Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix Hospitals under stress from Covid-19 surge

Robert J Hansen

“This is a broad patient care issue across Arizona hospitals,” spokesperson says
Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale ArizonaPublic domain

The Mayo Clinic is experiencing “extremely high patient volumes” due to Covid-19 care and other factors which are affecting most hospitals in the Phoenix area, according to Jennifer Ruble, a spokesperson for Mayo Clinic.

“Mayo Clinic and most all hospitals in the Phoenix area are experiencing extremely high patient volumes at this time, a result of COVID-19 care combined with other factors,” Ruble said via email.

Sacramento resident Ken Pettingill was diagnosed by UC Davis with central regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in August and has been in extreme pain for almost two years after not being prescribed a strong enough pain medication.

After a friend offered to take him to Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Arizona, Pettingill called to make an appointment.

Pettingill went to cancel his coverage from Anthem Blue Shield but called back to make an appointment to ensure he would be able to make one.

“I was then told that they won’t take Medicare because they have the backlog and they’re not seeing new Medicare patients at all right now,” Pettingill said.

Earlier that day, Pettingill called the Mayo Clinic and was told he could not make an appointment because his coverage was from an HMO.
Photo by Robert J Hansen

“I said I have Anthem and she said ‘I am so sorry we don’t take HMO’s,’” Pettingill said.

Pettingill initially told the appointment line staff that he would sell his house to pay for it out of pocket and was told because he has Medicare, they would have been obligated to take that but ‘we can’t take Medicare patients.’

Mayo Clinic’s website has Medicare listed as an acceptable insurance type.

According to Ruble, Mayo Clinic’s hospitals and clinics participate fully in traditional Medicare for inpatient and specialty care.

Mayo Clinic in Arizona is a destination medical center sought by many patients locally, nationally and internationally.

“We have not contracted with insurance companies to join their network of providers for additional Medicare Advantage plans, recognizing our own capacity limitations,” Ruble said. “This is not new and has not changed during the pandemic. We continue to review this decision, recognizing the impact on patients and the growing number of eligible beneficiaries choosing Medicare Advantage over traditional Medicare.”

Then Pettingill was able to have Anthem Blue Shield agree to do an emergency unenroll to get him covered by Medicare A and B.

“Because I have Medicare it precludes me from paying cash which is idiotic,” Pettingill said.

According to Pettingill, staff from Anthem then called a business line of the Mayo Clinic with Pettingill and both were told that if the HMO was removed, he could be seen.

“She called the Mayo with me on one phone and they didn’t even tell her that they weren’t accepting Medicare,” Pettingill said.

“Someone told me to call back every month,” Pettingill said.

On its website, Pettingill sent an email asking when Mayo Clinic would begin accepting Medicare again.

“They’re supposed to be getting back to me in three days according to the website,” Pettingill said.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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