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.
My 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.