Well . . . I said I wouldn’t include any political diatribes . . .
Still, a recent experience with Medicare prompts me to write about how the government can, at times, shock my small town sensibility.
A little background is in order:
My octogenarian mother-in-law, Rose, is a French Canadian immigrant. She took her test and swore her oath years ago – she is a U.S citizen. Other than her accent, she’s as American as apple pie and fast food drive-thru windows. She’s a die hard Cubs fan who possesses the will to live until the Cubbies are in the World Series (she may live forever).
Although she moves a little slow, and suffers pain from breaking her arm in a fall several months ago, Rose is very much alive and well. She lives in a quiet suburb of
. For the most part, everywhere she needs to go is located a few minutes from her house. That’s the way it ought to be – don’t you think? Des Moines
Like most citizens her age, Rose is on Medicare. I figure she’s entitled to it. Her husband and son served in the Navy in World War II and
, respectively. Rose’s granddaughter serves her Country now. Rose and her husband faithfully paid taxes every year. At the age of 83, Rose has a few prescriptions that have to be filled – and they aren’t cheap. Vietnam
A week or so ago Rose received a letter from the Social Security Administration – it was addressed to her estate. According to the Government, Rose is dead; her Medicare coverage was terminated.
After she checked her vitals (because she’s a good citizen, Rose initially believed the Government had to be right) Rose phoned the SSA. She pushed buttons in response to automated commands for a good twenty minutes, and then got in touch with a real person.
Apparently, the Government’s information regarding Rose’s death is pretty solid; a simple phone call wasn’t enough to clear up the confusion (although that’s all it takes for the SSA to decide somebody is dead). To prove that she is alive, Rose has to present herself at an SSA office with her driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate. The office is in congested downtown
- a good dozen miles from Rose’s house. That's quite a road trip for an octogenarian. Des Moines
Call me crazy, and maybe it’s because I grew up someplace where people knew who was dead (and who wasn’t), but I have to question this. The SSA’s position seems to be, in the words of an Army sergeant I know, “my mistake - your fault.”
Here’s how it is: Per the SSA, if it wrongfully determines a senior citizen is dead, the senior may have to drive on a freeway, negotiate unfamiliar downtown traffic, find parking, jump through hoops and stand on her head to demonstrate to the government that she is alive.
This morning, I tried to contact the SSA folks who run Medicare to ask if all this was really necessary. I thought if I put something in writing maybe I could get an answer. The Medicare website has a link to a “Medicare Complaint Form.” I figured because it didn’t have a “Suggestion Box” link I wasn’t the first person to see a problem.
I clicked on the link and got this message: "Server Error in '/MedicareComplaintForm' Application." Arrrrgggghhhhh!
If I was a conspiracy theorist I might figure the government is hoping that people who try to deal with Medicare will die of frustration so they’ll be off the books.
Please, help me. Am I just too much of a small town guy to get the big picture? Does anybody else think this is absurd?
I’m not looking for arguments. I believe in Social Security and Medicare. I think they are noble. I just wish they were administered by someone with some small town sensibility.