jumping through hoops to get rehab

You never really learn how things really operate until you have to deal with them yourself.

All I want is some decent rehab programme, something to make sure I can walk again without a limp after ripping the body’s largest tendon and rendering my right leg useless for the time being.

Ian half-way home to HamburgMy regular doctor was telling me enthusiastically last week about a clinic where I could get a full morning programme of daily physio once the 6-week no-touch rule is over and I can finally take off this dead-weight brace it’s been so fun to drag around.

But when I went Monday to the specialist surgeon to whom he’d referred me to have the stitches removed and we later talked about physio, all he was able to offer me was a referral for two half-hour sessions a week.  The absolute bare-bones minimum available.  In Germany’s two-class healthcare system, if you’re a private patient you get silver service, no questions asked.  If you’re on statutory cover – in German gesetzlich – well, take a number, eh?  Nothing new there.

So this morning I went back to my regular doctor and told him of the enormous gap between what he was talking about and what the specialist gave me.

“Hmmmm…. let me do some quick phoning around and I’ll call you back in later,” he said.

Twenty minutes later he tells me the deal: in order to get rehab, I have to go first apply for it through the bureau that deals with pension issues.   Pension?  That’s the rapidly dwindling sum I’ll get when I retire, isn’t it?  I thought this was medical.

“It is,” he explained, “but your healthcare provider is responsible for your time off work.  They pay for that.  Your rehab is paid for by the pension people.”

The things you learn.

So he gives me a referral for a rehab clinic, reminding that I’ll first have to call the Hamburg pension administration bureau, who will set the ball in motion.

Knowing that sounded just a little to easy for words, I ask for and receive a direct number to call, some tips on what to say, and a merry send-off home.

The number they gave me was not in service.

Digging the right number out of the Internet, I wait on hold for the usual 10 minutes before speaking with a woman who informs me that my pension is administered not in Hamburg, but by the federal office in Berlin.  When I ask for the number in Berlin, thinking this is probably a routine thing,  I get an answer as cold as this late winter and probably as much as I should have expected: you can go find it yourself.

So I dig out the number soon enough and call the Federal Pensions Office and jump through the usual number-choice hoops before speaking with a woman who guides me through pages and sub-pages to the right forms to download and fill out.

There are seven separate forms totalling 17 pages.   Many repeat the same questions in a different way.  Some don’t apply to me, but I have to check a box anyway.  One ominous one involved giving my bank account details to permit them to extract any fees I might have.  No mention of what these fees might be for, or how much they are.

I don’t know why it has to be this complicated, but I suspect they do it this way to turn off those people who are intimidated by officialdom.  There must be a percentage out there who give up before even trying.

After filling all the forms that pertain to me, I have to take the bundle to my doctor to fill out stuff that pertains to them, then take that bundle to my healthcare provider who will fill out more little boxes, then I get to go to the post office and send the bundle off to Berlin.

Right now I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes so long to get approval, I’ll have long since passed the point at which rehab will do any good.

13 Responses to “jumping through hoops to get rehab”

  1. March 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    😦 I feel your pain man. This is exactly the kind of thing that has the world’s population queuing to be made German citizens. Ironic they want you to jump through hoops when the problem is you’re in no condition to be jumping through hoops.

  2. March 19, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I’m so sorry this has happened to you. By that I mean both the injury and also the struggle to get the rehab you need. I just read through your three related posts and was shocked to discover all of this.

    Ian you say this above: “In Germany’s two-class healthcare system, if you’re a private patient you get silver service, no questions asked. If you’re on statutory cover – in German gesetzlich – well, take a number, eh? Nothing new there.” Please know that is also the case in Canada these days. Our previously outstanding health care plan has been gutted by conservative politicians wearing whatever political umbrella at the provincial or federal levels that’s convenient for them to cover under.

