It’s getting to be tax season and since mine are sure to be a mess this year what with leaving my full-time employer and having freelance jobs where nothing was taken out, not to mention other quirks in my life, I decided to start collecting the paperwork my accountant will need.
A big help to me last year was when the medical insurance people sent out a handy-dandy paper printout listing my doctor visits for the year and what they paid and what I had to pony up. Not receiving a similar list this year, I called the insurance people to see what was up, naturally landing in the outer ring of voice mail hell. I punched in the series of required policy identification numbers and date of birth, happy when they said it would be a two-minute wait time for the next representative.
Sure enough, a cheerful woman came on the line in the promised time to tell me that they stopped mailing out the list to save paper and postage and I could instead find it online.
“Umm,” I replied. “Not to be mean, but the site is not all that user-friendly and I don’t think I’ve ever successfully reached my information. Plus, I’ve forgotten my password.”
“Oh, I hear you. I don’t even have Internet at my house,” she said sympathetically. “But how about we reset your password and get you started?”
I bounded upstairs to my study, phone in hand, and got on the computer. Woosh, incoming email soon brought my new password and I went to town with the jumble of upper- and lowercase letters and one numeral. The second page of the process popped up and wanted to know the town where I was born and the name of my first elementary school.
Tap, tap, tap, I hit enter. Screaming red letters told me I was wrong. Are you kidding me? I certainly know where I was born. I called back on the tech support number, entered my policy identification number and birth date. “Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line. Wait time for the next available representative is 11 minutes.”
While I was on hold I fiddled around on the site and was able to make my way through to the second ring of Internet hell, which is similar to the teeth gnashing associated with voice mail hell. Problem is, this site was only for my catastrophic policy and I couldn’t determine how to access my medical, dental and vision stuff. Of course I had dropped that particular coverage earlier this year in favor of one with lower premiums, albeit with a sky-high deductible. Maybe that was why I couldn’t find anything on the site, had it already been purged? — My first point to raise with the next available representative.
This one wasn’t quite as chipper as the last woman and I could tell she wasn’t getting what I was asking for as she tossed my call forward to another woman who also did the same thing so that I ended up with the electronic voice telling me the wait time would be 28 minutes. I could, however, take the option of leaving my number and someone would call me. Sure, I’ll play your little game. Of course when my phone rang it was instead a pitch for a donation and I have to admit I was not terribly charitable to the woman on the other end.
While cooling my heels, I decided to haul out my check register for 2011 and see if it wouldn’t be easier to just go through and add up all the figures myself of what I had paid out. Good plan, because as it turned out when the insurance company rang me back I was told to press one, hopefully to be connected to the person who would solve my problem. I heard the call going through, then “do, do, do, do. The number you have reached is no longer in service.”
— Nancy Luse is a freelance writer in Frederick, Md., and is not a fan of the health insurance industry. She may be reached at nluse(at)Verizon.net.