Americans Aren’t Dumb Like the Government

I came home early today, hoping to beat the third severe thunderstorm destined to pass over my house. Thunder boomed and rocked the house. I could feel the vibrations in the floor. That was just the beginning of it.

I called my mom to check on her, as I do every evening…and every morning while dressing for work. I’d planned to tell her about my excitement of the day…how I tracked the storms on the computer, how the tornado sirens sounded, how our office staff went to the stairwell to wait out the storm. But when she answered the phone, she said in a very disturbed voice, “I’ve got real trouble.”

“What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I got a bill from a company called HealthSpring, saying I owe them $300. It’s a premium for insurance –”

“Give me the phone number and any ID number on the statement.”

She did and I called the number, thinking it would be an easy fix. Boy golly, was I ever wrong.

“She’s got prescription drug insurance with HealthSpring, and she’s had it since May of 2006.”

“No, she does not. She doesn’t take any prescriptions, she doesn’t want Medicare Part D, she never signed up for Medicare Part D or for HealthSpring. Remove the $300 and take her off your list.”

“No, we can’t do that. Medicare signed her up in May of 2006.”

“So, in almost May of 2009, she’s getting her first bill? Give me a break. She’s not going to pay this bill. She did not ask for this coverage. She does not want this coverage. She never even knew she had it. Give me a reasonable solution here.” My voice got louder as I ranted on.

“What I done to you? I’m just trying to help you. I don’t know what I’ve done to you.” She whined into the phone like a hurt creature.

“Hey, I’m the customer here. I’m coming to you with a problem. Fix it. Give me an answer here. Your company is harrassing my mother and upsetting her by sending her bills she knows nothing about. If you are trained to work in an insurance company, you should know how to deal with irate people like me. Give me an answer! Give me some help here!”

“What did I do to yooooou?”

“You are the face of HealthSpring. HELP ME!”

She hung up on me when I was getting nowhere with her and said the f-word. I called back and went through the whole thing again with a second person. All these freaking people at HealthSpring know to say is that She has been signed up since May of 2006. And when you say I don’t care, it’s a mistake, take her off, all they can say is No, she was signed up. They cannot tell you why she was signed up three years ago and has never gotten a bill. In fact, they couldn’t tell me anything much because I didn’t have Power of Attorney for her. Okay, I can understand that.

[But…it goes downhill from here…]

The second HealthSpring woman hung up on me when I said damn. Can’t these people handle a few damns and hells from someone whose mama is troubled and upset because of a bill she got in the mail that she wasn’t supposed to get? Finally, I called back a third time and got Andrea. I told her to please not hang up on me because two people already had and I was a little upset (okay, a lot upset!) and needed a solution for my 87-year-old mother. Andrea had the same script as the other two, but ended up telling me that Medicare signed my mother up — in May of 2006 — and they had the right to do that because she had been on “assistance.”

“Wait, what? What do you mean ‘assistance’?”

“Medicaid.”

“She’s never been on that.” I explained to her that when my father was ill with dementia and needed a nursing home, we were advised to try to get Medicaid and applied, but my parents were denied because they had too much money.

Wait a minute. Does this mean if you ever did get anything from the government, they OWN you forever after and have the right to sign you up — and make you pay — for anything they want you to have, whether you need or want it at all and you have no say? Sounds so to me. God help us.

“She never got one penny from the government.” I was livid. I was enraged. Explanations, pleas, facts, truth, all shot to the wind. Nothing mattered.  

“My records show–”

“I don’t care what your records show; they’re wrong! Make a note on my mother’s file that she will not be paying that bill! Write it down!”

Andrea advised me to call Medicare and gave me their number, and I hung up [without cussing, I think] after she [supposedly and hopefully] lodged a complaint for me against HealthSpring, most particularly about how their trained staff is too inept to deal with and resolve problems for the customer and how they push back problems onto the customer and how they don’t want their OWN tender feelings hurt. Doesn’t matter what they do to your aged mama and how she can’t sleep at night because she is troubled.

