Thursday, December 18, 2014

And to All, a Good Night

"Is it finally over?"
"It's over, Momma. Now it's straight."
"Well, thank goodness!"

So let me back up. If you read my last blog, then you saw that we were having a bit of a problem with the gub'ment. Seems they accidentally showed Momma's Medicare as being terminated effective 01/01/2014. Seems like a fairly easy problem to fix. Just confirm that the cancellation form is not on file, that her premiums have been paid on time, and correct it.

Yeah - cause Santa Claus is bringing me that Mercedes with the gull-wing doors I always wanted....stuff always works out the way you want it...uh-huh.

But I am thrilled to follow up, and say, IT IS FIXED. It only took from November 6th until yesterday, December 17th, and contacting the following agencies:
Medicare
Medicare Advanced Resolution
Social Security Administration
Railroad Retirement Bureau
Social Security Administration - two different local offices
Her former employer she retired from
Her former employer's benefits administration group
The insurance carrier
The state insurance commissioner's office
Her congressman
Her senator
Her senator-elect

And don't think each of these was limited to only one phone call apiece. Formal complaints were filed through four different agencies (I think - may be more.)

In fact when the congressman's office got involved, I faxed them TWENTY-SIX pages of documentation I had already accumulated.

But yesterday, Momma got the call we had been working towards. She has been retroactively reinstated. She will be reimbursed for the out of pocket expenses incurred while this went on. And the following part of the call cracked us up - "We are so sorry you went through this. Would you mind calling your daughter, and tell her that it is fixed, and that we apologized?"

Or as my hubby interpreted it - 'Hey, call that bulldog you gave birth to, and tell her to back off of us, please.' (On a side note - he appreciates that I do not use that character trait on him - normally.)

Shakespeare had it wrong. The line should read - Hell hath no fury like a woman whose loved one has done been wronged.

Because I believe in giving credit - huge kudos to her local office of Social Security Administration, to my contact in her benefits administration group, to United Health Care Social Media who took the ball, to the person in Medicare's Advanced Resolution area, and to her congressman. 

To anyone going through this, my best advice is this:
1) Don't believe anyone until you get the same answer multiple times
2) Feel free to go on a multi-pronged attack
3) Document, document, document - date, time, length of call, a name if possible
4) Pray

Now, I'm off to research the cost of a Mercedes with gull-wing doors. After all, we weren't sure I could ever get this fixed, much less an apology so obviously I'm on a roll.

Good night!



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Nightmare of the Government Before Christmas

I invite you to take a trip into a parallel dimension. One of neither common sense nor competency. Welcome to the world of the government. Where HAL, the computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey" seems benevolent, and kind. Certainly HAL has a point about human error.

I feel compelled to say the following - this is purely an expression of my own frustration. Also I feel compelled to say that this is a purely bipartisan gripe. I have no idea which administration was in charge of which rules being put in place. Personally, I'm not sure there is a politician with common sense anymore. Both parties seem to spend too much time catering, and not enough time leading.

Let me tell you what happened here. It all started when my Daddy dared to die. He passed away on May 28th. On June 11th, as required to, I notified the Railroad Retirement Bureau. At that time, the very nice, very sympathetic woman informed me that no other actions were necessary other then returning his direct deposit payment within the week. One and 1/2 days later when I went to the bank to instruct them to return it, I found out that the government had already taken it. If only all their actions had been as efficient as they were with taking back money from a recent widow.

Months went by. We grieved, and we moved forward. I executed his wishes as he had communicated to me while he was still of sound mind. At times, Momma almost felt I was too efficient. But I'm a to-do list kinda gal. I have a list. I work my list. I find comfort in my list. Some shop, I make a list.

Then the world flipped, and we DID NOT MAKE IT FLIP. I have spent days of my life trying to correct an error WE DID NOT CAUSE. The Railroad Retirement Board moved Momma's Medicare from being under them, and under Daddy's claim ID to the administration of the Social Security Administration and under Momma's own ID number. Reminds me of when our sons have projects in school, and suddenly need the purple markers with green board - SORTA NICE TO KNOW IN ADVANCE!

