I had never had diseases or major surgeries. For decades, I had excellent insurance through my employers. When I lost my job in 2014, I lost my health insurance. Being tired of corporate life, I explored work taking care of elderly people in their homes. The job was personally rewarding, with limited health insurance, but it did not pay well, so after 2 years I switched to private elder care coordinated with a senior facility. This job pays better, but there’s no health insurance. I am married, and my husband is on Medicare. Together, we make too much to qualify for Affordable Care Act Insurance. What to do? A friend told me about an affordable alternative called Christian Healthcare Ministries (CHM), which I joined 3 years ago, hoping I would be okay until I became eligible for Medicare. After all, I was healthy. In 2019 my luck ran out as I began to have back and groin pain. I was fortunately able to lose weight, which stopped the back issues, but not the groin and pelvic pain which was worsening.
I hoped it might be something that warranted PT, or anti-inflammatories. I was in shock when I was diagnosed as needing a hip replacement! What!? That was for older people. That meant using a walker for months, and lots of therapy, and rehab. I had helped clients who had been through it.
I dealt with the pain 5 months more, then decided to look into the surgery because I would not make it to Medicare without enduring years of pain. I couldn’t even walk gate-to-gate at an airport at this point. I learned about something called Anterior Total Hip Replacement. I hoped I could have that instead of the traditional hip replacement.
CHM covers hip replacements, but they are NOT an insurance company. Their process requires members to be billed as “self pay” request fair discounts, (just like insurance companies get,) then submit bills for reimbursement. CHM makes sure the prices are in line with others in the area, doing their homework before approving medical care or providers.
I live in the NY Finger Lakes region so I looked near Rochester for hip doctors, but was turned down as a patient. I was told it was because I “did not have traditional insurance and we don’t take hip replacement patients as self-pay because it’s too expensive.” I offered to pay a down payment, and pay the rest when reimbursed, but they still refused. Now what? I just cried. The pain was getting worse and now I had no way to get better.
Meeting Dr. Wickline
Searching Google, I typed, “total anterior hip replacement providers near me,” but kept getting the same doctors in two big health care factions in my area. All had their insurance requirements spelled out. Their prices were so high. I prayed. Just before logging off, I noticed someone else had typed, “hip replacement self-pay” in a previous search. I had not thought to search the words” self-pay.” I clicked, and up popped the face of Dr. Andrew Wickline!
I had landed on his web page that explains he does Anterior Total Hip replacements and takes self-pay. Whoa! I scoured his site, top to bottom, watching videos, learning a ton. But where was New Hartford, NY? I looked it up, assuming I’d have to travel to dreaded NYC. No, it was only a 2 hour drive from my home. Suddenly, I had a solution!!!! I called the number on the site.
A knowledgeable, super friendly woman, Laurie Lynn answered. We had a great conversation. She answered all questions and said the office manager, Dan O’Brien would call to discuss special self-pay arrangements. Sure enough, later that day, Dan called. He was amazing! I made an appointment for a consultation with Dr Wickline for the next week. That never happens. I thought I’d be on a waiting list for weeks. Genesee Orthopedics was not experienced with CHM but they accepted me as a self-pay patient.
The consultation with Dr. Wickline was great, I liked him instantly, because he took his time and was sincere when discussing everything from the procedure to the billing and what I could expect. He gave me a book to keep that explained everything about the surgical experience, prep to recovery. I had already watched his Joint Camp online, but I re-took it following the appointment. The web site and videos were such a big help.
Surgery was scheduled and the staff began their preparations. I asked to change the date to accommodate military leave for my daughter, who wanted to help after surgery. No problem, the staff rescheduled without missing a beat. I had pre-surgery tests in my local area and Dr. Wickline’s staff coordinated everything between me and the other providers. Impressive! I thought I’d have to coordinate much more myself, as they were not local to New Hartford, but —nope! Tests and appointments all went great.
Dan O’Brien worked with CHM on payment arrangements, and both parties copied me on the progress. CHM got everything they required from Dan, and they were totally comfortable with Dr. Wickline’s FAIR and HONEST PRICE and services. So much so, they agreed to special payment timing outside their norm. (The Orthopedic practice in Rochester charged DOUBLE what Dr. Wickline charges. They also required a hospital stay and PT.) In the end, both the practice and CHM worked things out in a timely manner. That was a load off my mind. Dan has a way of communicating that I found to be both down-home friendly and professional.
Kim Strong, PT met with me in the pre-surgery visit. Because I was traveling so far, she came in on her day off! I arranged to pay her in advance, but she later explained the office was not going to charge for the one visit. Wow, this just gets better. I had no idea what to expect, how to use mobility aids or do stairs after a hip replacement. I had lots of questions. She gave thorough instructions and offered her cell number.
3 days later, I had anterior total hip replacement surgery in the Apex Surgery Center. In my opinion, it was better than going to a hospital. The surgical staff was wonderful. I entered at 6:30 am, went into surgery at 8:00, out at 8:30 and was up using a walker and trying stairs at 11:30. Dr. Wickline checked on me, then I left for home! A nurse offered one opioid pain pill for the 2 hour ride so I took it. Beyond that, I never took any other opioid drugs, even though it was provided just in case. I did not need PT or rehab and that is huge.
Dr. Wickline did such a fantastic job numbing the joint in surgery, that the pain was not bad for many hours after surgery. I was given pain meds to take as needed, but I never took much. Sure, the pain increased when the numbing wore off, but I was ready for it. Dr. Wickline called twice, the day after surgery, which was a Saturday. He didn’t reach me the first time and was so concerned, he called back on his personal cell just to be sure I was ok. I sure was! The hip book he provided was very useful, and it was spot on. I can tell he’s been through this many, times with patients.
I did not take Tramadol, or Prednesone. My choice. I took Gabapentin for 2-3 days, then only a couple more over the next week as needed for sleep. I took Tylenol for 2.5 weeks with Meloxicam and aspirin for 30 days then stopped those. I used a walker for a week, a cane for two weeks, then walked inside without aids. I returned to work 4 weeks after surgery.
More Fantastic Staff
My two week follow-up with PA Ken Miner was well worth the 2 hour drive. He’s another super member of Genesee Orthopedics staff. He took time to answer questions in an attentive and caring manner. He carries a cell phone home with him so patients can call with concerns during off office hours. This just doesn’t happen, in my experience with other medical practices, and that’s why I’m writing this up.
The office staff was so accommodating. As my experience was during the Covid pandemic, I managed to book my husband for a vaccine shot, at the mercy of the NY State web site, in Syracuse. By coincidence, it was the morning of my 6-week follow-up with Dr. Wickline almost 6 hours later.
Thinking it was a long shot, I requested a time change for my follow-up. ( I fully expected we’d have to kill time along Interstate 90 until my appointment.) Instead, Dr. Wickline’s scheduler asked for the time of my husband’s vaccine appointment, then calculated our arrival time in New Hartford and changed my appointment to exactly when we would arrive from Syracuse! This doesn’t happen. Another nice surprise.
Ken said Dr. Wickline is a gifted surgeon, and he cares. I agree! Those qualities are often mutually exclusive but he is both : )
The SwiftPath method helped me recover with minimal pain and medication, using ice. Lots of ice. I am out of pain with a new hip, and I have him to thank. I recommend Dr. Wickline and staff highly, and will travel to New Hartford again if I need further hip or knee surgery. My husband says he’d drive across the country to see Dr. Wickline. Potential new clients are more than welcome to call me for referrals.
These days it’s hard to trust people, insurance companies, doctors, staff, etc. I’ll always count my experience with Genesee Orthopedics as a genuine miracle when I needed one.