Searching far and wide for a specialist

| Katherine Southwick

In early 2017, Vickie Wilkerson, who had previously purchased health insurance on the Marketplace, became eligible for Medicaid. “I thought it was going to be great until it turned into a nightmare. I was told there were no private dermatologists or rheumatologists [in my area] who would accept Medicaid,” remembers Wilkerson, a resident of Shreveport, Louisiana.

Immediately, Wilkerson contacted NPF’s Patient Navigation Center and spoke with Mercy Rivera. She explained to Rivera, her Patient Navigator, that it was almost time to receive the next injection of Stelara (ustekinumab). Wilkerson, who was diagnosed with psoriasis in 2003 and psoriatic arthritis in 2012, was worried about missing her treatment. “That put me into a major panic,” she recalls.

Rivera researched dermatologists and rheumatologists throughout Louisiana and quickly found one place that accepts Medicaid: a teaching hospital in Shreveport. Wilkerson was all too familiar with this hospital. She had seen a health care provider there years ago when the hospital was operating under a different name – and before any dermatologists or rheumatologists joined the staff. With limited options, Wilkerson decided to give the hospital another try. Rivera helped her secure an appointment with a rheumatologist within a month, which Wilkerson says “is pretty amazing considering they are usually backed up for months at a time.”

After her second appointment, in November 2017, Wilkerson’s rheumatologist put her on a new biologic, Enbrel (etanercept). Wilkerson says this treatment is “slowly working.” Although she hasn’t seen major progress yet, she says her rheumatologist said the active patches don’t look as “angry” to her as they do to Wilkerson, who sees them every day. Wilkerson remains optimistic about her treatment plan.

Fueled by optimism

In many ways, Wilkerson credits her optimism to being involved with NPF. “My life is better now. My outlook is better now. My self-confidence is better now,” she says. 

Wilkerson discovered NPF about six years ago while searching online for support groups in her area. Her first biologic hadn’t lived up to her expectations, and she began feeling depressed after a disappointing appointment with her doctor. “I thought it was going to be my wonder drug.” says Wilkerson, who was 80 percent covered at her worst. “But it only cleared up my hands.” 

At that time, NPF didn’t have any organized volunteer groups in Louisiana. Wilkerson soon joined the pilot program of NPF’s Community Ambassadors and became a One to One volunteer a few years later.

From hosting events to speaking to local media, she continues to spread the word about NPF and psoriatic disease in Louisiana. “I tell everybody my [psoriatic disease] has purpose, and I know what that purpose is,” she says. “If I see someone out in public, I’ll try to start a conversation with them and let them know I’m here if they ever need to talk. I give them my card.”

Above all, Wilkerson is grateful that NPF opened the Patient Navigation Center. She never expected anyone to look for specialists across the entire state. “Mercy went above and beyond,” says Wilkerson. “She took time to listen to what I had to say. She listened to my concerns … so she could understand what I went though and why I felt that way. I really want to thank the Patient Navigation Center for all they did.”

Get the care you deserve. From finding specialists to assisting with insurance issues, NPF Patient Navigators help you find solutions to live your healthiest life with psoriatic disease. Talk to us.
 


Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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