Up until now we have barely had any experience with the medical system here in Lebanon: a vaccination or two (which are not covered by our insurance), a couple of ER visits – three, to be exact – and then my blood pressure incident at the end of the summer.
Since I started seeing a specialist however, I’ve been forced to figure out how everything works, and have learned a thing or two in the process.
Just to clarify: the hospital we use is owned by our employer here, and the insurance is the standard employee insurance. But don’t be fooled into thinking this close connection would eliminate a lot of paperwork – au contraire mon frère!
To see a specialist, you need, along with your hospital card AND your insurance card – not one, not two, but – three special, different colored papers with the insurance company’s official stamps and the signature of some kind of head insurance approver/physician. As far as I understand, this physician is supposed to function as a medicine auditor or something, making sure arbitrary or unnecessary tests or procedures are not being administered by the hospital’s doctors. I’m not sure the system works the way it should however, since last time I saw this approving (or possibly disapproving) physician with a request for an Nuchal Translucency Test in my hand, he asked me what an NT scan is and why I would need one.
Then, each time the specialist needs to do a special procedure, like a level two ultrasound for example, or a blood test, you get a paper from your specialist’s office that you have to bring back to the insurance office and receive another one of the special, approved and stamped papers in return.
The initial special procedure request paper that your specialist gives you will contain the name of the requested procedure as well as the insurance procedure codes. If your specialist forgets to enter the codes and/or check off the procedure on the back of the form – or in my case if he is new and not entirely familiar with or more likely, still in disbelief about the whole paperwork circus his work here requires - the insurance office cannot help you at all (and can especially not call your specialist’s office to retrieve the information they require). You have to walk back to your specialist’s office in person – which is on the 7th floor in the building across the street - to get the form filled out correctly, and then bring it back to the insurance office, which by the time you return inevitably is closed for lunch/the day.
If you need to give blood for a blood test, you bring the paper from the insurance office to the laboratory, where you first take a number for the payment/insurance window (and wait forever, because there are always at least 50 seniors before you, AND people always think their business is more urgent than yours, so they keep cutting ahead in line), get your paper checked, computerized and stamped, and then wait until that same number is called from a different window, when it’s your turn to enter the laboratory.
You see what I’m dealing with here? A rough calculation tells me I’ve spent a total of 45 minutes so far with my specialist, and almost two hours doing paper work for it. I look at other pregnant women going for their prenatal visits at the hospital, and I think that by the time their babies are born, most women here must feel that morning sickness and birth were the easiest parts of having a baby in Lebanon.