For the last 2 1/2 years, I have been able to use a civilian pediatrician instead of a military one. In some ways, they are the same: often, I had to wait for quite some time for my appointment, long past the scheduled time. In some ways, they could be worse: they had the right to decline me as a patient if I didn’t give my children the vaccines they felt were necessary. And in some ways they were better: they had an office open for sick children on weekends, which I went to more than once for ear infections.
In one way, they were superior: I could always make the necessary appointments for my children.
This, unfortunately, is not always the case with the military health care system.
Case in point: today’s frustration, which began two weeks ago.
We moved here. I noticed George was tongue-tied. Bill found out we could enroll into the local Tricare system online. So he did. They had options for PCMs. A neighbor had recommended their civilian pediatrician, and this pediatrician was listed. Bill selected them. I called the pediatrician and was able to get my (starving) newborn in during their evening sick child hours that very day. They also gave me the necessary referral to the lactation consultants at the local hospital and a list of ENTs (who got me in the day I called to clip his tongue). I called the pediatrician the next day and scheduled his two week newborn appointment for the following week. At that appointment, I scheduled a follow-up appointment for his one month mark because he was barely gaining the required weight.
Then we received notice in the mail from Tricare that we could not use this civilian provider because there was a local military clinic.
Bill called Tricare today and explained the situation with George and asked that an exception be made for just him until we get past this “crisis.” Nope. We must go to the military clinic.
So I called the clinic to make an appointment for this one month follow up to make sure that my starving baby is properly gaining weight. His one month mark is next week – can you believe it?? me, neither! – and the man at the appointment line (very nice man, BTW, very sympathetic) knew the reason the child was being brought in was because of his weight, but the best he could offer me was August 21st. 4 weeks…6 weeks…if the baby isn’t thriving, do 2 more weeks really make a big difference? Nah, I’m sure he’ll be fine…
So I suggested we make his 2 month appointment, since if we’re waiting until 6 weeks, we might as well just skip it and do the next one (and because this is my 7th kid and I have a scale and I know he’s not starving, even though I didn’t tell the appointment guy all this). Oh, but they can only make appointments 4 weeks out, and his 2 month mark is 5 weeks out. I need to call back next week to schedule that.
This clinic is also where I am supposed to go, so I asked if I could make my 6 week postpartum appointment. He asked if I wanted to go to the OB/GYNs at MacDill (40 minutes away) or to my PCM. I asked if my PCM was male or female. Male. I asked if there were any female doctors at the clinic. No. I asked if there was a nurse practitioner at the clinic. No. I said I preferred to go to the OB/GYNs then. He said that was fine, but he would have to transfer me to them to make the appointment. He transferred me. I got voice mail.
No starving baby check up appointment made.
No 2 month well baby appointment made.
No postpartum appointment made.
Like I said, I never had difficulty making appointments with civilian providers.
And the Tricare website? Why do they list providers you can’t use? Then when I went to the site to learn who our PCMs were, all it listed was a name. No address, no phone number. I had to call their unfriendly central number to get the number of the local appointment line. I have yet to find anything useful about their website.
In all fairness, I will say the OB clinic called back within an hour and did get me an appointment within the appropriate date range. I have no idea if the provider is male or female. When I asked if I had a choice, the person on the phone said there were only two providers at that clinic. So, I must use their providers, but they have so few that I’m stuck with whatever they have, regardless of personal preferences.
Oh, they did tell my husband that we could have more choices if we used Tricare Standard instead of Prime. Naturally, there are disadvantages to using this system instead, most specifically: higher out-of-pocket costs. It’s something I’ll have to think about.
This is the way government health care works. Coming soon to everybody. Hooray for us.