Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lactategate 2

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my futile attempts to receive reimbursement for a manual breast pump. I foolishly believed that once I faxed in the invoice with the requested information, I would promptly receive the $25.99 I was promised. So imagine my consternation when, several days later I received a check for $15 and a note explaining that the $10.40 had been covered by my “co-insurer.”
I found this somewhat perplexing as I do not have co-insurance. Naturally, I called my provider up and had the following conversation:

Me – Yes, I sent in the paperwork for re-imbursement on a manual breast-pump and although the invoice I provided said $25.99 you only cut me a check for $15.59 and deducted $10.40 for the co-insurance I don’t have.

Them – That is strange, let me look over the notes on your account. Do you mind if I place you on a brief hold?

7 or 8 minutes pass

Them – It would appear the system made an error and we are unable to override it at this time.

Me – What do you mean the “system” cannot be overridden? Do you have a Terminator 2 scenario going on at the home office? Has the computer become self-aware? Are you under duress?

Them – I have spoken to my supervisor and while we cannot override the error, we can get the amount corrected.

Me – Ok. So now I will have to wait for another check for the $10.40 you deducted from the original check?

Them – Actually, we will need you to mail your check back to us and once we receive it we can re-issue a check for the full $25.99.

Me – Why can’t you just issue me a check for the difference? Better yet, just stop payment on this check and I will shred it. I can send you the video.

Them – I know it seems unnecessary, but we simply cannot issue you the full check until we have yours back.

Me – What if I said I had lost the check in a bar-fight or a structure fire?

Them – Is that what happened?

Me- Let’s just say that if my house was ablaze the first thing I grabbed would not be my health insurance paperwork.

Them – Sir, if you have the check you will have to return it.

Me – This may seem petty, mostly because it is meant to be, but I am unwilling to suffer the indignity of stopping and buying a stamp simply to return your mistake to you. If you want the check back, you will have to send me a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Them – May I place you on a brief hold?

2 minutes pass

Them – We will send you a self-addressed envelope and you can return the check in it.

Me- I will keep it in the fire-safe next to the jewels.
True to their word, I received an envelope a week later. I placed the $15.59 check into the mail on a Friday afternoon. The following Monday, I was sorting through that day’s mail and saw an envelope from my insurance provider. I opened the envelope to reveal a check for $10.40 and a form showing that with this check (and the one they had demanded I return) they had now paid me the full $25.99 and the claim was completed.

I may have briefly lost consciousness at this point. I do remember my wife reminding me that our infant daughter was slumbering nearby and that I would need to “take it outside” if I wished to continue my outburst. I was beginning to suspect that this company employed an entire department whose job it was to piss me off. Not only had they issued the impossible check, they had sent it before ever receiving my check back. I had spent hours of phone conversations for the privilege of trading a $15 reimbursement check for a $10 one.

One of my co-workers, who was familiar with my odyssey, found this turn of events so amusing that he became incapacitated at his desk. So now I had to make yet another phone call to the insurer and attempt to convince them to issue another $15.59 check to replace the one I had dropped in the mail a few days prior. An eerie calm washed over me as I dialed the number for customer service and waited for the next available associate.

After explaining the situation yet again, I was placed on another “brief” hold so that he could review the extensive notations on my account.

Them – Thank you for your patience. I am not sure why you were told to send the other check back and we cannot re-issue that check because we do not show we have possession of it yet. If we cancel it there would be a waiting period before we could re-issue it so the best thing would be for us to wait for the check you sent us to get here and have us send it back to you.

Here I found myself at a crossroads: I could succumb to the mounting pressure in my cerebral cortex and explain to “Jim” a unique location to store the check once it was located, but I realized that such a suggestion would be unfair to him. Besides, all of this would probably just create a mental health emergency on my part which would in turn generate another claim which they would then deny thereby creating an entirely new cycle of rage.

Instead, I took a deep breath and came to terms with the fact that I was no match for the institutionalized inefficiency woven into each and every step of the reimbursement process. I was now entering the third month of simply attempting to claim $25.99. I shudder to think of the man-hours wasted attempting to claim a benefit advertised to me. I have received breakfast cereal rebates faster and with less bureaucracy.

As of this writing, I still have not received the full reimbursement for the product I purchased at the beginning of January. I imagine that the end result of such a labyrinthine process is to tout an impressive number of benefits without the financial inconvenience of fulfilling them.   

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