Anonymous
Allegheny County

“I have Medicaid. I work part time only because of a disability. Last year I was referred to a neurologist after experiencing stroke-like symptoms and 2 visits to the ER. It wasn’t a stroke, but the symptoms lingered. When I called UPMC to schedule with a doctor it was March of 2021. First no one called me back. A week went by. I called again and I was told the soonest available appointment with a neurologist was August, 2021. I scheduled it and then called Allegheny Health Network to attempt to get in sooner. After explaining my symptoms to the scheduler, they asked a secretary from their neurology group to call me back. She got me a video visit within less than a week and a subsequent in person visit within 2 weeks. I was very grateful and canceled the August appointment at UPMC.”

K. K .
Allegheny County

“I and my PCP suspect I have dysautonomia but I could not find a neurologist specialized to it in my network. I couldn’t afford out-of-network costs to see the doctor so I just live with my various symptoms even though I have insurance. My son has Medicaid due to his disability but we could not find a dentist who accepts it in my driving distance except one, where they overcharged his visit and Medicaid denied the payment. We were able to find a dental service for special need fortunately, but it was a luck not the systemic availability. Thank you for reading our story.”

Harold L.
Allegheny County

“Physician practice access seems to be an issue including everything from internal medicine to nephrology to orthopedics to obstetrics and gynecology. My wife and I have had to either wait months for appointments or go to physicians that weren’t our first choice. Many of these practices are owned by health systems and the schedules do not seem to have the flexibility to work in acute care needs and routine visits have wait times of many months. Where are the physician extenders? I haven’t seen one in ages. And when you get to an office, the waiting rooms are empty. Getting outpatient hospital services other than ER visits doesn’t seem to be a problem. And while we’re on the subject, electronic health records were supposed to improve continuity and coordination of care. From what I’ve observed, care is more fragmented and dangerous than ever. Physician patient ratios are too high and my guess is this is driven by corporate profit demands and the stinginess of insurance reimbursement. As we know, here in western PA, the hospitals also own insurance companies, or vice versa. Quality in service industries across sectors has gotten worse. Why should healthcare be any different? Because it’s often a matter of life and death, that’s why.”

Anonymous
Bucks County

“Mom is 95 with dementia and anxiety and other conditions being managed with meds. I have some of those conditions as well. She ran out of fluoxetine (prozac) as CVS’s notification routine clearly failed. Now it’s the fourth day without her medicine. I repeatedly called in renewal requests to CVS. Finally had to call her doctor yesterday because CVS insisted the doctor was not responding. Doctor’s office says they do not get the notifications. Aetna charges her $16/month Medicare Advantage premium but refuses to cover her psych med which is $140 for 3 months. Instead they play doctor, making us tell her doctor to give her something cheaper they’ll cover. That ain’t right. They may as well be her doctor in that case. Stupid. That premium is also intended to cover some dental in their network but we can’t seem to find a dentist around here. That is not a benefit and her teeth haven’t been seen in two years as her dentist died. As for me, I was told yesterday our doctor is ‘backed up on physicals’ so to see him in 2 weeks the appointment must be a 15-minute follow-up, not a physical. So copays will be due. Does that make sense? We haven’t seen the doc in over a year.”

David P.
Butler County

“The wait for surgery is ridiculous. 3+ months wait for colorectal surgery? They claim they are backed up that far, as is operating room scheduling. I tried to schedule cataract surgery. It was almost a 5 month wait to get that on the schedule. The health care system in this country is broken. The main argument against socialized medicine ws always the wait times. People in Canada have to wait months to get a procedure. Well, we are no better. Recently a simple CT scan was a 7 week wait.”

Jacqueline F.
Cambria County

“It’s too far to go to Pittsburgh or Altoona. I’m on dialysis and have several other health issues. I make less than $20 over the allowance for medicaid, so I don’t qualify for the paratransit van. I can’t drive anymore. I have to depend on my mother, who has lupus. It’s ridiculous!!!”

Sandra B.
Clearfield County

“I have waited more than 12 months to get into an ortho specialist for my joints impacted by osteoarthritis and the muscles that are attached that keep tearing. I have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and congestive heart failure, and my PCP has often denied my request for a referral saying I have ‘too much’ going on. It took a rheumatologist I went to to get a second opinion and had the referral in 24 hours. If I had referrals for ortho back when I first requested it (it was NEVER offered even when I went in with a swollen arm and could not move my shoulder) I would not have a lot going on. I now need MRIs on one arm and one knee because x-rays show there is no breakage but they are swelled to grapefruit size. This is not unique to this PCP. I changed health care providers in an effort to attempt to get better care. The system is broken for poor, rural Pennsylvanians.”

