The Rainmaker

Remember the movie adaptation of John Grisham’s book The Rainmaker?  In the film, Matt Damon plays a straight outta law school fresh-face assigned to work with a couple, characterized as a bunch of rural yokels, whose son has leukemia.  Big Insurance Company, Great Benefit, refuses to cover the claims, and refers to dying Donny Ray’s parents as, “stupid, stupid, stupid.”  They even put that in writing.

I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I am no dummy.  With the fire of a thousand suns, I loathe being treated like a sucker.  I’ve abandoned all hope for customer service assuaging any dissatisfaction I may have.  My customer “service” experiences time and time again have taught me that the service element is quite dead. Call it what you like, and pretend having a statement about your service mission legitimizes the bullshit you’re shoveling onto my plate; by and large, customer service, with Elvis, has left the building.

You may recall that my son had what I understood to be an MRI of his brain completed last July.  Imagine my dismay to receive a bill from the service provider indicating I still owed them $1,197 for that procedure because my insurance company denied payment.  I formulate informed questions based on whatever clarity I have in a given situation, and I’m a public educator, so I don’t have a ton of “extra money.”  Prior to the procedure I called my insurance provider, and Ron, Great Benefit’s jolly representative, told me it would be covered.  This conversation occurred in June.

Employees working in a call center

I sought resolution today, but lacked the fortitude to speak directly with “customer service”–this I knew like I know my name.  I’d hoped that contacting them from work–you know, where there are other people who sorta expect me to behave like a professional and not an enraged lunatic–would prevent any random acts of violence toward property and possibly inhibit a barrage of profanity heard from here to Mumbai.  Swearing rarely gets you what you want in the “service” world.  And yeah, I’m way overusing the quotes today, but you see the whys and wherefores, right?  Instead, I took to my keyboard and drove the Representative Chat Autobahn.  Note: I had to edit a wee bit–obviously my insurer isn’t Great Benefit.  Although like the fictitious literary corporation, my exchange left me feeling a bit unreal.  Also, the parenthetical comments were communicated only in my twisted little head. 

