Friday, September 4, 2009

Mouse in a Maze

I dread the mail. 

We’re pretty good about staying current with the bills. Regular Bills I can pick out easily, pay, and be done with it - old hat. But the medical billing is another story. It makes me mad. I tend to stay away from things that make me mad when I can help it. When I can’t help it I get madder. 

It’s been over a month and a half since I last took on the pile of medical and insurance statements and organized them into files. It used to be I could tackle a task like that in an hour or so. This time it took me six hours (over three days) to sort the two grocery bags of envelopes into a rudimentary order. I feel like I’ve just finished mowing the lawn for every house in the neighborhood - I’m tired. 

And I’m not  done yet. Here’s what I have done:   

  1. Get up really early (for three days - Ugh!). 
  2. Make a big pot of coffee. 
  3. Open the mail cabinet - actually it looks like more of one of those bird's nests made of scavenged trash. 
  4. Grab piles of mail and just stuff everything into used grocery bags (no order). 
  5. Clear the dining room table of toys, crumbs, magazines, junk...
  6. Sit down and sort into the following piles: 

  • Insurance Statements
  • Medical Bills Paid
  • Medical Bills needing to be paid
  • Regular Bills that were misplaced. 
  • Personal correspondence misplaced. 
  • My daughters impromptu art projects that I don’t have the heart to throw away.  
  • The Runner’s World magazine from April that I never saw arrive

On Thursday at 8 a.m., when I reached the bottom of the pile, and had opened the last envelope, I stopped. I just couldn’t make myself go through the next round of the process - paying the unpaid bills and validating the re-imbursements (steps #7 and beyond). That will have to be next week. I was just not up to it. 

I put the piles into files and the files into a box. I put the box in the closet and closed the door. 

The whole process is tough, but the next part is what I dread the most. It’s not paying the bills - I’m okay with that part. I’ve been paying bills my whole life. It’s like working, or doing the laundry, or mopping the floor; necessary. It’s looking through and making sure that insurance is paying me. I get so disgusted when I see re-imbursements languish. I get so angry when I have to call and argue with two or three or four people and their manager to get them to release funds. It just doesn’t seem fair. 

I know we’re lucky to be insured. I see the unadjusted bills - the numbers are SCARY! I try to imagine what it would be like to look at those numbers without an adjusted number next to it. It's sort of like how I feel when I compare the difficulties of my life to those of someone whose living in a war zone - I just should not complain. 

But I can’t help feeling that this process is a game. That I’m a little mouse in a maze. That we’re all just little mice in our own mazes. 

I won’t pretend to understand the health care debate. I’ve read about it and listened to National Public Radio (I’m a card carrying member); but I haven’t the foggiest idea what the right thing to do is. I just know that when I look at those bills and argue with those people, I feel like I used to feel with the phone company, or the airlines, or an auto dealership - when these folks had power. I feel (and felt) like a peasant. 

I have to say that I would pay a little more, even more than a little more, if I knew I was getting a fair shake - if I wasn’t at war with an army of accountants and lawyers and billing specialists. If I could just pay my bill and be done with it, I’d pay a little more. 

If this were the case, I’d be done at step #6. I’d be done and wouldn’t have to pick a week to be my angry week. 

I hope they do that medical bill right. 

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