Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: Why I Hate Insurance Companies

This could be entitled "no good deed goes unpunished" after a very frustrating experience at the end of the year trying to use the HSA (health savings account) money I've salted away throughout the year for a new pair of glasses, right? Simple -- except they say I don't exist.

We started 2007 with these new debit cards from our company through a third-party provider (name withheld at this time). Good idea, giving people better access to their pre-tax health savings account to pay for stuff like out-of-pocket prescription, doctor visits, etc. and it even worked a couple times earlier this year.

But at the end of this year -- today, to be precise -- no go when using the plastic "convenience" card. I know I've got a couple hundred bucks left in the kitty so I called the number on the back of the card and after waiting for 9 minutes and 41 seconds (according to the telephone ticker at the Sears Optical in Twinsburg) I got a live person. All I wanted to know was my balance but the clerk checked my social security number four times, my name (first and last) three times and the card number itself twice before she told me I didn't exist.

"How can this be?", I asked, noting the number I used to call her came from the card she says doesn't exist. She even looked up my company (Rubber City Radio -- that only took another 3 minutes and 32 seconds) and says I didn't exist there, either.

I noted that was pretty strange since they've been taking money out of my paycheck twice a month and they didn't say anything about my not existing at the time. They didn't say anything about my not existing when I used the card in the first quarter of 2007 (that's when I thought it was convenient) but now when I want to cash out not only is the transaction denied but my very existence is denied, too.

This may come as welcome news to my staff.

Now I'm particularly paranoid when it comes to insurance companies and their minions, especially the third-party companies who manage all these programs for our benefit. I imagine the poor clerks answering the phones from pissed-off people such as myself at the end of the year dealing with slow computer uploads and missing records while the executives, who loaded up on six-figure bonuses for their golfing holidays in Hilton Head, celebrate at the end of the year. Personally, I believe America's health care system is crafted to do exactly what it's doing: frustrate and confuse the hell of out the rest of us so we just give up and leave our money with the insurance companies. I'm betting that's part of what leads to those juicy bonuses at the end of the year, as well as the generous lobbying fees to lawyers on Capitol Hill to keep the system as complex and byzantine as possible.

Not that I'm in a position to argue; I asked when a supervisor would be able to find the time to call me back but I'm not holding out my hope. After all, how much hope can one have when they don't exist?

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