Sandra added that none of the specialists in her area would treat oesteo arthritis, forcing her to drive up to an hour and a half for treatment while providers and her insurance plan were “passing the buck” between them concerning her need for better care. “Continuity of care is a huge issue in rural areas,” she stated, noting that it’s hard to find even a doctor who practices part time in her area.

Lynn P.
Clearfield County

Lynn was diagnosed with long term COVID and it took 10 months to get treatment. She also experienced months long wait times for specialists including ENT, neurologist, and pain management. She reported that the medical systems near her are overwhelmed. “Waits have been 2 to 3 months to see various doctors (ENT, neurologist, pain management). And many of those are 30 to 45 minutes away. Now I have been referred to another specialist with a six week wait. MRIs etc. are taking 4 to 6 weeks to get appts. Something needs to change.”

Rene J.
Dauphin County

“My brother has mental and physical health challenges. We had to wait for a PCP appointment for 2 months and it was canceled twice and forced to be rescheduled weeks later by the primary care office each time. He also needed to see a neurologist. He was given an appointment for 6 months later. My husband needed an appointment to begin new patient services with a PCP. He had to wait 5 months for his first appointment and 3 more months for his 2nd appointment.”

Anonymous
Delaware County

“I have stage 5 kidney failure and other health issues that come along with this diagnosis. I have experienced problems with waiting a long period of time to see specialists. Currently, I need to see a hematologist as my blood count is at a level 6. However I’ve been trying to schedule one for the past 3 weeks and am still waiting for an availability to open up. So far, there are no appointments available until September (2 months at the time). Because I have other health issues that need immediate attention, I can’t afford to wait until September to see a specialist. Some of the procedures I need to have done require me to go under anesthesia. However it would be a high risk for me unless my blood level count becomes higher. I can’t afford to receive another blood transfusion as it would alter my status for a kidney transplant. Also, because of my low blood count, life is extremely hard when it comes to doing things without getting shortness of breath or feeling fatigue. I also experience having to wait a long time for kidney doctor’s appointments or follow-ups. Dental appointments and finding specialists that have openings for appointments within two weeks of my request.”

Laraine A.
Delaware County

“I have guardianship of my great niece who greatly needs Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for conditions that regular therapy does not help to alleviate. All the network providers and school psychologists recommend CBT and give me a list of providers all of which I’ve reached out to but do not accept Medicaid. She has spent many years in regular therapy and in partial hospitalization programs without any success or breakthroughs whatsoever. She has ASD, ADHD, OCD. I am frustrated and spend hours on the phone daily trying to get the help she so badly needs.”

James K.
Delaware County

“A colonoscopy was scheduled 6 months later. A rescheduled dental appointment also took 6 months.”

Elaine M.
Elk County

“I wait far too long for appointments and especially testing such as MRI and sonogram appointments!! There also is a shortage of psychiatrists. Not many choices available!!”

Candy K.
Erie

“I live in Erie and there is a shortage of dermatologists. There are 6 I think and not one is taking new patients. If you have a problem, like perhaps skin cancer, there is nowhere to get answers from a specialist. Meadville 40 miles away is scheduling for next year.”

Sharon D.
Franklin County

“Upon moving here from Harrisburg, PA, I had great difficulty finding a family doctor as few established practices were accepting new patients. When I was able to find a very good doctor and had established a great relationship, they left the area for more opportunities. I am now on my fourth family doctor in nine years of residency here. Each new doctor has been like beginning from square one over and over again. I am fairly adept at controlling my own healthcare needs; but it has still caused many duplications of tests and diagnostics. I have maintained my established relationships with a pulmonologist (Hershey Medical) and an orthopedist and a gynecologist (UPMC) and an ophthalmologist in Harrisburg. Travel from Chambersburg has worked out in the nine years I have traveled to appointments there; but has become more of a chore as traffic is increased by the constant addition of large distribution centers along the entire route. This area of PA is a medical dead zone. When Summit was the only system and now with Wellspan in charge, there is little cooperation with my other providers from other health systems. The few excellent physicians I have seen here have left the area after three or four years practicing here. With the high number of geriatric patients living in the numerous continuing care communities in this area, I am baffled by the lack of medical services and specialists; and by the constant turnover of physicians. Most residents here travel to find the care they need. The saving grace has been the enhanced care now available in Carlisle with the influx of specialist practices and the improvement of the Carlisle Hospital. If UPMC continues the move South, that may save the day in Franklin County!! This week I traveled to Carlisle to consult with an orthopedic surgeon concerning numbness in my hands that has progressed to considerable pain. That surgeon performs surgery in a Camp Hill facility, which involves travel of 50 miles, as well as the requirement that I am accompanied by another adult to transport me. These requirements pose a considerable inconvenience as well as expense to pay for the accompanying adult to provide return transportation. I have contacted the offices of the two hand specialists listed in this area in an effort to secure the surgical remedy locally. One physician is out of his office until January. The other has yet to respond.”

