Friday, October 31, 2008

Payment Due

'Twas a time when daily mail delivery was a concrete representation of my so-called-fucked-up life. Unbeknownst to the mailman, through sleet and snow on his appointed rounds, he delivered us stacks fraught with trauma. Cheery cooking magazines topped with condolence cards. Banal clothing catalogs wrapped around hospital bills addressed to our new, and newly deceased, occupant.

We deconstructed the old life from the new, and even though our internal clocks were permanently frozen, apparently the phone company's, JJill's, a few political campaigns', and my high school reunion committee's, were not.

We opened sympathy cards and notices of donations first.

Then medical bills -- there was a sort of obligation to view those, and pay them quickly. It was a bizarre sort of Thank You gesture, writing out checks to specialists to whom we were completely enamored with and grateful for. (With the exception of the amnio bill which -- laden with irony -- showed up a few weeks after Maddy's death. I wondered if there was some sort of lemon law on those things, and then decided I didn't even have the strength to write "YOU MISSED SOMETHING" on my check.) There were services where deductibles and reductions had been taken, and we owed a bit of money. Some modest bills arrived for services that were covered by insurance, but where the biller didn't know our information for some reason -- like the transport team who moved Maddy from Delivery Hospital to Children's. Finally, there were the multiple-page ones, screaming "THIS IS NOT A BILL!" across the top, but I guess they felt it was a courtesy to inform us just how fucking much four (plus two) days costs in a state-of-the-art NICU. Like a movie, the envelope slipped from our fingers and dropped in slow motion to the floor, and we, agape, marveled at how many digits they could cram into those little shaded rectangles at the bottom of the page. As much as we had cursed our insurance company for years regarding their lack of preventative coverage (including, believe it or not, children's immunizations in my old state), we were now on bended knee thanking the stars that we were among the insured. We're self-employed, so our "coverage" is more a tattered, small-pox infested dish rag than a heated security blanket, but desperately sick children are apparently covered. Phew.

And then there was the rest of the mail: cooking magazines went into the living room bin for later, catalogs directly into the recycle bin, and we slowly started opening our other bills.

We're computer people, and busy, so a number of bills are set up for auto pay. Then there are the bunch where we just sit down once a month on the computer and 10 minutes later, presto, our account is zipping invisible monies to the utilities while we sip our coffee. And then there are a few yearlies that we often forget how exactly we set up, but usually they're really persistent buggers with the multiple warnings which arrive in envelopes announcing the next stage of alarm, much like the national security codes. ("Your bottled water bill threat level is yellow!") Normally the people who need our permission to roll over another year onto the credit card call us as well, repeatedly, at all hours of the day. Which I normally can't stand, but since losing my short term memory I find all kinds of convenient. Last week, I treated the service lady from my local paper like a long-lost friend. She barely got out who she was, and I started babbling, "I've had you on my to-do list for 5 weeks now! How are you? Thank you so much for calling!"

We were a bit late for this, a little longer for that, we filed a tax extension. Eventually, we dug out.


Meanwhile, back at the farm, my car was having issues of not starting, and not responding to jump starting. I distinctly remember a moment of panic that spring, April? May? in the Target parking lot with Bella in the car, and husband a good 90 minutes away at his job. I called my car insurance since we have roadside assistance through them, and they nicely sent out someone and praise jeebus, it responded to a jump. A few months later, in the cellphone lot at the airport, on a brutally hot day in July, I got the phone call from my brother that his family had gathered their luggage off the carousel, come get us -- and it didn't start. We couldn't jump start it. So again, I called the friendly insurance lady, and again, she sat on the phone with me for 20 minutes while we found a tow truck, and figured out where to tow it. Just as the truck pulled in, the car turned over.

We finally got to the bottom of this problem (ignition wire, duh), but this plus my car's lousy gas mileage got us thinking about another car. We test drove a hybrid, and decided to put in an order for a new fall model. I believe this was August. Car guy needed our insurance cards to place the order and get his ducks in a row, so we pulled them out and realized that they had expired. Huh.

