Author and blogger Jennette Fulda suffers a true health insurance headache
Jennette Fulda went to sleep with a headache in February 2008. It has yet to go away. She’s tried nearly everything to get rid of it, including chiropractic adjustments, medical marijuana and “lots and lots of chocolate.” She’s spent thousands of dollars on health care.
The Chapel Hill, N.C., resident — author of a blog called PastaQueen.com — discusses this medical ordeal in her new book, “Chocolate and Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away.” InsuranceQuotes.com chatted with Fulda about the insurance side of her headache hassles.
InsuranceQuotes.com: How was the experience of writing this book compared with your last one (“Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir”)?
Jennette Fulda: Well, I guess this was more painful — literally. It was more painful physically because sitting at the computer for long hours can make my headache worse, but this time around I was able to arrange my schedule so that if I had a headache, I could schedule my work around it. But having the experience of writing a book before made me more confident.
|Writer Jennette Fulda has had a headache since February 2008 — and has spent thousands of health care dollars to try to get rid of it.|
InsuranceQuotes.com: Do you still suffer from headaches?
Fulda: Yes. It’s a chronic condition. We’ve gotten to the point where we can manage it now. It’s definitely not as bad as it was when I first got it. We use a pain scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is least painful and 5 is most painful. Mine’s usually around a 1 or a 2, but then I do have triggers. If I’m really stressed out, then that can trigger a worse headache.
It’s a tension headache, so it feels like pressure — tense muscles around my forehead and kind of a stretch-and-pull around the front part of my face. It can get pretty bad. It’s on both sides of the head. The weird thing about my headache is that it just never goes away. I’ve had it for over three years now.
InsuranceQuotes.com: How did your headaches come about?
Fulda: When I first got it, I thought, “Oh, I’ll just go to sleep and when I wake up it’ll be gone,” because that’s happened to me before where I wake up and feel fine. But this time I woke up and it wasn’t gone, and it was still there by the end of the day. Then I got concerned and went to the doctor, and that started this whole journey.
InsuranceQuotes.com: How much of your medical expenses was covered by your health insurance company?
Not everything. When I started seeing doctors after I first got the headache, I was just starting a new job. I had been there for a month, so I was still covered by my old insurance for a contracting job. That insurance actually wasn’t that great. They had a limit on the amount they would pay on testing every year, and it was less than the cost of an MRI. I had to get both an MRI and a CT, and ended up having to pay $1,500 for that. I couldn’t wait for the three months for my new insurance to kick in. I didn’t want to delay getting treatment if there was something more serious going on. So that definitely sucked.
After I had been at my job for three months, then their coverage came in. That coverage was pretty good. It covered 90 percent of my expenses. The one thing with headaches — some treatments aren’t covered, traditionally. Botox is the one that most insurance companies don’t cover. I had two different neurologists recommend that to me — injections in the face, neck and scalp. You have to get them every three months, and they recommend you get two to three treatments. It wasn’t FDA-approved for headache treatment until October 2010, so most insurance companies weren’t covering it. It was $1,000 per injection, so that was probably the biggest expense that wasn’t covered.
InsuranceQuotes.com: It sounds like the experience you’ve been through with the health insurance companies would be likely to exacerbate the headache.
Fulda: Absolutely. It can give you a headache even if you don’t have one. It’s definitely not something you want to deal with when you have headaches, but I had to deal with it.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What’s the most extreme measure you’ve taken to treat your headaches?
Fulda: I had trigger-point injections where they inject you with steroids around your face and in your scalp. It hurts because it’s 20 shots. It’s pretty painful, and it kept me up at night so I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 3 or 4 in the morning. The first day I think it actually made my pain worse because the injections hurt so much. Then after that, it did help a lot.
InsuranceQuotes.com: What advice do you have for others suffering from chronic headaches?
Fulda: I would say keep seeking treatments. It can get pretty discouraging, because you can go to doctors and not get result. But if you keep trying new things, you might find something that helps you. Also, keep an open mind. I was skeptical of some treatments, but I found that some treatments had positive results and they might help you in other ways. You might go to an acupuncturist for headaches and end up sleeping better.