Erik B.
Indiana

While Eric has a reasonably good healthcare plan and access to a PCP, high copays make it difficult for him and his family to see a dentist and specialists. Erik’s wife is disabled due to arthritis and many of his family members require mental health services. They must drive 45 minutes away as their local hospital does not accept their insurance plan. “Doctor’s aren’t doctors anymore, they’re businesses. They have to jump through hoops for the insurance industry.” A high turnover makes getting consistent care impossible. “Up until 3 years ago we were going to different providers every other year.

Grace D.
Lackawanna County

Grace has a disability due to an overdose of anesthesia during surgery and a botched hernia operation. She had to go to several different doctors to address these issues, including a colonoscopy and an OB surgeon. She had to wait 3-6 months for these appointments. “By the time you get there you will probably be 6 feet underground. This administration truly is doing a great job putting people under. Some things could be prevented if those appointments weren’t that long to wait.” In addition, these additional complications created thousands of dollars in medical debt and caused her to miss work. Grace is native american and hispanic and has both witnessed and directly experienced racism in medical settings.

Michele D.
Lehigh County

“Despite having excellent commercial Insurance I had to wait 4 months to get in with a new PCP, a simple wellness visit! I am currently on the waitlist for psychiatric services at 5 different providers and it has already been 5 months!”

Colleen T.
Bucks County

“My adult son is 32 years old and has insurance through his father’s work plan and also Medicaid because of his disabilities. He’s on the Community Choice Waiver. Over the years we have faced many difficulties getting his care because of policies. The Medicaid Managed Care insurances have been geared towards Philadelphia, which on a good traffic day is about a 1 1/2 hour drive, unfamiliar and difficult to find accessible parking entrances, etc. We were not able to find local dentists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, or speech therapists, or any eye doctors that would accept any of the offered managed care policies. On top of not finding providers that would accept the Medicaid insurance, even providers that accepted our primary private insurance would turn us away because they were told it was illegal to charge a copay for someone with Medicaid, and since they didn’t accept it, they couldn’t bill the primary. They wouldn’t even let us pay completely out of pocket. Even if we went to Philly, which we attempted, it was too difficult for him. Most places claim to be accessible but really are not. Crowds and noise are an issue for our son, and places that accept Medicaid in Philly were crowded, dirty, loud, and not on time, which was extremely stressful. It is impossible to find a dentist that accepts Medicaid, is local, and will even accept our son as a patient. We went through lists Medicaid suggested years ago, and places were awful. Some would just flat out say he’d be better served somewhere else. Or they wanted to add a fee because they thought it would take too long. Really, he’s not that difficult if you treat him with kindness and respect. One dentist suggested letting his teeth rot and pulling them as they get bad. Finally, I found a local dentist that we just pay out of pocket because they are kind, calm, and have no trouble cleaning his teeth. He uses a communication device and really should have speech and physical therapy but to try and go through the primary insurance and then get denials to go through Medicaid and then get to have the Community Choice Waiver pay for the therapies, is completely insurmountable. I worry if something happens to me, no one will help him with his communication device, no one will keep him active. Ideally, with two insurances, private and Medicaid managed care, and a waiver, he should not have to worry about getting support, services, see a specialist or doctor, but instead, it is actually a lot more difficult if not impossible. Especially since some turn him away because he has Medicaid and others who take Medicaid turn him away because they don’t take the primary. We have not been able to use Medicaid insurance. Even outside of insurance many professionals upon learning he has multiple disabilities won’t see him, they say things like they didn’t realize they were booked, or he’d be better served with someone with different skills.”

<strong>Zoraida C.
Lycoming County
“Lycoming County is a great place to live. However, it does not have an adequate amount of resources for the autism community.”

Sara A.
Montgomery County

“My family relies on multiple specialists to keep us healthy. However, we have found huge barriers for continuity of care. While covid cases are still high and less people are wearing masks, telehealth is vital. However, most hospital systems we deal with are cutting down availability of telehealth. Additionally, finding specialists taking new patients has been next to impossible. For a year I have tried to get into an Ehlers-Danlos syndrome program and have not succeeded. One of my children sat on a waiting list for appropriate mental health care for 6 years until they aged out and never got the care they needed despite me fighting hard and utilizing all resources available to me. I just tried to make an appointment for a new specialist for myself. This is an issue that is not minor and I need it addressed soon. The earliest appointment with a doctor I could get was Feb 2023 (8 months away at time of writing). I made the appointment at the end of June 2022. This is the average we are seeing. Specialists are scheduling into mid-2023 at this point.”

