Part II of a fairytale nightmare follows the harrowing saga of promise and betrayal in the health insurance industry. If you missed last week’s episode, you might want to catch up here. For everyone else, join us now as our intrepid heroine embarks on a battle royal…searching for a deserving backside to stick something sharp and pointy into.
A widowed mother and her son enjoy a Wish Come True™ in the form of a very expensive magic box that talks. They scamper to the Free Bed of Mary for training.
The speech therapy Wizard warns them:
“This device is written in a new kind of language—it is not just pictographic but also location based. Terms are organized so that the mind will find them by remembering the pathways of communication.”
“Huhn?” Says the widowed mother.
“You have to learn how the box talks before you can use it. Start with simple words and repeat finding their location. Core words will never move.” The wizard points out the many wonderful features.
“What does this button do?” The widowed mother points to a square on the programming page.
The wizard looks for a long second at the screen.
“That one erases the system.” The wizard says at last.
“Why would anyone put a button like that on the board? Why?” The widowed mother cries, shaking her head.
“Let’s just lock the prince out of that part, shall we?” Says the wizard.
The widowed mother and her puzzle prince go home dragging the heavy magic box with them.
Slowly the words come. Many requests are heard:
“I want balloons…” The magic box demands.
“What’s the magic word?” The widowed mother prompts.
The puzzle prince deftly plunks on the keys and the magic box answers…
And so life continues, until the fateful, blustery day in March a drone from the Print-Me Promise magic box factory phones. Unfortunately, the widowed mother was steering the royal blue coach on a busy highway when the call came in.
The widowed mother fumbles for her phone:
“Hi, uh, I’m driving. Can I call you back in about ten?” She says.
“It’s the Print-Me Promise hive calling,” says a drone on the other end. “The WoodNorth Elves are denying your claim.”
*blue coach narrowly avoids merging traffic to take an exit*
The widowed mother uses some inappropriate language before saying,
“Hang on. I’m pulling off the road.”
The widowed mother scrambles to take notes on the back of an envelope while the drone, named *Jin,* rattles off information as if in a race to get to the end of a sentence.
“According to the WoodNorth elves, your son’s policy was retro-terminated November 30, 2016 back to February 29, 2016 and a new policy was made effective March 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016.”
Jin stops to take a breath and the widowed mother seizes her opportunity:
“I’m sorry, Retro-whatted?”
“Retro-terminated.” Replies the busily buzzing drone.
“What does that even mean?” The widowed mother scribbles indecipherable notes.
“I don’t know. I’ve never seen that language before myself!” Admits Jin-the-long-suffering-drone.
“Sounds like an attempt to weasel out of paying for the speech device.” The widowed mother says.
Meanwhile, the puzzle prince, aggravated by the loss of his promised car ride, gets cranky.
“Kerride! Kerride! 3232!” Shouts the puzzle prince.*
Jin the Drone is undeterred.
“According to our records, we have a ‘single-case agreement’ and a ‘binding contract’ approving the speech device.” Jin asserts—no doubt with a decided chin nod. “I think they are stating that, at the time the requests for the device were made, a new group number was in place and the benefits had changed.”
“Kerride! Ball Ons! 3232.” The puzzle prince is getting louder by the second.
“Let me call you back.” Says the widowed mother. “I have to stop and buy a kingdom’s worth of bribes.”
20 balloons later…the widowed mother calls the hive back and learns that her son’s magic box may not be so string-free as believed.
Jin scrolls back in time to review notes—hunting for the elusive insurance snipe to explain what went wrong where and when. After several minutes she concludes:
“…We resubmitted the request for payment on March 21, 2016. The insurance company indicates that the plan your son is currently under requires that you meet the maximum out-of-pocket before pay-out. You owe $843.00.”
“Hang on.” The widowed mother interrupts. “We had met our deductible last year. The magic box should be covered 100%!”
Before the widowed mother can totally lose it, Jin the drone hurries on. “Let me see if I can talk to the head elf over at WoodNorth and call you back!” Jin rings off.
*crickets chirping interlude music*
As the story is flagging, a plot twist must be introduced. This seems a good time for the Puzzle Prince to fall ill with plague…so he does. The puzzle prince hits the floor with a thud and stops moving. Surprisingly, the widowed mother notices.
“Come on honey. Let’s get you to a med center.” Croons the widowed mother, nudging the mound of blankets with her toe.
The Fairy God-Doctor’s office does not have any openings, but they recommend another fairy practice in a neighboring village.
“The Wye Moaning office has openings at their branch!” Chirps the Fairy God-Doctor’s staff. “Will that be okay?”
