bureaucracy, Burlington County College, Christopher Reeve, church doctrine, Church membership, college reunion, Cornell, counseling, customer service, Human Sexuality, Medicaid, New York State, Obamacare, Obamacare nightmare, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, proof of income, verification of income
The aftermath of tax season is pretty much over. And my Obamacare adventure has finally come to an end. While it has taken me longer to post than I anticipated, I wanted both of those to be completed before I wrote my next post.
My last post took you up to April 15 when I left you hanging as to my Obamacare progress. I can happily attest that it has worked out in the end, but I believe that was due to the Lord watching over me. I still had more absurdity to deal with before things were resolved.
Easter weekend followed close on the heels of the end of tax season. There was still no response to the verification of my income (my 2013 income tax return) that I had posted on February 11. So I called early the following week to find out the progress on my application.
Years ago, a career counselor taught me a phone technique that I probably should use all the time when dealing with customer service reps. Probably due to a combination of my overly optimistic view of people and the fact that the technique doesn’t work when calling the IRS (about 90% of my customer service calls), I have gotten out of the habit. But the technique is a good one.
The technique is that immediately when the phone is answered by an actual person, you make sure you have their name. Then you explain that it is your practice to immediately ask for their supervisor’s name. The reason you do this is that in the event the person to whom you are speaking is unable to resolve your problem, they are on notice that you will be asking to speak to their supervisor at that point, but it is nothing personal against them.
So this is what I did when I called NY State to find out the progress on my Obamacare application. Here is where the story gets absurd again.
The first person I spoke to told me that my verification had been rejected once again. New York’s first error was that they had sent no notice to me about this latest rejection: not by e-mail, not posted on my account, not mailed to me by snail mail.
The bigger problem was how in the wide, wide world of sports (for you fans of Blazing Saddles) could they reject my 2013 income tax return when they would have used the information from my 2012 income tax return had I merely checked the box that my income had not changed?
When I asked the customer service rep this, she began to respond in that droning voice that occurs when someone is reading from some sort of script or set of guidelines that he or she clearly does not understand. She tells me that as a self-employed person, I need to submit three months of income and expenses.
My reply was that I have a seasonal business, and depending upon which three months are chosen, it could look like I earn as much as four or five times my annual income or as little as 10% of my annual income. Furthermore, I explained that I provided far more than 3 months’ worth of income and expenses. I provided a full 12 months.
She responded that this was not part of her job to make these decisions. Those were the magic words that caused me to ask to speak to her supervisor. She had no problem with that, and I was put on hold for a few minutes.
The supervisor came on the phone and I begin to go into the technique again. He gently cut me off, telling me that the first person I spoke to had explained the situation to him and we would be able to resolve it. He apologized for the lack of notice being sent to me, and said there was no explanation for it. When I chimed in that foul ups were a common occurrence with bureaucracies and explained some of my experience working for or dealing with government bureaucracies, he replied that this was his first job with the government. Previously, he had always worked in the private sector. I could almost see him shaking his head in disbelief as he acknowledged the mistake-prone nature of government bureaucracies. I smiled. I knew I had an ally.
Then we turned to my more immediate problem: what would New York State accept as proof. He told me that he knew this would not make any sense, but he assured me that he had run into this problem before and that what he was recommending had worked. He recommended that I just submit my Schedule C from my 2013 income tax return. Yes, he knew that it was part of the tax return that they rejected.
I am all for doing what works rather than reinventing the wheel, even if it doesn’t make sense. So I thanked him and told him I would be uploading my Schedule C within 30 minutes (it was actually 5 minutes, but I like to leave margin for error). I asked if he could fast track my application under the circumstances. He said that he could not, but he knew how to flag it so that someone else could. And by the end of the week, my application was finally approved. I am eligible for Medicaid.
That eventually led to me changing doctors. It is a separate story. The only connection to Obamacare is that my previous doctor sold his practice because of Obamacare. But the circus that resulted was due to his staff not explaining to me that he was still practicing medicine with the new practice. They had made it seem like he retired.
I had my first appointment with my new doctor on Friday. She is wonderful. All of her staff is wonderful. She even read some of this blog before we met! But with all the details of a first appointment, I forgot to ask for permission to use her name and link to her fabulous You Tube video. I hope to get that permission soon. People need to know of the good work she does.
The only downside is that she is much further away from me than my previous doctor. She is 6¼ times further away by time and 7½ times further away by distance. Fortunately on the drive to my new doctor, I am traveling mostly over upstate roads that generally are not congested instead of heavily traveled roads and roads with many traffic lights in the NYC metro area. And the increased travel will be mitigated somewhat by the fact that because I am in excellent health (hopefully to be confirmed by the tests that will be done), she will only be seeing me once per year rather than four times per year. While I would love to see her more often, all that extra gas for four visits would have undone much of the savings Medicaid would be providing.
Now to move on to other exciting things in my life. First on the list is my 40th Cornell reunion. It is the first time I have attended my college reunion, but a woman needs to know how to make an entrance, right? I am looking forward to seeing classmates again and actually meeting some for the first time. At a college as large as Cornell, you have to be very outgoing to meet all of your classmates. For example, Christopher Reeve lived one dorm away from me freshman year (the student union was in between our dorms). Undoubtedly I saw him at one time or another (getting mail, eating in the cafeteria, etc.) but back then he would have been some unknown tall, skinny kid that I didn’t know and who wasn’t famous.
It will be fun seeing if people can figure out who I was and their reactions when they find out. I am not expecting any problems, and if there are any negative people, other classmates should rally around me. I have an interesting planned schedule of events to attend. In addition to those that are class-related, I will be attending a meeting for transgender and gender queer alums, one for people who were involved in athletics as a Cornell student, and one for Christian alums.
The most interesting will be the last event, Sunday morning breakfast. In the fall of my senior year, I was tapped for a senior men’s honorary society. That spring, the society changed 81 years of tradition (the first of similar societies throughout the Ivy League) and began to select women. In retrospect, I was the first female in the society!
I am also in the process of becoming a member of my church, the church that I started attending the day after I starting living full-time as Lois. The pastoral leadership and some other key members of the church know about my past. For the rest, they know me as Lois and that is perfectly fine. Right now, I am reading about the doctrines of the denomination. I presume there will be a follow-up discussion when I have finished my reading.
Recently, a professor at a small college in central NJ (Burlington County College), sent a request to one of my support groups, looking for a speaker to make a presentation to one of her classes. The professor was interested in the information about me that I shared with her, so I will be speaking to her class on Human Sexuality in the middle of June. It will also give me the opportunity to visit with some dear people who are both friends and clients, and have been very supportive of me.
Last but not least, a possibility is developing where I may be a resource for a family with a transgendered member. It may be that my involvement will be personal (my preference, because I can do a better job that way). Otherwise, it will be the use of selected posts from my blog.
Speaking at the college and helping in personal situations are two areas that I have been praying about and seeking God’s guidance for future ministry. “Yes, Virginia,” a person can be both Christian and Transsexual. I am living proof.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16