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Dear Cue: Recently I went to the doctor for kidney stones. I needed to wait a few weeks before I could have a lithotripsy procedure to get rid of the stones. The doctor prescribed Celebrex for pain while I waited because I did not want to use narcotics. When I went to pick up my prescription the pharmacist told me that my insurance company had not approved the prescription and my physician would need to get an authorization number from my insurer. Is this common? Matthew in Virginia.

Dear Matthew: For many common diagnostic or surgical procedures your physician must receive authorization from your health insurer. In fact many physicians who perform procedures bitterly complain about this process because health insurers often are understaffed and do not respond to requests for authorizations quickly. When HealthCue researched your question regarding your prescription we found many insurers are now employing authorization procedures for more expensive brand name prescription drugs. The hope is they will force physicians to use generics instead to avoid the authorization process. The process for prescription authorization often takes a week hours to complete, so in the future if you need a pain reliever, make sure your physician calls before you leave the office so you can get your medication as early as possible.

Dear HealthCue: Every year at this time my allergies act up and I need to go to the doctor to get a prescription to alleviate my symptoms. I need to take time off work and the result is always the same, the doctor writes a prescription. Is there an easier way? Bob in North Carolina

Dear Bob: If your health insurer is Aetna or Cigna there will be an easier way in January. At that time both insurers will start paying physicians for internet treatments. In some states physicians can charge patients for internet treatments outside the health insurance process letting you use your credit card. Go to to see more about the process and the health insurers and physicians currently allowing those internet consultations.

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