Friday, February 10, 2012

In the system

About seven weeks ago, I got a letter telling me that Kathleen and Elizabeth had been enrolled in one of our state healthcare for kids programs. I didn't want or need this coverage for them and certainly didn't want to pay the monthly premium on top of what we are already paying. Although I didn't really apply for this (I guess in a backward way I did by applying for premium assistance when Brian was in school), they suddenly sent me a bill. Or two bills rather, one for each kid, because they're efficient that way.

I was irritated that they were giving me something that didn't really help and denying me what would help. I was irritated that they were making me call to cancel something I never really asked for. Mostly I was exhausted by the idea of calling them.

We applied when Henry was sick for both the state plan and SSDI. After he died, I had to call both and go through a rigamarole to cancel his never used coverage, talking to this person and that and holding and being transferred, and each time having to say, "My son died." Exactly one person said anything like, "I'm sorry." Most just seemed confused because there was no page in their script for "baby died." I finally got to the last person, explained the situation ending with "he died."

"And?" she said, clearly irritated that I was wasting her time with my dead baby. And. And—that's why every interaction I've had with them has been exhausting. I dread making the call.

I had to call today to cancel the unwanted plans for the girls. The person I spoke to was pleasant and efficient. She got our account number and the girls' names and birth dates. She put me on hold to check our account. When she came back, she asked if I was cancelling for two children or three.

He's still in the system. Maybe I should be glad that he is in there, still lurking, proof that he was, but how many times do I have to say, "He died"? It's wearying. I managed to get off the phone before I cried. It seems like not having him should be enough, that I shouldn't have to keep confronting bureaucracy about it.


  1. Oh, Sara. Ouch. I'm so sorry this ambush was waiting for you. Stupid bureaucracy.

    I hope this is taken care of and you don't have to deal with these people again.

  2. I'm so sorry. I remember dealing with some of the bills after Liam died ... and confusing the person on the other end because I always had to say "my baby died". It sucks. Exhausting. I hope today was the end of those calls for you.

  3. Like Erica, I'm just so sorry. It's horrible and tiring to have to go over it. I will never forget when the hospital 'phoned me asking me to book the twins in for a hearing test. And I had to explain that I no longer had two children and yes, I just about managed to get off the phone before I cried. It hurts. I think that the uncaring, grinding nature of bureaucracy makes it hurt all the more xo

  4. I'm sorry, too. That state system serves an important function and I'm glad it's there and all that, but yeah, it's bureaucracy of the worst kind. I'm having issues with them, too, but nothing related to Sierra, fortunately (they canceled Ivy because they don't have her SS number or something). Anyway, I'm just sorry that happened and I'm sending you a hug (and looking forward to giving you one in person next week).

  5. SG had this to say, but I accidentally deleted her comment:
    Oh, I'm so sorry! I know the pain of this. I could write a book about our experiences getting Elizabeth enrolled in our state system (for which her diagnosis was supposed to "automatically" qualify her) and also interacting with heartless beaurocrats and medical billing office people - and now the phone calls one year later from people who "check in" on us without reading far enough in our file to see that she died. I finally decided that they must be under strict instructions NOT to react in any personal way to what people tell them on the phone. How else to explain the dozens of people who have heard me say the phrase, "My daughter died." and not even replied "I'm sorry." ?

    That's what we went through from start to finish—hearing that it was practically automatic and then doing reams and reams of paperwork (our financials, his financials, his diagnoses (which seemed to change almost daily), his abilities (pages and pages of can he . . . um, no, he's a baby). Sigh. I mentioned to one of my friends how much we were paying for health insurance and she asked if we didn't qualify for our state plan. We may, but I realize I've been loathe to apply because I can't imagine dealing with them on a regular basis.

  6. Sara, I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. On the upside, you're much more polite than I am. I'm impressed you didn't say "AND EFF YOU!" when the person gave you the snotty "AND?!"

    Lots of love to you, friend.

  7. Mary Beth, I'm not sure I can claim politeness. I was so worn down by the end of that first phone call (probably just over month or so after he died) that I could barely sit up or speak. What surprises me was how weak and shaky I felt after the end of this new call, four years later.

  8. Oh, Sara, I am so, so sorry that you still have to deal with this. The grief itself is hard enough without being compounded by having to say it again and again and again to an apparently unhearing ear. And I can only imagine how it must feel, four years down the road, to find yourself on such terribly familiar territory. Sending love always.