Venting: Fun with Health Insurance

Illustration from iStockPhoto

I’m self-employed. Therefore, I’m self-insured.

I’m pretty healthy, thankfully. I visit a GP once a year for a “wellness” exam, and while I should see a dermatologist every 6 months, I go less frequently than that. I’m pretty adept at avoiding colds, but landed a nasty bronchial bug last winter that included a trip to the doctor’s office for some super-strength cough medicine. My blood pressure is fine, as are my cholesterol levels and whatnot. I carry insurance as, well, insurance. Against the possibility of an Unusual and Drastic Scenario.*

When I started buying my own insurance, back in 2008, my monthly premium was $144, with a rather ridiculous $2000 deductible. Each year, the premium and deductible crept higher. The price of doing business. I wasn’t happy about it, but it was understandable. In November of this year, I noticed that my premium had skyrocketed to $246, so I called to find out what was going on. Surely, I thought, this was some clerical error.

“Ah yes, I see here that we sent you the paperwork regarding new plans, but it was returned. We must have an incorrect address for you.” Well that’s funny, seeing as how my address hasn’t changed the entire time I’ve been doing business with you. I find out that the plan I’m on is no longer “current” and my high premium is a result of being “grandfathered” in to an outdated plan. The rep will transfer me to a Plan Expert who can help me choose a new plan. The helpful Expert and I discuss a few plans, a few prices quotes, and I decide on the $157/month plan for a $4000 deductible. He emails the appropriate Plan Change Request Form, with the instruction to check one particular box, sign, date, and return. And I do, that very afternoon.

A few days later, I receive a voicemail that some information is missing from the Plan Change Request Form. I am to refer to the mailed paperwork (that I never received, if you recall) and call back with the information. I call back, only to get their own voicemail system, telling me that all Experts are in a staff meeting. I leave a message with two phone numbers at which I can be reached, and wait for a return call.

More days go by, and now I receive a letter in the mail (oh look! my address is correct!) that they “have been unable to” reach me, and the missing information is still missing. I call again, speaking this time with a very nice woman who, it turns out, is in a different department. She attempts to connect me through but…all Experts are in a staff meeting. She promises to make a personal plea on my behalf, and I leave another voicemail.

In the meantime, another billing cycle has gone by, and another $246 premium is billed.

Woo, I get a call back! Actually, three in one day. Apparently, their log system doesn’t indicate that anyone has already spoken to me. Or the helpful woman I last spoke with left personal notes on a few desks. Anyway, I explain my story to a new Expert, she explains the missing information, quotes me a slightly higher premium than the previous Expert, and sends me to a web page for more information. The web page spits back at me the same $157 quote as the first Expert, so I fill out the confounded missing information, and return the form. Again. All is well, right?

Today, I received an email with the official “offer” for my new plan. This time, for an outrageous $315.50 per month. There’s something on the documentation about a claim processed for cervicalgia, which seems to be the culprit behind the price hike. Once again, I call.

I explain that I’ve been trying to change my plan since late November. I have lost all patience. I explain that I don’t have cervicalgia, I don’t know what cervicalgia is, and will they please re-review the documents and get. this. straightened. out. Well, they tell me, cervicalgia is quite serious, and it’s right there on my medical records that I was seen for it back in July. July? Why yes, I did see a doctor in July. I pulled a muscle and Advil wasn’t doing the trick. The folks in the office where I was working were very concerned, and had me in a panic with their horror stories of spinal injuries. I saw a doctor, who told me it was nothing serious; to apply heat, rest, and to take a prescribed muscle relaxer for a few days. I don’t think I took it for more than a night or two. “It sounds like it’s probably a coding error,” the insurance people say. I’ll need to request a copy of my medical records from my doctor, and send them in along with my own statement of what took place, and wait for re-evaluation.

Jiminy Christmas!

I call the Records department at my doctor’s office. I get a recording. It suggests I try another phone number, which I do. I get a recording. I look up “cervicalgia” and find out it’s medicalese for “neck pain.” Nothing drastic or serious about it. WebMD doesn’t even bother with a listing for it, and Wikipedia says that 2/3 of adults have it. My insurance company, however, is deeming it serious enough to warrant doubling my insurance premium, so I know that I’m going to need to speak with my doctor one-on-one.

I call the main desk at the doctor’s office, and get a recording. This time, I eventually am transferred to a human being. She tells me that the staff is at lunch, and doesn’t accept messages. I have to call back after 2pm.

::head desk:: ::head desk:: ::head desk::

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*Back  in 2003, I was on the receiving end of a nasty car accident. My medical bills were in the thousands, and while the other person’s insurance eventually covered it, they legally have three years to pay out. If my own employer-subsidized health insurance hadn’t covered me in the interim, I’d have been financially destroyed in no time at all.

By Any Other Name

NOTE: This post has been languishing in my Drafts for a good, long time. However, Google+ informed me today that my account there will be cancelled on Friday because my user name does not conform to their new requirements. I am not pleased.
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What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.          —Wm. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

 

 

I introduce myself as Wink.
You, assuming you misheard me, ask me to repeat my name.
I repeat it, and spell it out for clarification.
You (rudely, I might add) insist upon my telling you my “real” name.
Inwardly, I sigh.

