Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Two Cents Plain (or Tell Health Insurance Companies to Go Fly a Kite)

Today in the mail I received an invoice from a health insurance carrier. I had discontinued that coverage a while back, and I guess their paperwork was finally catching up. I had already received two invoices from them for regular monthly payments even after the policy had been cancelled. Guess they finally got that straightened out, after wasting paper and postage and human power to send out two meaningless invoices.

The invoice I received today, identified as a “washout” under “billing method” was for – get this ---  $0.02! Yes, you got that-it was an invoice for two cents.

I’m sure the cost of paper, printing, and human power to send me an invoice for two cents is far more than two cents.  And the Republicans and others say we’re supposed to trust the health insurance industry to police itself and fix things?

With idiocy like this, it’s no wonder that health care insurance costs are skyrocketing.

Now, I’ve heard all the apologetics. “The systems are so automated now, that it’s actually simpler and cheaper to just let me create meaningless paperwork.” We just don’t have enough staff to keep up with the volume.” “If we write off everybody’s two cents, it soon adds up.” Sorry, I’m not buying any of the excuses.

If the software that creates and prepares these invoices isn’t up to the task – fix it or replace it. If it’s too complicated to deal with small changes like this – fix it or replace it! If you don’t have enough personnel to deal with the volume, hire more. And I am certain you’ve spent more billing people for two cents than you’ll take in, so forget that explanation.

I’m a tech type and a geek. I love to use technology. However, the technology must always be our tool, and not our masters. These sorts of issues sound like we’re letting the software tell us how to do things. Down that path lies the sort of future envisioned in Battlestar Galactica. Let’s not go there.

I hope the folks at the health insurance company have fun with the two pennies I’ve taped to the return slip and sent back to them. Maybe they’ll follow the advice of old man Dawes from Mary Poppins, and invest their “tuppence” in the bank. If they’re smarter, they’ll learn, as even old man Dawes did in Mary Poppins, that instead of worrying about two cents, they’re better of flying a kite. Go fly a kite, health insurance companies!

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