Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And Reality Creeps In...

Most of the time I dwell in my own fanciful world of cookie baking, made-up holidays, time with family, children's books, arts and crafts with Katie, loving time with my husband, song, and playtime and reveries in nature.

But every once in awhile, real life creeps in. And by real life I mean: dealing with taxes, insurance bureaucracies, and Toyota recalls. This week has had its abundant dose of business, phone calls, and tying up loose ends. While I am good at managing business, enjoy getting things done, and feel accomplished after navigating complex (overly complex) systems, sometimes real life is a bit of headache and not very much fun.

Our insurance was due to switch yesterday, March 1st. (Our district renegotiated a new package with Blue Cross. Actually, they negotiated with SISC, an investment pool that buys insurance and sells it to schools---this is an important difference). Bill signed up for our new PPO weeks ago, and we have been awaiting our new insurance cards.

When they didn't arrive, we didn't panic. Some friends at work have them, but as of last Friday, several had not yet received them. Saturday came and went... Monday, I reasoned, they would certainly be in the mail. With Aetna ending on February 28, everyone needs his or her new insurance ID number. I mean, right? :-)

Of course I have an OB appointment this week, as well.

So yesterday I checked the mail and no insurance cards had arrived. I left VMs and e-mail messages at the D.O. asking for our ID and group number info. I know the D.O. doesn't issue the cards, but they know how to access that information. While I awaited their response, I researched and found a number for Blue Cross online, and I called them. Surprise, surprise: there was no trace of Bill's social security number in their system.

Therefore, as of 1:00 yesterday, we really didn't have any insurance. I am a HUGE believer in health insurance. I have never been without insurance. I think it has to be a priority in one's budget. I started having flashes of random emergencies involving Katie or Bill, and having no insurance...

Getting nowhere, I tried to reason the problem through. When Bill had brought home the packet containing the new insurance choices (HMO, Anthem PPO, etc) I looked at it for only a couple of seconds. We knew we wanted a PPO, and Bill had already researched which plan would let us keep our OB before presenting the information to me. I had no need to look at the packet. However, yesterday I suddenly remembered seeing an acronym (SISC) on the PPO plan.

I realized from studying brokerages and real estate and financial systems in general that SISC might be some kind of insurance brokerage...or something... I then remembered that Bill mentioned casually something about a SISC rep signing him up, not a Blue Cross rep.

So I researched and found online a number for SISC. Finally, when I called their office, I began to make headway. An extremely helpful woman discovered that there had been an entry error with respect to our information. She had to call a Blue Cross technician and input us manually. Once this was done, I was able to obtain our proper information and even register online to print out temporary cards for our family. I wonder how many of the employees who hadn't received cards yet are in the same boat but don't know it. When the D.O. contacted me back last night, I told them what I had discovered, so hopefully the glitch will be rectified for everyone.

However, the scary part was that the SISC administrator explained (when I asked) that if we had had to receive medical care before this error was caught, we would have been stuck paying out of pocket until the error was corrected. Even then, we technically would have had a dubious claim to insurance. Yikes. I am just so glad I figured out a direct way to the source, instead of having to wait around a few days. It was a long process yesterday, though, especially since I was on the phone with Blue Cross for awhile before discovering they had no record of us. However, I learned this: tenacity pays off. Tenacity, and also being non-confrontational but direct on the phone. The key is to get people on your side when you call. My mom and dad both taught me this. Questions like, "How can you help me?" and "What should you and I do about this?" can really be helpful. If you can get people on your side, they will be more likely to follow your problem through to the end.

Anyway, we have our insurance info, and I already called my OB to have them pre-run it for me before Thursday so that everything runs efficiently for my appointment. I think, if everything happens as I expect it to, that I will learn on Thursday that we will be getting money back from our OB office---since Blue Cross PPO coverage is better than the Aetna PPO.

Ah, the realities of life.

I have been working on taxes, too. We've got a new CPA who is competent, thorough, clear, and in every way someone whom I think is really an asset. She is looking through the past three years of returns and getting up to date with the complexities therein, making sure our former CPA did not make errors. To this end, she has been asking me for a thorough accounting of several documents and items from three years ago. I love it, because she is giving me such an education and I love to learn. She is asking questions I never would have thought to ask, and I love that. Tax season, however, has been quite a bit of work for me this year---even more than in years' past. It needs to be that way, and I am learning so much more about the family companies. Dad and I often empathize with each other as we search in files and boxes for our past documents, and we have had some good chuckles about aspects involving record-keeping. Our goal is that we both learn Quickbooks to help with taxes next year.

Finally, I have an appointment tomorrow after Katie's gymnastics to have our Toyota RAV 4 fixed. I mean, it needs to be done and I am glad our recall notice finally arrived, to be sure, but I am not one who enjoys little appointments here and there about town for tasks that are inherently not very entertaining or fun. Fortunately my mom is helping out and rescuing us (since she also has a car seat) from the waiting room tomorrow. The recall letter said it will take 30 minutes, but the service man today told me it is more like 1.5 hours. Bill bets that it will be two hours, and I am betting 45 minutes. We'll see what actually happens.

So, business. Part of life, I know. With Bill working hard for us everyday outside the home for hours, he has not the time, nor would it be appropriate, to ask him to deal with all of these tasks, too. Yet I am reminded of how much a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) really is the CEO of her household. We negotiate with children, we negotiate with insurance companies, we keep the tax documents, we manage the grocery money, we draw up employee inspiration plans (okay, okay---maybe just an art lesson or a family day trip), and throw "company parties" periodically. We even clean all of our own offices. ;-) I am two years into being a SAHM, and I am still learning. Balance is difficult. I love my new job and its responsibilities, but every once in awhile I am reminded (like this week) that it can be truly work. I work all the time, but most of the time it comes very naturally. I am actually strange enough to like cleaning (well, most of the time), and I love being with Katie (though I do occasionally rue my freedom to nap whenever), and I love to cook (except for the nights when I don't like it). So, balance, balance.

I hope next week is truly one of those carefree and very whimsical and fun weeks!