didn't feel like she'd be good for it, and I feel stupid even broaching the subject with other offices without being referred. However, there is a nearby Dr. Luikenaar who recently announced that she's looking to help trans clients, and whose specialty is gynecology. Perhaps it's meant to be? I'll give her a call soon. =)