This was not unusual for us, so we didn't panic remotely. We've been insured by said company since '95. As we er, matured, we also acquired an umbrella policy from them. And they have our credit card number, and they frequently send multiple envelopes and call, and etcetera. And we just assumed that we had missed the envelope where the new cards were (we've done that before), so we dove back into the now short stack. And couldn't find it. In fact, we couldn't find anything from them. No bills, no cards, no nothing.

So! We called the nice insurance company and asked if they could send us new cards? Thanks!

Sure we could, they said, If you were covered by us.

Mi Scusi?

Yeah. Your insurance policy payment? Was due in March. You didn't pay it.

Butbutbutbut . . we sputtered . . . no bill! No warning! No multiple warnings! No phone call! You fucking helped us out on roadside assistance -- TWICE -- and didn't tell us our bill was due! Or that we were no longer covered!" You have our fucking credit card, you morons!

Apparently that qualifies for: Too bad.

We wondered if something had been lost in the mail? Did we miss a phone call? We pulled out the grief card. We got some quiet sympathy.

We need insurance rather immediately, seeing as the car guy was on the other line -- what can we do?

Oh, my chickadees, as long time -- nay, twelve year -- customers of ours, with only one broken windshield and a fender bender (not our fault) to your name -- and your upgrade of an umbrella policy -- bills always paid on time -- credit card already confirmed and here on hand -- we can . . . . recover you as new people whom we've never heard of at our new rates which are more than double than what you were paying a few months ago.

Putting aside for a brief moment the fact that we were driving around uninsured (against the law in this here state) for, oh, FOUR MONTHS, is the lack of communication, AND, I'm sorry, but where did case-by-case basis go in this country? Is it possible your "This is a warning" letter got lost in the mail? Because we didn't get it. Is this how you treat long-term customers in good standing? Apparently.

We had little choice, we re-upped, and cursed them.

And today, over a year later, we finally got around to changing car insurance providers. We're saving money, yes, but we're also giving a big FUCK YOU to the old company. As well as the trauma of the bill stack during that nightmare.


If you're still reading this boring-as-hell drivel, the point is this: Maddy's death permeated our lives in ways we never thought possible, and continues to, more than a year and half later. This story, when you turn up the heat and reduce it and send it through a sieve, ends with the odd conclusion that only someone in our shoes could ever understand the absurdity and the complete rationality of:

We got new car insurance today, because our baby died.


Today C. is remembering Callum, a year later. Please remember with her.


loribeth said...

Yet another reason why I am immensely grateful for Canada's universal healthcare system (no medical bills or insurance paperwork to speak of) to worry about. I know it just about drove my mother crazy when she was taking care of my American grandparents' affairs in their last years.

I don't remember missing any bill payments after losing Katie. But I do remember one year in the fall -- I wrote a donation cheque to our support group. They called me about it, because it was an odd -- and rather large -- sum of money. Thank God they did -- in horror, I realized that I had written them a cheque for the entire balance of my chequebook register (!!), instead of the $100 I had intended. They sent it back to me & I wrote them a new cheque for the right amount. And I noticed the date on the original cheque was my due date. My mind was quite obviously somewhere else that day...!!

Mrs. Spit said...

Yes. Yes.

I have a post in my head about this.

janis said...

I am sure you are not alone, Tash.
It's made me so mad before, the shit that continues to come after my baby had died, as if *that* was not enough...
Thinking of you. xo

k@lakly said...

Oh, the bills and the forgotten due dates...I only last week got around to dealing with the over charges on my cell phone that have been happening for a year and I just couldn't be bothered. And when I finally did it, I didn't even bother telling them that I had let it go on for so long because my baby died a year ago. I already knew they wouldn't get it...or care.

Melissia said...

Oh I so get this. I myself have a terrible, petty pay the doctor system. First paid are the ones that are kind and compassionate that treat me as a human being. Last paid are those who are asses to the nursing staff (I am a retired nurse). Interesting that the two have never mixed.
I found that even 20 years later the ripples from my daughter's death can still be felt in our family, some of the painful, but some of them comforting so that she is not forgotten by her sisters and brothers.

