Sunday, April 12, 2009

Shame on Chapel Hill's "Aesthetic Solutions"

My email to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Health Center, the Executive Director of the NC Inclusive Health Program and the office of NC Representative Nelson Dollar (an amazing representative that gives 110% to each of his constituents needs and the betterment of our state.)

I really think that you should know that Aesthetic Solutions in Chapel Hill made a business decision to decline one of their insurance companies ( MedCost) and that insurance company's offer for Aesthetic Solutions to accept MedCost's new insureds (through NC Inclusive Health) as patients. The NC residents that make up NC Inclusive Health are un-insurable because of a serious medical history (such as cancer).

Here is the back story as I understand it:

The North Carolina General Assembly (through the efforts of Executive Director Michael Keough) established a high risk pool for the un-insurable North
Carolina residents. Those of us with one of 45 federally specified medical conditions cannot obtain reasonably priced medical insurance if we are not a part of a group (such as employment). The plan went into effect on or about 01-01-2009. The program is called "Inclusive Health." It is by no means an inexpensive program for insureds. Premiums are rather high. We are not welfare patients and medical care facilities would not be agreeing to accept Medicaid reimbursement rates.

MedCost is the administrator of the NC Inclusive Health program. I understand that in approximately 08-2008, MedCost sent each of the medical facilities with which it has contracts a rider that if executed by the medical care provider wold allow those under the NC Inclusive Health Program to obtain medical care.

For reason known only to the doctors at Aesthetic Solutions in Chapel Hill, NC, a business decision was made that the MedCost patients under the Inclusive Health Program were not welcomed at their clinic.

I happen to be a breast cancer patient. But there are 44 other reasons that a North Carolina resident would be insured under the program. We are responsible patients who do not want to be a drain on society but also are realistic enough to know we need body screens from skin cancer. Personally. I also have side effects from the chemotherapy - port wounds, skin spots, loss of hair. The cosmetic procedures would clearly be paid by the patient outside of the the insurance. That being said, Aesthetic Solutions "business decision" was either very short sided and poor *or* the clinic simply discriminates against cancer patients who have to obtain their own insurance.

I was particularly offended to see the brochures in the office that described the Avon Breast Cancer Walk. Then, I notice that the Aesthetic Solutions has apparently donated large sums of money to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. Given Aesthetic Solutions decision to deny access to breast cancer patients that are insured by MedCost through NC's Inclusive Health, these dermatologists' association with your office seems disingenuous.

I realize that your facility needs money. But, I would hope that your standards would require a modicum of integrity and character.

God Bless your work. And I encourage you to be supportive of the Inclusive Health Program. Many of your patients will need his insurance and we are blessed that the NC General Assembly has provided this program for NC residents.
I can not get into the heads of the doctors or even the administrative paraprofessionals associated with Aesthetic Solutions. But as a cancer patient, cancer survivor or the caregiver for a person with cancer, you need to accept the disturbing fact that "cancer" is a money maker for medical facilities.

But by the time the cancer patient arrives at a dermatologist, we may just want (in addition to the basic skin cancer exam), we cancer patients may just need to feel normal, feminine and attractive again. We may primarily want a port scar zapped, brown spots from the Tamoxifen removed, facials, Botox, Juviderm, or assistance with the regrowth of hair.

When Aesthetic Solutions claimed they had never heard of "Inclusive Health" and obviously not the insurance card I handed to them - I felt very unsafe and certainly not cared for. The billing person treated me like an interloper. I felt very uncomfortable.

That is an emotional and frightening experience for a cancer patient. For most of us, the diagnosis of cancer left us feeling very vulnerable. And I would expect that many cancer patients (such as myself) would translate the Aesthetic Solutions staff's attitude as "you cancer patient don't deserve to look or feel better."

In addition, as a cancer patient, many of us are accustomed to the devastating reality of being abandoned by a doctor.

Right now I advocate for my dad's twisted medical care at Duke University Hospital. But in this situation, I feel compelled to advocate for insured cancer patients' access to health care. Discrimination is not acceptable.

Aesthetic Solutions in Chapel Hill, NC made a business decision to accept MedCost insureds generally but then made a specific decision to deny access to the MedCost insureds under the NC Program for un-insurable "Inclusive Health." IMHO, Aesthetic Solutions is acting in a discriminatory way towards insured cancer patients.

There has to be some karma that comes with that cold decision.

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