We received no notice of this change. She received no new Medicare card. Nope. What we got was a nice letter from her group plan she has as a retiree from a very large employer. It seems they heard from our government that SHE TERMINATED her Medicare. WHAT??? Also that it was "terminated" on 01-01-2014. HUH??? So why has the government been deducting her Medicare premium from her monthly check - WITHOUT FAIL?? Which I verified by looking at every dang month of her banking. Why has her every claim to this point been processed WITHOUT A PROBLEM? YES - I'M SHOUTING!! Though I didn't at first. I sighed. I thought a couple of calls would clear this up. I told her not to worry. Silly, silly me.

Let me just say, that I was closer to reality when I believed in Santa Claus. At least Daddy had a beard, was round, and had his jolly moments, and Momma, and I have the height of a couple of elves.

Since November 6th, I have been in an endless loop of one entity blaming the next entity for the "mistake". Naturally the first entity blamed was me. Once again, HUH? All I did was give timely notice of my father's death. I might add that it's never easy to call anyone and say that someone you love has died - never. I initiated NO OTHER ACTION. Indeed, my research indicated that it is difficult to terminate your Medicare. As I graciously pointed out to one ignor...I mean clueless, person. (Clueless - still harsh, but my kindness is strained right now.)

Medicare would blame Social Security Administration who would blame Medicare and each one would tell me to call the other one to fix it. This was AFTER I spoke several times to her insurance carrier who at first said they just needed her new claim id. Which I gave them. Then they tell me, no, we can't reinstate her - she had no coverage from 01/01/2014 until 10/01/2014. So I also involved that large employer. They've tried to help. Really, they have. One of the only entities which was willing to give me a real person's name, and phone number to help. But help can only go so far when no one truly understands how the systems work, and therefore how to fix them.

Now look at those dates, again. Anything jump out at you? Like, perhaps, how easy it is to transpose 10/01 and make it 01/01. I began (after numerous phone calls) to figure it out FOR THEM, what THEY had done wrong. Mainly because I was tired of being told that WE had terminated her. Someone hit "termination" instead of transfer/change (which would not have been us), and then instead of the effective date for the CHANGE being 10/01, keyed in 01/01. Voila - my mother appears to have been terminated effective 01/01/2014. Or as I dryly said to a few of the many government employees I've spoken to - wasn't that jumping the gun a bit since Daddy didn't even die until 05/28???

Finally after many (numerous, excessive) calls to the various agencies attempting to find someone to help/take responsibility (one starts to wonder - are they paid by the calls answered, not the calls resolved??), a helpful soul named Leah appeared. She works for Medicare, and after several times of putting me on hold to verify the details, and to discuss with a supervisor, she informed me that yes, it really is Social Security who tells Medicare who can have Medicare, and so Social Security are the ones who will need to fix it. She also tells me to ask to speak to a supervisor so it can be escalated, and that it is best to call our local office.

Fine. I call the local office. What happens? By now it shouldn't be hard to guess. I explain what happened (by now, I can do it in my sleep. I've repeated this story more then the telling of our children's births.) So what do I hear - 'you need to contact Medicare, they would be the ones to fix that.' SERIOUSLY? I just got off the phone with them. THEY SAID TO CALL YOU. May I speak to a supervisor? And this woman actually asked me why, when a supervisor was 'just going to tell you what I JUST told you.' Personally, a badge of honor here. I'm not always the best with holding my temper. Just ask my kids. But I very calmly said, that I was fine with that, I would still like to speak to one. In fact I've stayed calmer then expected through most of this. I am however getting better workouts on the elliptical. There's a certain umph to them....imagine that.

Guess what? Best move I made through the whole ordeal, ignoring her, and speaking to a supervisor. Beverly - lovely woman. Extraordinarily helpful. Even called Momma directly to say how sorry she was that this had happened, and she would get it fixed. AND SHE DID - at least the Social Security Administration part. Which then allowed Medicare to issue a new and correct card. Of course how many calls did I make to get through to the one person who could and would help - unknown, but I have a lot of notes, and I could probably figure it out. I've hugged her in person. Lovely lady.

So we should be at the end of the journey now...right...right...rig....wrong. (And if you're sticking with me through this tale - congrats, and many thanks!)

