There was a time not that long ago when we harbored the quaint notion that we could control healthcare costs if we just threw enough three-letter acronyms at them.
So we had the HMO, the PPO and the PCP (which stood for “primary care physician,” though it didn’t hurt your perception of how much you saved if you also used the psychotropic drug). We had the HSA, the HRA and the FSA, accounts that gave us pre-tax healthcare dollars we could always use to buy a boxcar of Tylenol if the year ended before we could spend it all legitimately.
In the end, though, the only initials that fully addressed out-of-control insurance expenses were DOA and RIP.
I gave up trying to work toward sensible costs several years back, opting instead for the top-of-the-line Preferred Premium package and just hoping that I’d get really, really sick. Sure, it’s expensive. In fact, as I review the enrollment options my employer is offering for next year, it looks like I’ll have to pay them to work there and get health insurance. Still, it’s easier than jumping through hoops to eke out every penny of savings. A person could get hurt on those hoops.
I did have a health savings account (HSA) about six years ago, and it worked okay as long as you dedicated half of your waking life to managing it. My company put in $1,500 on January 1, and I could write checks on the account for any medical expenses not covered by other parts of my insurance. When the next year rolled around and the company match fell from $1,500 to $200, I dropped out.
I managed to get the balance in the account down to $2.69 before I forgot about it. Financial giant BNY Mellon still sent me statements every 90 days, and I did consider writing a check for a couple of value menu burritos just to zero it out, but I didn’t want the IRS on my case. I could try to convince the Feds that Taco Bell could contribute to a person’s health, if you counted negative contributions as well as positive ones, however that seemed like a lot of trouble.
I called BNY Mellon in mid-2008 to close the account, telling them they could put the balance in their coffee fund for all I cared, as long as I stopped getting the statements. Still they continued to arrive, never-changing in their columns of data: $0.00 in deposits, $0.00 in withdrawals, $0.00 in interest paid, 0.00% annual percentage yield earned, 0.00% year-to-date interest, and that incessant $2.69 balance.
When the quarterly statement arrived about a week ago, it included an “important message.” It read, “Go green! Elect electronic statement delivery. Log on to the website listed below and select ‘update account profile’. A $0.25 charge for receiving paper statements will begin September 30.”
I wasn’t about to see my $2.69 nest egg whittled away until it disappeared completely in 2013. And who doesn’t want to help the environment by not cutting down the old-growth hardwood it takes to create my mailing? I went straight to the website. I was finally going to shut these people down for good.
Except that the site wasn’t exactly user-friendly, and I spent a good half-hour there flopping around trying to get security clearance for such a high-stakes transaction. I clicked on the “First Time User” button, which asked me to create a user ID. I found an acceptable name, typed it in, and hit the “Log In” button. This took me to a page with a group of smiling generic faces at the top and an ominous stop sign below them.
“You cannot proceed without a security code,” read the bold type. “We need to verify your identity before you log in.”
I was directed to check the email address they had on file for me where I would find the code. I logged into Gmail and, sure enough, there it was. I wrote down the code, went back to the HSA log-in screen, and carefully typed in the letters they had sent me: “ekcyyp”. (Scammers, please help yourself to my $2.69, if you have any better luck getting to it than I did.)
“The security code you have entered is incorrect,” I was told. “Please try again.”
When I tried again and it still wouldn’t take, I logged out completely and came back around for another shot. This triggered another e-mailed security code to Gmail, and “du52eq” didn’t work either, and when I went through the whole process again, neither did “hy4jmo”. I was going to have to give up and attempt to call the customer service center. I put in a vacation request at work to take my remaining six days off so I could dedicate myself fully to the voicemail nightmare I’d now be forced to navigate.
Will Davis try again to change his account profile online? Does he really have any hope of remembering a password issued in 2004 that he hasn’t used since? Is there a hidden meaning in “hy4jmo”? Or will he instead telephonically scour the Indian subcontinent, looking for that special individual who can walk him the maze of user names and security codes? Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion.