Is the Mayo Clinic’s pain program worth it?

So I’m pretty sure my insurance isn’t going to cover the three-week pain program at the Mayo Clinic.

Or at least that’s how the registered nurse I talked to on the phone made it sound.

She said something about how my specific insurance has never actually covered the pain clinic for anyone before. Then, because she didn’t want to completely dash all my hopes and dreams, she tried to pretend like I might be different somehow. She went on and on about how young I was, how sick I was, and how I had tried everything else, so I didn’t really have any other options. And she said maybe, somehow, I’ll be able to convince them cover it.

The thing is, I’m not even sure I really want them to.

Aside from the obvious logistical issues — like figuring how to tell my boss that I need three full weeks off work, or paying for 21 days at a hotel, or figuring out how to get myself to Rochester, Minnesota and back — I’m just weary of the program in general.

The most obvious red flag is that the nurse flat out said that their goal is to get patients off all their opioids by the end of the program.

Call me a drug addict if you want, but I was hoping the goal was to make me feel better. Apparently, I was a little off. The nurse told me multiple times that the program was “not a fix for the pain.” It’s more about helping you learn to live with it — something I thought I was already doing pretty well.

Plus, I’m just not sure I’m ready to go off my opioids. It’s taken me almost two years to find a balance of medications that I can live with, and I’m extremely weary of messing with it.

When the nurse started preaching against the evils of opioids, I wanted to stop her and ask if she’d ever been in obscene, chronic pain. Because I’d bet my last pain pill she hasn’t. It’s always the healthy people who are staunchly opposed to opioid medications.

Like so many other chronic pain patients, the opioids have literally saved my life. They’ve helped me keep up the good fight when I didn’t think I could endure any longer. They’ve kept the pain at bay so that I could shower, work, and even go shopping sometimes. They’ve been the only thing to offer me a much needed reprieve from the pain on a regular basis — so when all hope was lost and I started to worry I’d be living with a knife-like pain for decades, I could take a breath and remember that the pain would eventually go away again, if only for a little while.

Of course, it’s more than just the idea of giving up opioids that worries me. There’s the obvious stuff, like how would I survive out there alone for three weeks, seeing as how I currently rely on my mom for something as simple as my laundry? Or do I have it in me to continually show up for such an intense, daily program? And, most importantly, what if everyone there sucks and is mean?

But there’s the other stuff too. The kind of stuff you find yourself worrying about when you’re chronically sick and you’ve been disappointed too many times to count.

Like, what if they can’t help me? What if I go through this whole program and I come home and I’m exactly the same? Then what? Are there any options left?

Or why exactly would my insurance company refuse to cover it? I’m certainly not one to defend an insurance company, but do they have some sort of legitimate reason? Do they deny claims for the program because it doesn’t work? Or because it’s not based on enough research?

Or maybe, worst of all, what if I fail? What if I go there and the program is too much for me? Or I can’t cope with the changes or I don’t have it in me to do the work? What if, at the end of the day when I leave, I’m still just as sick as I was before and I’m left wondering if there was something more I could have done?

So no, I’m not sure that I even really want my insurance company to cover the three week pain program at the Mayo Clinic. The good news is they probably won’t.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I have officially found out that my insurance would not cover the program, and so I would have to pay $35,000 up front to do the program. So, I have decided not to purse it. 

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