No, now I get a call from her former employer. That big insurance company, United Health Care, won't add her back with a correct effective date of - ALL DANG YEAR LONG - unless they hear from Medicare to do it.

So I call Medicare - again. I sit on hold - again. I explain - again. I get told I'm wrong - again. Finally, I was told that it would be forwarded to their Advanced Resolution Center. Two business days - they must reply. On the second day they called. The wrong number. Poor Momma - she was not expecting the call, BECAUSE I TOLD THEM TO CALL ME. I gave them my number. They have the proper authorizations on file (that could be another way too long blog about authorizations). Instead they call her, and ask for me. That's so indicative of how this entire experience has gone. Never quite right. It's like the blind date that looks good, but can't carry a conversation to save his life. The insurance company isn't fixing this. Medicare isn't fixing this. And I wonder - WHY IN THE HELL DO I HAVE TO FIX SOMETHING I DIDN'T BREAK??????????

So we're waiting. Still waiting for Prince Charming. He needs to make it right. He needs to give her back the health coverage she NEVER TERMINATED. It needs to be effective as of 01/01/2014. It needs to cover her AS IT SHOULD HAVE. I say, HE, because at this point, I've started emailing her congressman, and her US Senators. Do you blame me??

By now, Momma is beyond frustrated. She's been made to feel that she no longer has health insurance, embarrassed at trying to fill a prescription, and sure that this will never get fixed. She's been talked down to, and spoken to as if she is "stupid" to use one of the many words she's used, a more family friendly word. She's a sharp cookie, but no, she never handled the paperwork of life. Daddy did, and now I do. I can't help but wonder about the elderly person out there who doesn't have a bulldog named Evelyn for a daughter? How messed up is their stuff? How many times are they being told it's their fault, and they assume the government is right, and they aren't? Truly it's not just the government either. Big corporations mess up. They bill you wrong, and it's your problem, not theirs.

I, am equally upset. I have tried to fix this, and instead I have been insulted, turned away if the proper permissions were not in place, and spoken to as if I'm trying to cheat the system. I've been spoken down to, talked over top of, and treated as an imbecile. I've spent hours of my life in the special circle of hell called, On HOLD, listening to the most awful, repetitive music broken up by their even worse, repetitive announcements, and been frustrated by automated operators who don't have the option I need - dial x if WE SCREWED UP YOUR STUFF. Indeed, the Medicare complaints site doesn't list a way to COMPLAIN ABOUT THEM - only others.

So, really, how about treating our senior citizens as the golden members who have helped build this great country and not as a burden? My mother has helped so many. Where the hell is her help...which she paid for?

Well, here's what's happening next. I continue to contact anyone who wants to listen to what has happened to my mother. No one should have to go through this. So guess what - the Insurance Commissioner of the great state of North Carolina, her congressman, her U.S. Senators, Medicare, United Health Care..I'm not done yet. My Momma doesn't deserve to be sleepless over this. They say that the first set of holidays spent without someone you love are particularly hard. A big {sarcastic} thanks to all the above for keeping my focus off of my loss and on to your inability to make a simple correction. Yeah, thanks for that.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

9-11

I sit here stunned by the silence. The cat, named Elvis in honor of his black velvet fur, is quite content. I have a lovely glass of wine, and a new book beckoning me. All is right with the world. But my thoughts turn to 2001.

I was at my parents. The two of them, the two children, and me. Our sons were the ripe old ages of three, and four. Just yesterday our younger son reminded me that he was too young to have any real memories of that day. Of course, part of that can be attributed to the adults surrounding both children. While Daddy sat in the bedroom, his gold recliner at attention while he watched the nonstop coverage with both an unwillingness to participate, and in inability to look away, Momma, and I traveled the hall. We took turns. One of us would be in the living room, Cartoon Network providing a respite from the horrors down the hall. Children laughed, fought, played, and argued while the world was full of ashes, dust, and fire. News came that a friend had given birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Still the world was aflame. Friends who might be in harms way were located, thankfully safe. We were untouched by tragedy...but none of us were untouched by the tragedy. The uncertainty reaching the remote reaches of North Carolina. The prayers, and the horror, too.

