Narcotic free-for-all at the clinic

I just spent 3 hours at my doctor's office (which I expected because I walked in) listening to grown people throw temper tantrums about pain medication (which I didn't expect because it wasn't an ER). I came away disturbed.

The way it works there is if you don't have an appointment, you can call first thing in the morning to see if one of the reserved same-day appointments is available. If it's not, you can walk in and take your chances (like I did). But you can't walk in for any controlled substances, and only your PCP sees you for those. So far the system makes sense to me, and they tell you that in 10 different ways before you even make it through the outer door.

They're adding fine print. I waited in the walk-in line while two people in front of me argued with the receptionist. "I need to see Dr. X for a med refill." "What medication?" "Pain medication." "Have you signed a pain contract?" "WHAT? NO ONE HAS EVER TOLD ME OF THIS CONTRACT!"

So far I would expect all of this. I don't think it's a good system because it puts receptionists in the position of interrogating people in a full waiting room and patients in the position of having to sell their medical need to a nonmedical person.

What bothered me extra was all the stuff they've added since the last time I was there. Even if you HAVE an appointment, if it's for pain medication, you have to pay $80 before you see the doctor (the credit card has to clear, she specified). And even if you GET a same-day appointment, it can't be for pain medications (although this point seemed murky, the more I heard it argued about).

Fits were thrown. One woman threw herself into a chair and sobbed. Loudly. After awhile a nurse came out and announced to everyone there that she would NOT be receiving pain medication regardless. I know this woman's medical history in some detail because of all these arguments in the waiting room.

I didn't think too highly of the previous system, but at least it's reasonable and could have been tweaked to be safe. Now my jaw is hanging open. Is it even legal to make people with insurance pay cash to see a doctor about pain medication? Does that mean the doctor is then compelled to provide the medication? What if they don't? I'm going to guess that people who pay $80 and then wait for hours only to leave empty-handed would throw even BIGGER fits than the ones I saw.

The loud arguments at the desk are just not OK. I did tell my doctor about my concerns and he looked appalled. I guess the doctors probably never go out there to know. But this narcotic issue: what the hell? If these are attempts to ease the burden of people who want recreational drugs, I'm going to make a wild guess that they're actually making the problem worse.