Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Tale of Big Government

Government-provided health care is a hot potato topic in this year's electioneering. Hillary and Obama are gung-ho for it. In fact, they're ready to cram it down our throats, ready or not. If you're one of those trusting souls who think federalized health care is a wonderful idea, I have two words for you: Post Office.

Reflect for a moment upon your misadventures at the hands of the U.S. Postal Service. Admit it, you've had them; we've all had them. How often do you receive a neighbor's mail? I do, at least once a week. How often do you receive an envelope that was postmarked months ago? I do, at least once a month. How often do you mail a card or gift that is never received? I do, at least once a year.

My most recent tour of duty in navigating the pitfalls of the U.S. postal service began Thanksgiving weekend. The struggle is still in progress, with no end in sight. It all began when my sister decided to mail a gift to my son and his fiancee last fall.

Upon opening, the lovely ceramic salad bowl was found to be broken, which was a disappointment to all involved. But, never fear! The item was insured. All I had to do was bring the delivery confirmation slip to the post office and fill out a form. In about two weeks, I was told by the post office, I would receive a money order in the mail for the insured amount.

After four weeks, I called to inquire. The "person who handles claims" was outraged that I was disturbing her during the holidays--didn't I know how busy they are at the post office? Well, yes, I admitted, but this is twice as long as the processing of my claim was supposed to take. After being advised in no uncertain terms that "it will take a while longer," I meekly hung up and waited. And waited....and waited...until today.

This morning, I was at the post office bright and early, to mail my monthly Soldiers' Angels package. I ventured a question as to the status of my claim. Upon being informed that I would need to call the "person who handles claims," who only works weekdays, I informed the agent that I had already spoken with her, over a month ago, and that she was not helpful. Is there someone who can check status in her absence? The agent reviewed my claim form and then turned to his countermate. "You're Agent processed this...go check."

Agent #8 dutifully trotted off to the netherworld "behind the curtain" of the post office. He returned to announce that "the box is still sitting there." Do you mean, I asked, it's still where you left it on November 27? Agent #8 nodded blankly.

By now, I was not in a happy place. I asked to speak with a supervisor and was directed into the lobby to wait near a closed door with a top half that (hopefully) would open eventually. Dorothy and her traveling companions popped into my head as I stood there--you know, the scene where they are at the door awaiting entry into Oz. I fully expected an agitated little man to open the doortop and sputter at me that "Nobody sees the Supervisor! Nobody!" before slamming it in my face. And me, with no sad tale of my Aunt Em to melt his heart...

...Suddenly, the half door opened. "The Supervisor" stood before me. I began to recite the drill again, my dog-eared claim form in hand. The supervisor stopped me cold. He has no access to anything at the desk of "the person who handles claims," he stated. "But, she reports to someone, doesn't she?" I ventured. Oh yes, he assured me, "the person who handles claims" reports to him--the supervisor. But he has no idea what she's doing.

I pleaded my case for a few moments, and finally the supervisor relented and took the form from me to make a copy to give to "the person who handles claims" on Monday--but he stopped in his tracks, telling me he remembered that the copy machine was broken. I must have looked especially incredulous, for without prompting, the supervisor offered me a little pink message pad to write a note to "the person who handles claims" that he, personally, would "tape to her desk." Or so he told me.

After burning 30 minutes of my Saturday morning in this federalized nightmare, a frightening thought occurred to me. This 3-month saga is a matter of broken crockery; it's annoying, but it can wait. Cancer can't wait, nor can heart disease, kidney disease, spinal meningitis, diabetes, broken bones, or any other of the innumerable serious ailments that afflict humanity. Do we, as a nation, honestly want to turn our physical well-being over to the keeping of the U.S. government?

Will we have Doctor #8 instead of Agent #8? Will we need to fill out a claim form before "the person who handles claims" assigns us a medical appointment? What if we happen to fall ill on her day off, and "the Supervisor" doesn't have access to anything on her desk? Will we have to leave a little pink note and come back on Monday? What happens if we lapse into a coma in the meanwhile? On February 2, will "the person who handles claims" be perfectly content to leave us exactly where we were on November 27?

These are not idle questions. Anyone who has had to deal with the Federal government--IRS, Social Security, as well as the USPS--should be asking them. I, for one, am happy to pay whatever it takes to keep my own private health insurance. If the government gets hold of our health insurance, none of us will be in Kansas anymore.