Yolonda B. has entered the session.
Yolonda B.: Hi, thank you for contacting Great Benefit Insurance! My name is Yolonda and I will be glad to assist you today! Please note that if you are inactive in the chat session, you will automatically be disconnected. Staying active will help us answer any questions you have more efficiently. How can I help you today?
WENDY WEIR: We received a large bill from one of my son’s providers. I am curious why so little of the procedure was covered. Is it the family max has yet to be reached?
Yolonda B.: I am very sorry to hear that you received a large bill. I can definitely review the claim for you and determine where these charges came from. Who is this claim for? (You’re not sorry, so stop trying to ingratiate yourself.)
WENDY WEIR: Number 1 Son, from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Yolonda B.: Thank you! Can you also confirm your son’s date of birth?
WENDY WEIR: Big kid’s date of birth
Yolonda B.: Thank you again! Do you also have permission to speak on his behalf today?
WENDY WEIR: I do. (Some days I feel like the child wouldn’t brush his teeth unless I freakin’ reminded him to, so YEAH, until he’s covering his own insurance premiums, I’m allowed to speak on his behalf.)
Yolonda B.: Thank you so much. What is the date of service that this bill is for?
WENDY WEIR: July 3
Yolonda B.: Alright I was able to find the claims for that date of service, what is the total amount that you are getting billed?
WENDY WEIR: I don’t have it in front of me, but it is near $1000
Yolonda B.: Alright I am showing that there is one claim that has processed with your benefits and is showing a patient responsibility of, $502.87. There is also another claim for another service that your son had done for $605.50 that is listed as patient responsibility due to this procedure needing to be approved before it was done. Did you give written permission before this service was received that you would be responsible for the cost?
WENDY WEIR: I called Great Benefit before the procedure to ask if it was covered, and was told it was. Given that, I’m sure I signed off on that consent. You can imagine how displeased I am now to read your last question, as I am sure now that I will be stuck with the balance.
Yolonda B.: I am terrible sorry to hear this Terry. In order for these charges to be considered the provider can submit scientific evidence that shows this service is safe and effective for your son’s condition. (it’s terribly sorry; terribly is an adverb modifying an adjective describing your fake emotional state.)
WENDY WEIR: My name is Wendy, not Terry. (I know you have 20 chats going on at once, but drop the “you’re my friend and you can tell because I am using your first name bullshit.”  You’re busted.  Fucking pay attention to your customers.)
Yolonda B.: Sorry about that Wendy. (So glad I called you out on that Yolonda.)
WENDY WEIR: My son has muscular dystrophy. I am 100% certain we would not pursue an MRI of his brain otherwise. No one chooses MD or MRIs just for fun.
Yolonda B.: This provider did not bill in for an MRI, so that could have been where the miscommunication happened. (Miscommunication my jiggly, middle-aged ass!)
Yolonda B.: The billed in for a Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy.
WENDY WEIR: Well, I don’t hold a doctor of medicine degree, so am unfamiliar with the nuances between those procedures. Great Benefit doesn’t cover spectroscopy then?
Yolonda B.: Your son’s doctor can submit scientific evidence that shows this service is safe and effective for your son’s condition. That is correct, this procedure needs to have a prior authorization before its done, it is currently listed as a procedure that require review based on the information that the provider would have. (And I would know this how??)
WENDY WEIR: Thank you for that last bit of information. I will contact his neurologist. I would like a copy of this transcript so I can refer to it when I contact them. How can I get a copy of this?
Yolonda B.: Unfortunately there is no way to print transcripts at this time, however I can give you a reference number for our conversation. Otherwise you can try to highlight the conversation, hit Ctrl +c and then hit Ctrl +V into a separate document.
WENDY WEIR: I’ll take that reference number please. Thank you.
Yolonda B.: Of course, that reference number is blahblahblahblahblah. Again, I am terribly sorry that I could not deliver better news about this claim today Wendy. (Maybe you’re a little sheepish that you screwed up my name, but I don’t for a microsecond believe you’re sorry, and not a trace of terribly sorry.)
Yolonda B.: Aside from this claim information, was there any other questions for me today?
WENDY WEIR: No. Good bye. (F-ers.  OK, that one I voiced aloud.)
Yolonda B.: I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thank you for using Chat. (Yeah, the rest of my day is gonna be just dandy, thanks to the outcome of this keen chat, thanks)
Yolonda B.: Goodbye Wendy.
Yolonda B. has exited the session.
You are the only user left in the session (There is some kind of metaphor here, but my brain is too exhausted to flesh it out.)

So where does this leave me?  Just like The Rainmaker’s Donny Ray’s poor mom: Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid.

I contacted my son’s neurology clinic, hoping they can aid my navigation of Great Benefit’s Sea of Semantic Smoke and Mirrors. Between this and the return of The Walking Dead, I don’t know how much more my heart can take in twenty-four hours.  Wish me luck, good people!

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Namaste, Y’all

Book One

When we moved to our current home in 2005, an elderly lady, Miss Irene, owned the duplex next door.  Every day while my big kid napped, I would lounge around the patio table with my very pregnant feet up and read.  I read to my son every day, all the time, but I longed to read something with chapters!  Something longer and less sturdy than the steady diet of board books my son devoured.  My kid napped like a champ, so I usually had at least ninety connected minutes to disconnect from motherhood.

Typically more than half those ninety minutes were co-opted by Miss Irene.  She was a lonely soul whose “family”–daughter-in-law, granddaughter, grandson, and their crew–inflicted the worst kind of harm unto her.  Without reliving the experiences, let’s just say that her “family” drugged her (they were all in love with the heroin), and ran up her credit cards.  The goods they purchased they fenced from the front porch.  I came to know these details only much too late, after our neighbor, a long-time neighborhood resident filled us in.  He was the one who got her the help she needed, and the Department of Aging stepped in to remove her from her “family.”  We were new, so weren’t familiar with any of the players, and I kept busy trying my hardest not to throw up every minute of the day.  #2’s was a tough pregnancy, but I digress.

Miss Irene would amble over and chat me up each day the weather allowed me to sit outside.  I think she kept her eyes trained to her side window in hopes of a friendly face.  I wanted to hear nothing but the sound of silence as I made friends with yet another lawyer or homicide cop of some mystery author’s imagination.   But more often than not, I heard stories of Miss Irene’s youth–the dances she attended and the fancy dresses she chose, how the streets of Milwaukee had changed since streetcars were replaced by buses, her long-dead and deeply missed husband.  Her wonderful children.  (I didn’t know how truly awful they treated her.)

