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A coincidence of timing, but I don't think it's just me

Your Humble Blogger can’t help but respond to the now-famous Mitt Romney quote about how much he enjoys firing people. Of course, as Greg Sargent points out, Romney didn’t really say he enjoys firing people, but then Poppy Bush wasn’t really amazed by supermarket scanners in 1992. It’s wonderful how these stories that match up with our previous mental images of the candidates retain their power. Bill Clinton didn’t shut down LAX for an hour while he got a haircut, either, but that one kinda went by the wayside, because Clinton is vain and arrogant didn’t fit the jokes about Big Macs and Astroturf in the pickup bed. Al Gore didn’t really claim to invent the internet, but that story fit our view of him as self-aggrandizing crank, so it stuck. Mitt Romney does come off as almost a caricature of a heartless investment pillager, so I think this one could stick. Not that he can’t win, even if it sticks, but it’s the sort of thing that sticks.

But really, I wanted to talk about what he actually said, which was that the good thing about competition in the health insurance industry is that the buyer has choices, and “if you don’t like what they do, you can fire them”. What he likes about the system we have (as compared, presumably, to a single-payer or nationalized system, since that aspect remains unchanged under the Affordable Care Act) is that if you are dissatisfied with your insurance, you can fire them and get new insurance. That’s what Mitt Romney likes about the way Americans pay for health care.

Now, just yesterday Your Humble Blogger received a letter from the insurance company that handles my bills, which I will for the sake of clarity call EvilRatBastardHealthAssuranceandInterCapCareCo. YHB had sinus surgery last Spring to relieve incapacitating headaches, and as the surgeon was up my nose to his elbows, he found that the path would be made easier by proceeding with a septoplasty, which would have the additional benefit of clearing the passages for my future breathing pleasure. ERBHAaICCC had pre-authorized the polypectomy, but the surgeon has not planned on committing sinoplasty (tho’ he had warned me that he might decide to do it, and I signed off on it just in case) so I did not discuss this aspect with the ERBHAaICCC employee over the telephone beforehand. In the event, it was done, and the bill was sent in the natural order of things, and ERBHAaICCC denied it, which is evidently also in the natural order of things, enough so that I was not told about it at the time. The surgeon’s office appealed the ruling, and the appeal was upheld. By, according to the letter I received yesterday from ERBHAaICCC, a urologist.

Anyway. I’m sure that it will all get resolved, and eventually the surgeon’s office and the insurance company will come to an understanding. I feel quite confident that I will not, in the end, have to pay for the surgery out of my pocket. I also expect that I will be spending hours of my time dealing with this, that my HR department will be spending time dealing with this, that some poor sap at ERBHAaICCC will be dealing with this, and that more hours of time will be spent at the surgeon’s office—the surgeon himself has already spent nearly five minutes in my presence dealing with it, and if that doesn’t sound like a lot of wasted time, the man operates in people’s heads for a living. That’s five minutes that could be much more valuably spent elsewhere. The same is true I hope (if to a lesser extent) for me and for the HR and ERBHAaICCC lackeys.

My point is that at the moment I would love to be able to fire that insurance company. When Mitt Romney extols the joy of firing incompetents, I have to say that I would get great pleasure, myself, out of telling ERBHAaICCC that they have fifteen minutes to put their things into a cardboard box before the security guard will come to escort them all out of my life forever. It would only make me sad if somehow the door hit their proverbials on the way out. Good riddance to bad insurance company, that’s what I would say.

Only, obviously, that’s not an option. I mean, for one thing, firing ERBHAaICCC, vaddevah it means to fire one’s insurance provider, would not get the outstanding bills paid. Secondly, as is common in my experience, I can’t make any changes to my family’s employer-based health insurance for another nine months, when there is a one-month window of opportunity. Third, as is also common, I do not have a choice of employer-based group policies; should I withdraw our family from our employer-based group policy, I would have to find an individual family policy, at tremendous cost. Fourth, as health insurance is a seller’s market under the system that Governor Romney extols, it is plausible that I would not be able to find a family plan that would cover our needs at all. Fifth, if I did have a choice of ERBHAaICCC, WellPoint, Cigna, Aetna, UnitedHealth, WellCare, Kemper, Blue Shield, Humana, American National, Assurant, Coventry, HCSC, or a dozen other major health insurance providers, everything I have heard tells me that I am just as likely to have to waste hours chasing down shit like this in any of them. Firing ERBHAaICCC just means hiring some other ERBHAaICCC, so it doesn’t get me anything.

And here’s my question: what percentage of the residents of this country are in my position, and would absolutely frickin’ love to fire their health insurance provider and can’t? How many of us are stuck in crappy jobs because that’s the only way to remain insured, and we still think that our insurance provider are crooks, cheats and incompetents? How many of us would look at Mitt Romney’s actual thought and respond that he is more out of touch than Poppy Bush at the supermarket?

I could rant a bit more, but I have to get back on the phone with HR, now. I’m sure you’ll excuse me.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,