While I was pregnant with Boy, I went through the precertification and piles o' paperwork in advance of his birth so the nonsense would be fairly limited when it came time to deliver the baby.
As we were filling out the paperwork, I saw that they put my first husband's name down as the responsible party with his Social Security number.
"Wait," I said. "I'm the patient, and our insurance is through my employment. Please don't do that."
"I'm sorry," she replied. "It's hospital policy. The husband is always the responsible party for medical bills."
I begged. I pleaded. I had already fought enough battles with that HMO to know that unless my name was on everything including graven images marked with blood, they would deny the claims. Besides, it was 1998, not 1958. Why in bloody hell did my husband have to be the responsible party? I handled the bills, the insurance was in my name through my employment. But he had the penis, therefore, that's the way they filled it out.
I hate being right. When the hospital filed the insurance claims for my son's birth, they used my husband's Social Security number and name, and sure enough, my insurance company denied payment for everything, stating "no existing policy." So I spent eight months with appeal after appeal, requesting the hospital to resubmit the claims (which were then denied as "we have already considered this claim"), and I was still fighting it when Boy reached his first birthday. Some of those bills ended up on our credit report.
I really hoped things had changed.
Time and again, Jim and I have run into the same issue. It has now become a requirement that if I need to get technical assistance at any store, we are to enter the building separately and he has to stand far away from me. If we don't, they don't talk to me. Jim's questions are answered; mine are ignored. My favorite is when we're standing together and I ask a question, but they direct the answer to him. (The Apple Store is better about this than most, but even then it's occasionally been a problem.)
It happened while we were planning the wedding. We went to a local credit union to open a savings account for wedding expenses. We entered together, and the teller asked Jim, "How can we help you?" It was clearly directed solely at him, as though I weren't even there, and it put him off balance so he didn't reply right away. I spoke up and said we were there to open an account.
"I see," she said, still talking to him. "And your name, sir?" Jim gave his name, and she wrote it down. "Have a seat." No one was interested in my name. So we waited, and Jim leaned over to whisper, "Why is she only talking to me?" I gave him a sad little grin and said nothing.
A few minutes later, the accounts rep came out and asked for Jim. We got up and followed him into the office. Once again, the rep spoke only to Jim, all comments and questions directed at him, as if I didn't exist. I spoke up often enough that finally he had to acknowledge my existence, but he was testy as though I were interfering.
Fortunately, it turned out that we didn't have the right documents to verify our worthiness, so we were unable to open the account that day. We left, and by the time we reached the car Jim was fuming. He was angrier than I was, because it was simply so blatant. He vowed that we would not return to that credit union, and indeed we opened the wedding account at a different institution.
Sometimes it's been funny; at restaurants, we wait to see whether the server will put the bill in front of him or between us. You'd be stunned how many of them automatically put the bill in front of him, because as the possessor of the penis, he must be the one with the debit card. (If he were, we'd have been homeless years ago; I adore the man, but I keep the money away from him for family preservation.)
I've never yet seen a server put it in front of me; it's in the center or it's in front of him. I can be physically holding the debit card in my hand
and they will still put the bill in front of him. Perhaps they think he needs to check it over and confirm the charges are correct before he lets me and my silly ladybrain throw money about frivolously.
It just becomes part of the background, the assumption that woman with man is worthless chattel and certainly never to be taken seriously with money. It colors some of our actions; he did not accompany me to shop for the new car or conduct the negotiations. The car was to be in my name, but that wouldn't stop anyone from talking solely to him. Likewise when I negotiated for things like cell phone plans or contracts for our wedding, I had to leave him in the car to be taken seriously.
Perhaps we've reached a point where society will take single women seriously - though not as seriously as a man, of course. But I must admit, one of my hesitations in accepting Jim's proposal was that society would begin to treat me like Jim's arm candy instead of a separate person of my own intelligence, capability, career goals and business to conduct.
If I needed a reminder that nothing has changed in seventeen years, we got one from our soon-to-be-former prescription mail-order company. Both of us have chronic prescriptions, but Jim continues to order his at higher cost at a local pharmacy because he's hopelessly mired in the 20th century, and I prefer to order three-month supplies via our insurance-designated mail-order company.
I ordered a refill more than a week ago, expecting to receive it within 1-2 days as has been standard practice. When it didn't arrive, I looked it up and found that it had not even been shipped yet. In fact, they were scheduling shipment for next week.
So I called to complain; I've run out of the medication now, and it has a cumulative effect. I need to get back on it soon. They apologized and said there was a mixup when they tried to charge my husband's FSA card.
Drumming my fingers on the kitchen table, I asked why in heaven's name they would charge my husband's FSA; I have my own FSA, which is registered on my prescriptions under my account login. The rep got confused, and couldn't come up with an explanation. I then asked why they hadn't contacted me a week ago to tell me there was a problem; we could have sorted this out before I was actually out of the medication. Again, no explanation.
Once we got that straightened out, I pointed out that I was out of the medication and getting sicker. To their credit, the rep got it expedited and arranged for a free one-week supply at my local pharmacy to last me until it came in. All was well.
That is, until the next day, when the company called my husband's cell to discuss "his" order. He reminded them that I am the patient and the one paying for the order, and brought me the phone so I could confirm with the morning rep everything the evening rep had already said. A ridiculous waste of time later, nothing had changed and the prescription was still set to be mailed and charged to me.
I reminded them, again, that I am a separate human being and could they please call me directly if there is a problem with my account; my husband and I work opposite shifts and are not always together, so calling him doesn't do a thing to solve the problem.
That lasted a whole hour before they called him again to inform him that my order was shipping. Gee, thanks. I'm glad you didn't burden my ladybrain with information about my own health. And then another automated phone call, informing us that there was a problem with the shipment and we needed to call right away to get it resolved.
So I did, and for the 57th time, asked them to stop calling my husband and just call me directly. Two redirects later, it seems there was no actual problem, and the prescription still will be shipped tomorrow. I'm not holding my breath. It was a delightful way to spend a lunch break.
I'm stronger and smarter now than I was in 1998, and I know how to stomp my feet and demand to be treated as a customer on my own, not the appendage of the Real Customer (i.e. a man). But when I'm sitting here waiting day after day for my prescription to arrive, it's hard on the heart. It's needlessly complicated, it sometimes costs us money, it provides no end of hassles, and that's setting aside the frustration at still being a second-class citizen.
Each time his phone rings on my business, it puts me right back as the young pregnant woman in that hospital billing office, fearful of the bills and inevitable denials, begging them not to make me my husband's chattel.
Labels: bizness, rants