    I’m upset to read about the pension round around nonsense. Seven separate forms totalling 17 pages! That’s outrageous. But I think you may be right about the strategic thinking behind it as a deterrent to fakers and users. Hopefully, your paperwork will whiz through the line-up. My fingers are crossed for you, Ian.

    • March 20, 2013 at 4:25 am

      Thanks so much, TT, for you kind works and encouragement! Like I said, you never really know what the system is like until you’re confronted with having to deal with it yourself. I never gave the pension bureau much thought before. They’re this nebulous mass in Berlin that sends me a statement every year once again listing who I am, where I work – as if I forgot! – and other internal stuff. The only thing that changes is the date on the statement.
      I actually now qualify here to go on private insurance, but I’m too old to start. It’s only good if you’re young enough when you start, because your premium is low and builds up slowly. Starting at my age, the premiums would be through the roof.
      I hear what’s happening in Canada. My brother says people now join health commmunities – I think he called them that – anyway, you pay a fee to join and you get to jump the queue should you need an MRI, bypass, other special stuff normal schmoes have to wait for. That only makes the wait longer for them, of course.

  3. 4 Debbie Richmond
    March 20, 2013 at 1:17 am

    I can also understand your dilemma….yes, our healthcare here in Beautiful BC has been gutted just like so many other places….and bureaucratic paper pushing is just as prevalent. Took 12 years to get my husband’s disability claim accepted by the federal government, only to finally accept it and backdate it 12 years!! No one could answer my “why didn’t they just accept it back then?” They all do this on purpose….hoping that you will give up and hide back under your rock. Good Luck, Ian….be persistent!!

  4. March 20, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Ian, I can help you. Your rehab should be relatively straight forward if the only damage is a torn quadriceps tendon, and there is no meniscus damage or other ligament damage. I can tell you what to do, and you can do it. We can do a Skype call or something like that. Do you have access to a stationary bicycle? Try not to worry. You will be fine.

    • March 20, 2013 at 4:35 am

      Hi Vreni,
      It would be great to talk with you about this and many other things. I’ll send you a mail and let you know my skype address. For now – the only bikes I have are real ones collecting dust in the basement. About the worry – I do try to stay positive, but there are swings back and forth. The way it feels now, with incredible tension when I try to raise it as they suggest I try to do, I wonder how I’ll ever get full movement again.

  5. 8 TvT
    March 20, 2013 at 8:49 am

    “You never really learn how things really operate until you have to deal with them yourself.” – well, ain’t that the damn truth! … Amazing what we learn, eh? I’m sorry to hear of your leg challenges, Ian. The only help I can offer is online blog support.🙂 I wish you well all around.

  6. 11 Anton de Neef
    March 21, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Hi Ian, Anton here.

    I heard from Steve a week ago or so of your accident. Really bad news, but I am sure you will make a full recovery soon because you are super-fit. I was looking forward to us all doing a bike-tour soon again, seeing as Steve will be visiting Hamburg.
    After reading about the inequality here where we live (health-care system), I was not surprised. I have been here 7 years now and am somewhat jaded. Chuck Norris should round-house-kick inequality in the face.
    Get well soon and take care!


    • March 21, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Hey – thanks, Anton!
      That bike tour is probably a no-go – figure with all the snow around, it’s a bit too early this year. But if you guys manage to pull it off, though – have fun!

      Hoping today goes smoothly and I can send off the rehab application after the doctor and Krankenkasse fill in their bits.


  7. March 21, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I had hoped that the marvelous health care system we have here in the States could be modified and broadened in such a way as to avoid the sorts of horrors you’re describing, but it’s not happening.
    One answer is to remain as healthy as possible – but as your situation makes clear, accidents happen even (especially?) to the healthy and active.

    I wish you the best. And from what my friends with leg/knee injuries have said, the beginning of the rehab can indeed feel slow and painful. I hope things work out for you to have that rehab, and that they work out quickly. It’s a shame to have to spend so much time and energy battling with the bureacracy when you need all your energies for healing.

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