Monday, June 22, 2009

Government "Help"

With all of this talk about government run healthcare, and the government competing with private insurers (now that's fair), I though I'd take a look at how well government agencies run the other organizations that are supposed to "help" us. This story of one person's experience with government agencies is the perfect illustration, at least for me, on why government should never be given control over something as important as our healthcare.

My niece is 26 years old and physically and psychologically disabled. Due to both her physical and emotional issues she is unable to hold to a job. A doctor testified to this. However, it took her over a year to get disability insurance. Why? Because it is standard operating procedure for government disability to automatically decline all claims the first time they are filed. But isn't this what the government accuses private insurance of doing? Vilifying them for it? She had to get a lawyer and take her claim to court in order to get her benefits. Then her lawyer, from legal aid, was not going to be able to attend the hearing and Aimee, my niece, had to go on her own. She was told she had to read a statement to the judge. This is great except that one of her issues is that she's severely learning disabled and has a very difficult time reading. Not to mention her emotional issues of having to stand up there by herself. I was unable to be with her because she lives 1,300 miles away from me.

Once her claim was approved and was supposed to begin, she didn't get a check. This is because the person in charge of the county benefits didn't submit the cancellation paperwork. What was her option to get this resolved....wait until the person submits the paperwork. In the meantime they had cancelled her food stamps but not the other benefits so she was still reliant on the county but had no food stamps for the month. They had cancelled those you see and had no emergency process to get her any for the month. And she has a small son. The next thing that happened was that she was shorted in her benefits. She didn't get the amount that she was supposed to. Again she goes and tries to get this resolved and what they tell her is, "I've fixed it in the computer and it will be right next month." But what about this month? She just has to do without that money that her budget was based on. And it was a significant chunk of her benefits. Just imagine if your employer forgot to cut your check and told you the amount would be right next week but they couldn't get you anything this week.

But wait, it gets even worse. Her case worker has now been found to be embezzling the food stamps from the recipients. Aimee did not get hers at all for June, and she was not the only one. The computer showed them going out, but they never appeared on her card. So what is being done to get her food for the month? Nothing. She has been told that everything is frozen until the investigation into the case worker is completed. So she's just SOL again.

In these situations it becomes clear that the bureaucracy is more important than the people. There is no emergency process in place to take care of issues or mistakes. The mistakes of the government staff are instead carrying by those they are supposed to be helping. It's horrible to be told that your food budget is gone for the entire month, but imagine if this happened to you with your healthcare. What would happen if your file was misplaced? Would you be denied your treatment? Probably.

I have my own personal story with the Social Security Department. I lost my social security card and applied for a replacement. They sent me a letter saying that I needed to verify my date of birth because I had submitted that I was born in one year and they had my date of birth 10 years earlier. A typo on their part. I submitted the verification. Then I received a request for a copy of my birth certificate. So I sent off for a new birth certificate (I'd lost that too) and sent a copy in. Then I received a letter from the Social Security Dept saying they needed the original. By the time I could take off work to get in to give them my birth certificate (I wasn't sending it through the mail) they admonished me for taking so long to come in because now they had to re-enter the information in the computer. It doesn't matter that coming in meant I had to leave work because they're only open during regular working hours, I had inconvenienced them and they let me know it. I finally did get my new card but it took me 8 months in order to correct THEIR mistake.

And this is the same type of process that we want for our healthcare? I sure don't.

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