I explain that Wink is my surname, really, truly. It’s been a nickname since I was a kid in part because, while it sometimes invokes this hassle of a conversation, it is still less arduous to deal with than my given name, which an alarming number of people cannot grasp. You then insist (again, here you are with the rudeness) that I tell YOU my given name, because you seem to want to prove that you are “better” than the majority of people who screw it up. At this point it’s not a fair fight, because this whole lead-in has warmed up your synapses so that you concentrate on it. I will tell you this: The most common annoyances include people mispronouncing it (sometimes over and over and over, requiring me to correct him/her Every. Single. Time.), or insisting that I’m mispronouncing it (!!!), or misspelling it, or flat-out not comprehending it, or making up their own cutesy nicknames for it in spite of my protests, or people asking if it’s my real name. Seriously, were you raised by gorillas?

Most co-workers use my given name, and a few friends-who-used-to-be-coworkers-and-so-met-me-that-way. A couple of friends who met me THROUGH co-workers. People who met me in high school, which was the window of time between being called Little Wink and, once I grew taller than my sister and we moved away from each other thus avoiding confusion, Wink. My surname-sharing family members typically call me by my first initial.

This particular habit of not going by my legally-given name turns out to be a family tradition. Both of my grandfathers went by Bill, were legally William, but one was given the name Wolf at birth. My grandma Jo is legally Josie, but she feels it sounds too much like a nickname so she uses Josephine on things like her bank account. I’m told that my grandma Belle, whom everyone called Sisse, didn’t find out until she was 40 that the name on her birth certificate was actually Beulah. My mother has never liked her given name and was known as Cookie throughout her childhood, while I remember her being called Tige (a diminutive of her last name) when I was a kid.

Listen. It’s my name. Mine. Has been my whole life. Trust me when I tell you that it’s been a nuisance that I have dealt with for decades. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely name. I wished it were different when I was a child, but I grew into it, as it were. Regardless, you insisting that it’s no big deal only adds to my hassle. So shut the hell up. Stop being rude. If I tell you my name is Petula Rufflebottompanties, please just say, “It’s nice to meet you.” Once you confirm the correct spelling.

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This post is dedicated to all of my family members, both maternal and paternal, who bear unusual surnames; to my bestest cousin, who also has a lovely-but-pain-in-the-ass given name; as well as to my growing “collection” of friends with unusual given names who are SO OVER being mispronounced, misspelled, and misunderstood.

Stupid, tiny hands.

Yeah, I know. My hands aren’t stupid. But they are, in relation to the rest of my adult-size body, tiny. Which really shouldn’t play into this discussion at all, because tiny or no, my rings fit MY hands.

I wear two rings every day, both on the ring finger (logical, eh?) of my right hand. One is a garnet cabochon set in sterling silver, and was a gift from my aunt when I was 9. Yes, it still fits. Tiny hands, remember? The other is a plain, silver band that found its way to me by chance and fate. That is to say, I found it in the laundry room of the condo complex where I lived many years ago, and it (rather surprisingly) fit. I posted a flier for a couple of weeks, hoping to find the proper owner, but nobody came forward. And so, it was mine. It disappeared once before, when a then-boyfriend had taken it in order to have a new ring made for me to the proper size. I knew he had it, I had lent it to him in the first place (I didn’t know what his plan was, he’d made up a plausible story for wanting it) and so there was no concern.

This morning, though. This morning I was taking a photo of my new, reverse-carved Lucite bangle bracelet (which is technically a watch although the battery is dead and I haven’t worn a watch in years anyway) and I looked at my hand in the photo and it looked funny. Peculiar. Why does it WHERE IS MY SILVER RING? I unmade the bed, hoping it had slipped off under a pillow during the night.* No such luck. I checked the bathroom counter, my purse, my jacket pockets. After doing chores like laundry and reorganizing my pantry (read: throwing away heinously outdated stuff), I was out and about “on the town” yesterday (ModMood, ARC, The Wrecking Ball), so it could have fallen off at any number of places.

Did the ring cost me any money? No. Was it sentimental? Other than I’ve had it for a long time, no. Is it irreplaceable? No, a quick search shows that I can find a new one online although for some inexplicable reason they’re less expensive in the (more common) larger sizes.

But this one was mine. And I lost it. And, if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I hate losing things.

::Sad balloon::

*I sleep in my rings, I shower in my rings, I wash dishes in my rings… I don’t take them off, except when I’m applying pomade or moisturizer and I don’t want them getting gunky.

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UPDATE: It’s now however many hours (8ishy) after I originally wrote this post, and HOLY CRAP I JUST FOUND MY RING!!! Right smack dab in the middle of my “office” floor. As in, about 4 feet DIRECTLY BEHIND THE VERY CHAIR I’M SITTING IN. And which I’ve had to walk OVER about 8 times today. Wotthehell? Best guess is that it WAS elsewhere, and one of the kittehs was playing with it until it landed here. Whatever. MY RING! Glee!