At that time, though I craved solitude, I listened to Irene’s tales.  Irene reminded me of my grandma, who would chat up every waitress, clerk, or bank teller in southeastern Wisconsin.  My grandma outlived most of her friends, so didn’t get much company as her years added up.  I always hoped that those souls who leaned in just a touch too long to listen to her stories were kind to her.  So that’s how I chose to be with Miss Irene.  I would hear the same stories nearly every day, sometimes twice or three times in quick succession.  Still, they were her memories and they mattered to her.  Talking to her made her happy I could tell.  So I let her talk, always hoping that someone would have shown my grandma the same kindness.

Kindness Gift (2).jpg

 

I walked my dog late this morning, and met a woman clearly not 100% in control of her faculties.  She was carrying an open half-gallon jug of milk (still cold judging by the condensation on the jug), and within the first minute of our chat, I learned that her husband had died five years ago.  He was an alcoholic whose demise was sped by the passing of their pet cat, gone now nine years.  Sally from HUD was unforgivable due to the shoddy job she did handling the sale of her husband’s condo.  Andy, her late husband should have just paid off that condo instead of wasting his father’s inheritance on booze.  But not beer, because a man can’t be an alcoholic if he drinks only beer.  And eight employees of her current address had quit or been fired since 2016.  She shared these details with me, random stranger, in fewer than five minutes.  Then she told me most of them again.

I relay this to you here not to poke fun, no.  I tell you because I’m no martyr, but it cost nothing to be kind to this woman.  She talked, I’d say “we” talked, but really, it was all her for about ten minutes before I really did need to keep moving. It was hard to break from her, as whatever diminished capacity she had impaired her social interactions as well, but I managed to extricate myself and bid her a good day.  I hope she gained something in those ten minutes, even if it was just a random stranger’s ear to let her tell her stories.  I would like someone to do that for someone I loved, or hell, for me when that time comes.

Book Two

My big kid’s brain is normal.  I’m not sure whether I am supposed to be relieved or disappointed about that.  I pick relieved.   Reading the radiologist’s report on my son’s brain MRI was a throwback to graduate school gross anatomy, and I was able to piece together some meaningful info about his brain as I read.  My son’s neurologist hypothesized that in addition to his muscle weakness, presence of chorea suggested there may be some problem the way the nerves were being fired at the cortical level.   I have no idea what any of this means for his future, but don’t I sound like I do?

My little kid’s arm is abnormal.  He rode the bench for the first time last night, and I felt immensely proud of him.  He did go 2/3 at the plate, which pleased him no end, and he didn’t seem overly fazed not to play defense until it came time to trot out to first base during the first inning.  He looked as if a giant iron gate had slammed shut just catching the tops of his cleats on its way down, locking him out of the game.  He consciously had to sit his butt down, but he did.  Just like he was supposed to.  He said it felt weird, but he did keep his coaches entertained with his expert play-by-play.

Book Three

It didn’t kill me.

I’m three weeks into yoga, and I haven’t died.  I’m actually pretty good at it.  For a first timer.  For a forty-nine year old first timer, thank you very much.  Though it’s summer, my anxiety-riddled brain still races, and I am thoroughly amazed that I can find utter tranquility outside on a tennis court, surrounded by kids’ lessons and ladies who don’t exactly always call in/out entirely accurately.  Since my knees have determined my running career is done, I need to do something to keep my physical self in shape.  I’m not meant to be a thin person, but I prefer being thin to not being thin.  Plus I really like to eat.   On my first date with my husband, I told him that I wasn’t one of those girls who was gonna be all “Oh, I’ll just have a side salad and a Diet Coke.  I EAT, mister, and you have to be OK with that.”  Then I tore into a hamburger and fries, and it was pretty much love.  Obviously.

I can stretch and I can use my body to work against and for itself.  My son can’t do that, and I’m not finding quite the right metaphor here, but I’m going to keep moving somehow, and in some way.  Because I can.

 

Namaste.