“Yeah. That’ll do.” The widowed mother grabs her key and drags cajoles her collapsed child to the coach.
It is at the counter of the clinic that the widowed mother discovers that she has five difference insurance cards in her wallet. Apparently the insurance company had sent updated cards at some point!
“Well, well, well…” The widowed mother finally hears the retro-proactive shoe that dropped, somewhere in February, or May, or possibly November of 2016. “I guess they did change the plan…and never told me.”
“Ack. Hack. Cough.” The puzzle prince curls in a ball and mimes dying.
A Fairy God-Doctor in a long white robe is summoned. Samples are taken. A $30-dollar co-pay later and the results of the spit test are in.
“He has a virus.” Says the white-coated one.
“A mutant super-virus that has turned him into a sputum-spitting scourge?” Asks the widowed mother with a fearful glance at her green-faced child.
The Fairy God-Doctor restrains an eye roll.
“Give him Benadryl if he gets wheezy.”
The Fairy God-Doctor backs out hastily as the coughing prince attempts to leave a phlegmy gratuity on the doc’s shoes.
Several mucous-filled days pass. The puzzle prince recovers just enough to demand constant attention. Life is getting back to as close to normal as it ever does when the widowed mother decides she’d better attack the growing problem of the magic box head on! If she had known how vigorously she was going to be charging the beast, though, she surely would have peed first.**
Donning her battle armor and carrying only her cell phone and clipboard to defend her, the widowed mother tackles the WoodNorth elves first.
Dialing with digital precision, the widowed mother marches symbolically up to the red tape factory and pounds on the iron-studded door.
An elf appears carrying a particularly fat scroll. She doesn’t even look up from scratching notes to say ‘Hi.’ Instead, she busily scrawls a note and barks,
“Yeah? Whatcha need?”
So accustomed to angry callers, the elf doesn’t even flinch with the spittle starts to fly.
“My son’s magic box claim was denied even though we had authorization! The Printme Promise hive, who makes the speech device, says that, because his insurance policy was retro-terminated, I owe hard-earned gold for re-application in 2017 when the magic device was already authorized in 2016 when the out-of-pocket had been met.” Seethes the widowed mother.
The elf holds up a hand when the widowed mother pauses to take a breath. Spinning the scroll of paper and humming under her breath, the elf asks for the policy number.
“Ah ha. Yes. I see. Mmm Hmm.” The elf mutters.
The spinning of the scroll is hypnotic; its magic is intended to lull the unsuspecting attacker into a catatonic state. The widowed mother recognizes the magical tactic and cracks the seal on a diet cherry Coke to keep her wits about her. She’s mid-swallow when the elf stops the wheel of paper.
The elf pokes a spot on the page and a Gordian knot of red tape springs from the roll. Flapping segments slither out and form a corona of hissing serpents which coil around the elf’s perky green hat. The elf now looks like a red-headed Medusa on a particularly bad hair day.
“I can see the denial and the two account numbers you mentioned. The WoodNorth Elves Union 484 thank you for your patience as we untie the red tape binding your documents! But everything you’ve said does appear to be what happened.”
“Dishonor! Calumny! Malfeasance! And…and…uh…poppycock!” The widowed mother tries to hiss fire, but all she can manage is heavy breathing into her phone.
The widowed mother sums her outrage up in three words: “I demand justice!”
“Okay.” The elf is all agreeableness. Glancing up from the never-ending scroll, she asks, “Whatcha want me to do?”
“Um.” The widowed mother is nonplussed; she hadn’t expected cooperation. “Could you send me copies of the paperwork?”
“What’s your fax number?”
Tucking an errant snake of red tape behind her ear, the elf taps a few places along the scroll before looking up and saying. “Done!”
Reams of paper whiz out from behind the elf. Unspooling cataracts of incomprehensible insurance bibble babble disgorge in a surging mound in front of the bewildered, widowed mother.
The elf quickly backs away, dragging her scroll and the red-tape snakes toward the factory door.
“Uh, thanks for your…help?” The widowed mother shouts to the retreating figure now mostly hidden by the mountain of paperwork.
The elf offers a sly grin that seems to say “Be careful what you wish for!” before ducking into the factory and slamming the door.
Hanging up. The widowed mother is daunted but not discouraged by the task before her. With a sigh, she raises her pen and clipboard and wades in to tackle the massive amounts of data.
She slashes at facts that try to take a bite out of her ankles. Stomping down the irrelevant notes from the speech language wizard’s epic spellwork, she climbs until her arms are tired and she is cross-eyed from reading acronyms and codes in microscopic print.