Juliana P.
Montgomery County

“I was unable to get an urgent primary care appointment recommended by Penn’s telemedicine service when I had a sinus infection. I was forced to wait for multiple hours while ill in an urgent care that knew nothing of my medical history. I’ve had to wait months for specialty appointments such as GYN or dermatology. The wait list at CHOP for my partner’s children to see a developmental pediatrician for an ADHD diagnosis was over a year. We were only able to get timely care for them by paying out of pocket.”

Anne W.
Northampton County

“I am 68 years old and in generally very good health. Lately, though, I have had some cardiac rhythm episodes and asked my primary care doctor to recommend a cardiologist. She is with St. Luke’s and is always immediately responsive. The online system is fabulous (St Luke’s MyChart). I can send a question any time of night or day and get a response within hours from my primary care team. She got back to me with a cardiologist recommendation within an hour and even took the trouble to find one near me (in Bethlehem). I called to make an appointment and was on the line for over 20 minutes as the very nice woman tried to find an opening. None at the convenient location within 6 weeks… None at any other location within 6 weeks… And she said their September schedule hadn’t been posted yet so she couldn’t even look for an appointment that far out! Finally she found an appointment over 45 minutes away (despite the fact that there are a half dozen St. Luke’s cardiology locations within 20 minutes from me) five weeks away at the end of August. I took the appointment but it makes me uneasy that my only option until then is to go to an ER if I have an episode. The same thing happened to me last fall with a referral to a hand specialist, only that was a three month wait for an initial appointment. I know we Americans are spoiled with abundant health care as long as we have insurance, but accessibility is getting worse and worse.”

Kathryn Z.
Northampton County

“I am helping my father with follow-up care after he was in the hospital for a stroke. He needs to see a neurologist and a cardiologist. They want to rule out atrial fibrillation. The wait for an appointment with neurology was almost 2 months (his appt. is 8/31) and then he will be referred to the cardiologist for a possible loop recorder implant. Called his primary care who was able to get him the referral to cardiology sooner, but because he wasn’t there in more than 5 years, he is a new patient. I believe they are also scheduling in September. If he DOES have atrial fibrillation, he could have another stroke by the time he gets his loop recorder put in to see if he has it. I don’t know why they didn’t do this in the hospital. (Probably insurance!) Also, psychiatry is impossible to get an appointment with! His geriatrician referred him to see a psychiatrist for medication check and the waitlist at St. Luke’s is 3-6 months. I tried Lehigh Valley Health Network dept of psychiatry and they will only take him if the referral is from a Lehigh Valley Health Network doctor. I gave up. His geriatrician is helping him wean off the medicine that is inappropriate for his age. He will be 79 years old. If I wasn’t here to help him navigate all of this, he would have gone home and did nothing. I wonder how many elderly don’t get the care they need because it is overwhelming to have to navigate all of this?”

Susan B.
Perry County

“Our 6 year old son has ADHD, PICA and questionable Autism. I say questionable because we have been waiting for almost 2 full years for a pediatric psychologist who is accepting new patients with our son’s health insurance. Our son’s health insurance is UPMC for You which was assigned to him through the county assistance office. As a parent, you’d think it would be easy just to go to a UPMC behavioral health physician, but it’s not that easy. When we actually find a participating physician our next question is, ‘Are you accepting new patients?’ Shockingly the answer has been, ‘Sorry, no, because of COVID-19’ or just ‘No’. COVID-19 can’t be the reason anymore. We have also been asked if there’s any other health insurance that can be used and with my husband and I being disabled, no there is no other health insurance that is supposed to be primary. Our pediatrician has actually tried calling our son’s health insurance to see if she could prescribe him the medication he needs at a possible lower dose until a psychiatrist can be found and an appointment gets scheduled. As of this past week she’s still waiting for an answer either by an email or phone call. Our family is hoping and praying for some resolution, because during our efforts to find an answer for our son’s healthcare we have been told that we’re not the only family calling.”

Anonymous
Perry County

“I have had a pulmonary specialist for over eight years. As time goes on, it has become more problematic to get appointments and follow-up care. The practice is overwhelmed with patients attempting to get seen, and is in a chaotic condition with extremely high turnover due to stress of supporting staff.”

