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.

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