“It would take an army to wade through this mess!” Sighs the widowed mother.
Hey. There’s an idea! She thinks
“Not an army…but a hive!” The widowed mother crows triumphantly.
She dials the drones at Printme Promise. Cutting to the chase, the widowed mother makes the same request of the undersecretary to the Queen Bee.
“Paperwork?” The buzz from the other end of the line hums in interest. “Heck yeah. We’ve got paperwork.”
Shortly thereafter, a buzzing squadron of bees descend from a cloud dropping sheets of wasp-wing-thin, honey-gold paper. Before long, gossamer layers wrap the very top of the mound until a point forms. Alternately stabbing with her pen and carving away with her clipboard, the widowed mother makes it to the top of the pile.
The uppermost crust of the now-hive-shaped structure peels off in her hands. Neatly scratched into the sheaf is a line-by-line detail of what happened and when in easy-to-read annotation.
The widowed mother shouts up to the buzzing horde who constructed the data for her.
“Oh, thank you sooo much! This makes so much more sense! I could just kiss you!”
The bee closest to her stutters mid-wing and nearly drops out of the flight pattern.
“Uh, no thanks are necessary. Especially not that! We’re allergic to humans!”
With a dip of their wings, the drones return to the hive post-haste.
Fortified by data, the widowed mother is much rejuvenated. Now she will be able to confront the Blue Insurance Fairy!
But first…a royal privy break!
After a refreshing pit stop, the widowed mother tightens her armor and dials the enchanted castle. BIF picks up on the third ring.
“Hello, welcome to the Blue Insurance Fairy call center. How can we make your dreams…?”
“I want to speak to the fairy in charge of appeals and grievances.”
The widowed mother cuts off BIF mid-enchantment. Hah! The widowed mother thinks. That’s showing ‘em who’s boss!
“In order to fulfill your dreams we will have to review your dream policy and check your dream out-of-pocket and that requires a boring recitation of every dream call you’ve made in the history of your dream policy! Hold please while I bring up your account!”
“Nooooooooooooooooooooo!” The widowed mother cries, but she is too late.
She bangs her head on the nearest hard surface to the beat of the Muzak now belting in her ears.
♫“… When I’m drivin’ in my car, and the man come on the radio
He’s tellin’ me more and more about some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no, oh, no, no, no, hey, hey, hey
That’s what I say
I can’t get no satisfaction, I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no”♬
After weeks of trying to understand what happened, calling and badgering to little avail, the widowed mother snaps.
“That does it!”
The widowed mother storms the Blue Insurance Fairy’s castle, shaking her cell phone at the gates, shouting,
“I am not getting off this phone until I get some satisfaction!”***
Suddenly, BIF appears along the crenellated battlement. She is now wearing the battle helm of a grievance fairy—it’s extra pointy. BIF faces the widowed mother who brandishes a clipboard shield in one hand and her pen poised to stab in the other.
BIF wings fiercely along the ramparts as she explains the mysteries of insurance. After a long conversation which repeats much of what the widowed mother already knew, BIF concludes by pointing at the base of the turret—there a green beast snores, its snout whistling, curls of smoke waft with every exhale.
“Blame the Market Place Dragon. They changed your policy.” BIF hisses in a stage whisper—as if she too is afraid of waking the sleeping giant.
“So the dragon changed my son’s policy and didn’t tell me. The application that went in under the wrong policy number somehow got approved…and the error isn’t discovered until March of this year?” It’s enough to make a widowed mother cry. “Is there anything I can do?”
“You could wake the dragon.” BIF says with a doubtful look at the enormous reptile. “Or you could wait until the second claim goes through and we can file an appeal after it is denied or approved and payment is requested.”
The widowed mother doesn’t think twice. She waves her cell phone at the fairy—a pink flag of surrender.
“Talk to you again in a few months.”
And so our adventure ends on an anti-climax. For now. Nothing is resolved. Nothing is certain. The magic box may be theirs free and clear–or like many fairytale promises–it may come with a hidden price to pay. All we know for sure is, there will be many more car rides before our heroes see an end to this tale. And balloons. Lots and lots of balloons
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*The puzzle prince is not allowed the magic box while in the coach. It weighs over three pounds and is framed by reinforced steel—the box, not the coach. It may be indestructible, but the widowed mother’s head isn’t.
**I’m about to boil down approximately nine hours of phone conversation into a semi-coherent and as-entertaining-as-possible-without-pharmaceutical-aids metaphorical journey. You might want to take a potty break too.
***She might have been singing that last bit.