Who will speak for the retired?

Before retiring I tried to make sure all my bases were covered. I had a good idea what it would take to finance the lifestyle my wife and I hoped to live. I did my due diligence to identify as many as possible of those interests, passions and hobbies that would keep me engaged and stimulated for the next few decades. My wife and I decided where we wanted to live while retired and made the move. And I did in-depth research to make the best choice to provide us with quality affordable healthcare (wishful thinking I know). This past month has been a rude awakening showing just how helpless we can be when it comes to basics such as medical coverage. Allow me to elaborate.

When my wife quit her job back in July she opted for COBRA coverage to extend for 15 months the medical, vision and dental plan we had been enrolled in while she worked. We figured we could research other options during that 15 month period but for now this made the most sense. She filled out all the required paperwork and began making monthly payments as directed. Easy peasie – everything should be fine for that time period, right? Not so fast.

About a month ago I noticed one of my prescriptions was not being refilled. I called the provider and was informed I was not covered. What? And so the saga began. My poor wife – bless her – began the long painful process of clearing up the mistake in “the system”. For weeks, multiple times a day, she talked with representatives from COBRA and the insurance company. Each time she made a call she had to start at the bottom of the call pyramid, explaining over and over who she was, her information and what the problem was. Often after explaining the situation she was put on hold and then suddenly rerouted back to the beginning or disconnected all together. Return calls never materialized – ever – whether promised by the initial contact or escalated to a supervisor. Sometimes the account showed we were covered, sometimes it said we were not. Our frustration was building. I could not have done it but my wife – bless her again – stuck with it.

Our salvation came from the fact this kind of thing was what she had done while employed. Luckily she had a contact for the broker who managed the health plan for her previous company. By getting her involved we were able to rise above the noise and get some attention. The broker made some calls and things started to happen. According to a call this morning everything should be fine now. We will see.

The sad thing is without an inside connection we might still be spinning our wheels while our blood pressures rise and resolution of the problem remains wishful thinking. What about all those who are on their own? You can be sure potential problems are not limited to healthcare. We have experienced challenges with regards to phone services, internet services, as well as electric and water services. It’s a jungle out there.

I believe companies and the people they employ generally want to do a good job. It may be naïve but that is the way I roll. However, it seems too often that service is subpar. The focus on profits has driven many companies to look for cheaper ways to do business. I get it but what is the real cost in terms of customer satisfaction? Automation reduces the need for people but also removes the personal touch. Those blasted call trees that you have to walk through – step by step – every time you make a call may save money but can try the patience of a saint. Outsourcing may be cheaper but when the person answering the phone cannot be understood what kind of service are we talking about? My biggest fear is things are only going to get worse.

And when things get bad and you feel you are getting nowhere, what can you do? How do you escalate a problem if you are just one of thousands of customers each relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things? It is scary what the future may hold. I only hope my wonderful wife will stick with me and continue to make the bad things go away. In the meantime I remain cautiously optimistic and continue to work on my patience for all things frustrating. I am sure to get a lot of practice…

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About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

2 thoughts on “Who will speak for the retired?

  1. Oh my gosh, I feel your pain! I had to manage the healthcare jungle for my father and I too wondered what would happen to him if I wasn’t there to deal with the bureaucracies and advocate for him. Even Medicare, which is designed for older citizens, can be very complicated.

    I am especially worried now for my husband and me since we don’t have children. Who will advocate for us if (when) we can no longer do it for ourselves?

    I hope you have successfully worked out your problem with your health plan.

  2. Thank you Janis. It looks like our present problems are fixed (YEAH!) but not with a ton of effort. Maybe down the road the wonderful advancements in automation and technology will result in a world where we can get things done/fixed without pulling out our hair. I hope so…

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