So, it stands. A prescription drug insurance company has the right to keep you on their rolls and charge you and send you bills, even though you never signed up, had no knowledge of being signed up…for three years…and don’t need and/or want the service they provide.

Things really got wild when I called Medicare. I got Jason first. He told me his records showed my mother got “assistance from the government” and so they enrolled her in the drug plan.

“Since when did YOU get Power of Attorney for her? Nobody will tell me anything about her situation because I don’t have Power of Attorney, yet you can sign her up for prescription coverage without her knowledge or consent? Where is the logic in that? Tell me something that makes sense here! C’mon, I don’t have time to call the insurance commissioner or to write my congressmen or to call Obama. Help me here.”

“Well, between November 15 and December 31, you can call back and dis-enroll. You can’t do anything before then.” I found out that people are just automatically supposed to know these rules about dis-enrolling and/or changing insurance companies. How is anybody over 65 supposed to keep up with this sh…stuff? The burden is on the aged person to know the rules and abide by them, even if he/she never had a need or interest to know about such things.

“C’mon, help me, give me something reasonable.”

“I can give you a supervisor–”

“Please, for godssakes, do.”

I got Lindsey. “I’m in an absolute nightmare,” I told her. She told me all the same things and told me to call Medicaid and have them correct their records.

Meanwhile, everything stays as it is. My mother will continue to get bills from HealthSpring. Medicare has the right to keep her enrolled against her consent and will.

If she moves or goes to a nursing home, then she can make changes, I was told.

“You mean if she is a normal average person, she can’t.”

“That’s right.”

“My God, this is insanity. Is this what we’ve come to in America? At this moment, I am ashamed to be an American.”

My mama told me later I shouldn’t have said that about being an American because “we average Americans aren’t dumb like the government.”

[As a writer, I am supposed to be able to put in print ONLY that which is TRUE about others. I swear this is true. The dialogue may not be exact in wording, but the gist is intact. It is all even niced up a bit.]

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8 Comments on “Americans Aren’t Dumb Like the Government”

  1. Rain says:

    That is shocking to me too. I hate dealing with the gov’t and everytime i hear such a story, I am reminded why. They don’t care and they have too much power. I am still amazed. This story needs much wider coverage!

  2. OMG – what a nightmare. Makes me ashamed to be an American too. So So Sad.

    ~ STOP THE MADNESS ~

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Kay Dennison says:

    Ohhhhhhh gawd! I am really frightened by this. I am on medicare/medicaid and I keep getting all sorts of crap in the mail that I just throw away because I don’t want it. Now I’m truly frightened.

    And oh yeah, they really are out to get us!!!!

  4. Kory Wells says:

    Kathy, I’m glad to know I’m not the only mild-mannered Southern lady who can be driven to the edge by scripted customer service people. I had a similar experience with Verizon recently – and found myself YELLING at some young man “ARE YOU GOING TO TRANSFER ME TO A MANAGER OR NOT?!” I was so frustrated I wanted to involve the government, although I guess that wouldn’t be wise, huh?

  5. Beth W. says:

    I wish I could say your (and your mom’s) saga is so rare as to be a freak of nature, but unfortunately, I’ve been through some similar go-’rounds when helping my late mother-in-law with various situations and issues and also just in daily life. Like you, I’ve learned to get tough — every now and then it works. One trick (you probably already have tried this one) is to get the “customer service” person’s first and last name, and then stop them several times during their spiel to say, “what was that again? Please repeat what you just said so I can be sure to quote you correctly when I write my attorney about this. . .”

  6. inktarsia says:

    This story has bugged me–it has the scent of fraud. My mom suggested a letter to the state atty general might be in order. She also suggested contacting the “consumer advocate” at your local TV station, which I like even better! There may be lots of people in situations like your mother’s, but don’t have anyone to speak up for them.

  7. This is wild, but thanks for so succinctly letting us know about how this works. Yikes.

  8. endment says:

    inktarsia has some good suggestions but it might be more useful to begin with your state representatives office. Believe it or not – their staff can untangle some really challenging problems


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