Brenna's Mom said...

The same EXACT thing happened to me. But I was only 2 DAYS late. And they cancelled me. And they wouldn't reinstate. The new "price" was three times as much! Yeah, right. I switched to another company that day. Even after I explained why I was late they didn't care. They refused to do anything for me. It's so funny you write this because we already switched our cars from them, but we are switching our homeowners on the 10th and I was just thinking about it today.

sweetsalty kate said...

Oh my gosh, I have a post simmering now about the financial fallout of last year - and that's minus medical bills thanks to universal healthcare. Hello - my name is Kate, and we lost ten thousand dollars on a minivan for three children that we didn't need anymore. The loss of which ate up my income tax savings. The income tax savings the government would now like me to pay. Oops.

So yeah, I heart you.

Hey - that was meant to read "I hear you" but the 't' crept out and gee, I think I'll leave it there, because that's true too.

PS... as to your insurance story, I'm a sputtering mess over here. I can't even string two words together to address that one.

Coggy said...

I often wondered about using the 'my baby died' line to try and get them to understand why my head was so far up my own ass for so long that I didn't get round to sorting x, y or z.
Thing is I don't think it would have mattered for shit. I feel like everything I do now is because my baby died. That is the most obvious thing I could possibly say, but sometimes it really hits me that is the reason I'm doing what I'm doing.

Michele said...

I remember the hospital and transport bills... Thank goodness we have excellent insurance and they weren't really bills but statements and the bills we did get were the ones the insurance company wrote checks directly to us to pay. But still... Even now we get stuff, 9m later, and it is still so hard... Having a baby or, in our case, two babies, die is more than I think a parent should have to handle... I miss them so much...

missing_one said...

I TOTALLY get this post.

If not this
As one moment in time has forever changed our paths

CLC said...

Who was it? Because I don't want to do business with companies like that. Spill it.

Oh, I think I got no Halloween trick or treaters this year because my baby died, but I can't really prove that. But we got a lot last year, so I am suspicious. I am, after all, a horror story.

Which Box said...

This seems inappropriate, but I heart this post. How long do the ramifications continue?

luna said...

amazing the repercussions, isn't it?

I wonder if we will ever recover in all of those ways.

charmedgirl said...

i find myself wanting to say, like, ALOT, "well, my baby died, you know."

and what fucking difference does it make? every and none, that's what.

in the mail/bill-paying bullshit afterwards, i found myself staring at a bill from the hospital for telephone and television. I NEVER, ONCE used either. i called promptly, and they informed me that i MUST have told their rep i wanted those services...and i told them my baby was DEAD and NO ONE DARED ask me about the fucking TV, OK?!? they wrote it off, like in a second flat.

Antigone said...

After the stillbirth, people told me to tell those I'd forgotten to pay that I'd been grieving. I couldn't do it.

After leaving my now soon-to-be-ex, even my attorney suggested I tell people what was going on when joint bills were sent to my now single account. I couldn't do it either.

I can't share the vulnerability and pain.

niobe said...

Ironically, grief (well, that and automatic payments) made me much better about keeping track of my finances. For much the same reason that I was insanely productive at work for the first six months or so I was back -- it gave me something else to focus on.

Alice said...

Thanks for this. Yes, the stain spreads everywhere. Everywhere. The hospital who did our IVF are still spending us loads of unintelligible bills. The IVF failed and we didn't turn up to discuss it ..... but they would never follow up on that. Just get the money in and don't care less about the real live people whose lives you are playing with .... Yes, I am bitter. But it helps to read your blog! Alice

Kymberli said...

I despise bills just because, well, they're bills. I can see how bills would be that much more despicable when they pertain to a lost child.

c. said...

Seems perfectly logical to me.

(What assholes, your old insurance company. But, you already know this.)

ms. G said...

I sooo get this.

Anonymous said...

I don't quite know how to respond other than to tell you i am here and i am reading.

Natalie said...

Oh yes. I screwed up so many bills in those 4-6 months, and I've just now sorted everything out (I think) thanks to online bill pay.