Jeannine M.
Perry County

“I work with the homeless population and regularly run up against issues relating to the lack of providers in the area. Clients requiring urgent care must travel over the mountain. Many do not have a source of transportation and public transportation provided through Rabbit requires scheduling trips. Psychiatric Care is so very backlogged. Evaluations take forever. No one is available for crisis situations. I look forward to the evolution of the para-medics program to perhaps meet some of those challenges. I personally find it unbelievable that the Sadler/Partnership for Better Health initiative to provide primary care service to the West Perry School District was rejected. It takes so much coordination to bring these initiatives to fruition and roadblocks serve to discourage the investment of time, talent and resources to move the ball forward in the delivery of service.”

S.F.
Philadelphia County

“I am on Medicare and pay for a supplement. I pay extra for dental and vision. Can’t even get a yearly vision exam without paying, as insurance feels old folks don’t deserve a yearly exam. Dentist quit taking my insurance so it is a waste to me. Totally unfair to us seniors.”

Martha G.
Schuylkill County

“I had to wait 6 months to see a specialty doctor. For a dermatology appointment for a terrible skin infection. My medical doctor prescribes my psych meds because the wait to get in a psychiatrist is months long and the doctors are so terrible. All they do is prescribe meds that they know nothing about or deliberately drug everyone so they are incapable of providing for themselves. The whole psych way of doing things is an utter failure. I spent 20 years on a med that made me sleep all the time. I was useless and more dead than alive till I got off that med.”

Charlene S.
Schuylkill County

“At the end of April 2022, my PCP at Geisinger told me to contact a Geisinger in-network physician about 15 miles from my home, and set up an appointment. I called the number given to me by my physician and spoke with a receptionist for that Dermatology practice, who stated that there was no appointment available until mid November 2022. I called my physician and told her what their dermatology office said and then she referred me to an out of network practice in Pottsville, PA about 10 miles from the Geisinger practice. I made a June 26, 2022 appointment. Of course, I will have to pay the out of network fee. I just think it is ridiculous to have to wait 7 months for an appointment.”

Amanda R.
Union County

“I am having a lot of trouble getting ABA therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy for my autistic son. We are on long waiting lists, some up to nine months long. There is clearly a need for this in our state and we must address it.”

Christine P.
Warren County

“I had a tooth break at the end of April 2022. My appointment for the consultation isn’t until mid-October. Then I will need to schedule to have it removed which will likely not be until 2023, I am told. In the meantime, I am experiencing quite a bit of pain and can’t eat…. this just should not be….” Christine contacted several oral surgeons but all were either booked, would not accept her insurance, or would not see her due to a condition she has that can cause complications with anesthesia. Eventually Christine resigned herself to seeing an oral surgeon in New Hampshire that she had gone to prior to moving to PA.

Barbara C.
Wayne County

“I have a rare condition called POTS and I can’t find a cardiologist anywhere in this area. I have to go to Toledo, which is about a 9 hour drive from here. I recently moved and tried to get a doctor to at least cover the infusions I need to take daily in my home and the one that I picked originally said he would do it and now decided he will not. I can’t find another doctor to help take care of this. None of them seem to want to do anything that’s “outside the box“ if you don’t fit in their little textbook then they don’t want to take care of you. It’s very frustrating because I can’t drive to Toledo every time I need a cardiologist.”

Geralyn V.
Washington County

“I had a lot of trouble getting MRIs. It took me over three weeks to get a shoulder MRI. I called every day to see if there were any cancellations. Also I had a cervical MRI–same thing, three weeks. I finally had the MRIs and then I had to have neck surgery. It took so long to get an MRI and the pain I went through because of the wait between them. The doctor saw me in one week and scheduled surgery the next week. Thank heavens I had a great doctor that cared about me and took care of the situation. I think that if I would have had the MRIs sooner I would have had the surgery so much sooner. I think the wait time on the MRIs was ridiculous.”

Amy B.
York County

“It is extremely disheartening when your children need and qualify for services such as speech and behavioral health but you cannot find a provider to take them. The waiting list are long, and most the time unless you repeatedly call back, you get overlooked. My son had an evaluation for speech through WellSpan four months ago but has not yet received speech services. We still cannot find a mental health provider to help my other son, who has autism, after almost a year.”

Dawn B.
York County

“Since enrolling in Medicare, I have not been able to find a counselor. I still have a psychiatrist who prescribes meds, but there are no counselors who take Medicare. Psychologists are hard to find and have long waiting lists.”

Marie V.
York County

“While we are fortunate to have comprehensive medical, dental, and vision insurances, we moved; it took 6 months to get an appointment with an in-network dentist and 3 months for an in-network optometrist, both from an outdated provider list which included numerous closed offices. We reside in a large town with numerous providers so this would have been more difficult in underserved communities.”