Too often we ignore the evil of the world. Most of us have a desire to embrace the good, and run from the evil. Our sons are now 16, and 17. College is on the very near horizon.  As is registering for the draft. Our younger son discusses a military career after college. We have friends whose sons discuss it sooner, and friends who have sons already in the military. 9-11 is such a simple moniker for a day which changed our world.

I believe stories are an integral part of the world. We learn through stories. We should share our stories. Where we were, who we were with, how we felt. Because through remembering, through sharing with the next generation, perhaps, we can make a better world. Eradicating evil. Thank you to all who serve. Thank you to all who sacrifice.

Monday, August 25, 2014

You Can Depend on Dewey

Anybody out there who believes in those moments? The ones that take your breath away and make you believe completely in a higher power - those are the moments. When your child is born, when someone you love dies, when a rainbow appears, when a song comes on or maybe a music box plays without being wound up - those are the moments. One of my moments happened last week. 

I saw the boys through the first day of school, and then I was gone for the week. 
Momma, and I had worked out our schedule of what needed to be done, day by day. On the list - visiting her credit union. She had this check in Daddy's name. It was a small check, but anyone who has ever tried to work on an estate knows what a pain some of this is. So just as planned on day three of my visit, we went to the credit union. Our credit union has a long row of tellers, but we had timed it well, and there wasn't a line. This lovely young girl called us down to her spot. And there it was - our sign. An ink pen sat there. Someone had left it behind. Or maybe God did. Because it had my Daddy's name on it. I noticed it first. I pointed to the pen to Momma. As she gasped over seeing Dewey on a pen, I rolled it ever so slightly, and we were even more in awe. For on that pen was also a slogan. The slogan, "You can depend on Dewey". Daddy was a dependable sort. He planned, and he worked hard. Still Momma has wondered if she's been making the right decisions. My brothers, and I have assured her that she is making the right choices. It felt as if a sign was sent from heaven. She could depend on Daddy, and he knew it was all OK.

So today is Daddy's birthday, and I always knew it would be a hard day. Father's Day was hard, today was hard, and I can't say I'm looking forward to ECU's kickoff on Saturday night. It's the first ECU football game that I can remember that I don't have Daddy to tell me I'm wrong about something. I'll miss that even though I still have a husband, and teenagers so it's not like I'll miss out completely on the experience of being wrong.

We still love you, Daddy. Thank you for being dependable. I hope I'm raising sons to be as dependable as you, and Pa Cooper always were. Happy Birthday in heaven. The teller let Momma keep the pen you sent. She still loves you, too.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ch...CH...Changes

My last blog was in June. In July I turned 54, I worked on my father's estate, I pressure washed, I cleaned, I organized, I repaired, I did everything I could do to keep busy. I didn't write. Yet, it's the one thing I kept thinking of as something I wanted to do.

I see stuff that I want to comment on, but I don't. Like how Kate Hudson is designing these wild looking yoga pants. One look at them, and all I could think is - only a Hollywood actress would think any self-respecting women would put THAT on her butt. Even starving would NOT make that look ok on my rear end.  And I have to say, there's always a comment I can come up with about the Kardashians. 

Also Facebook has the most fascinating view of me based on the "suggestions" it comes up with. Apparently I'm a liberal, gun-toting, overweight, old woman/man with questionable taste in decor. I may resemble some of those characterizations, but it's difficult to cover them all, even for a Southern Momma.

Grief is a process. Yep - it sure is. Hubby has started listening to country music, and one good friend said our life has been like a country music song. I LOVED THAT COMMENT. Anything with a tint of humor is so welcome, and that cracked me up. Need to find me a broken pick up truck...dang it, and the cat don't resemble a hound dog...but other then that, I see her point.

So I want to start back writing. It's so cathartic...ten dollar word, right there. I need to figure out how to get back to writing. There's so much coming up that is just ripe for commentary. Our oldest son will be applying for college. Our younger son wants to work on his Eagle Scout award. Estates need to be settled, and a car needs to be repaired again. Teenagers drive, and drive us crazy in the process. My Momma adjusts to single life.

So bear with me...life's been in the way. But I want to write, and I will.