I need to call Regence Blue Shield to ask a question about my health insurance coverage but I am putting it off. I have just barely recovered from asking them a question last week. While I didn’t exactly ask, it was a question– Why the fuck didn’t I get notice that my premium was going up?—but I was screaming at the time. I have these episodes over insurance every now and again but it had been years since I was hysterical at a customer service cretin at Regence because I have an insurance broker who is supposed to be running interference for me.
I am self-employed. Sometimes there is a thin line between hysteria and exhilaration.
It’s exhilarating having ideas I’m excited about. It’s satisfying to be free to make plans and to see things happen. It’s harder having my boss, custodian, bookkeeper, and human resource person always there in my own face, so to speak. I have to be the big idea person and the detail oriented one. These two parts of me continually vie for attention.
I came out of my leisurely, soul-nurturing summer of reading and writing about Shakespeare (My Revels Now Are Ended ) and sprung into a fall, so to speak. My church choir was to start the first week in October, The OK Chorale the second week, and my first watercolor class –Fall Colors in Skies and Trees—the third week.
I had already done the preliminary thinking, fussing, and freaking out about the music for both choirs. Church choir: plan schedule, choose music, call the people who don’t look at e-mail, and take copies to the alto that only comes to the rehearsal before we sing at a service. The OK Chorale: choose music, balance sacred with secular, lively with expressive, traditional carols with chimneys, trees and sleigh bells. Chanukah. God help me, a decent Chanukah song is hard to find. I have about four that I like so I rotate them until a new one shows up. I had a new one this year–Ocho Candelikas– and I was thrilled to arrange it for my group.
This would ordinarily be all I would do in a fall quarter and it would be enough. But in addition to choirs and watercolor class, I had agreed to be on the Fund Raising Committee at church. I have a vested interest in them being able to pay me. In any case when we mapped out the year, this is what I agreed to: Two watercolor afternoons, a Christmas caroling party, a vocal solo recital in the spring, organizing a festival of music, helping with a trunk sale and a Christmas gift wrapping service, singing in the Harp and Bells concert which was moved from December to January which meant I couldn’t repeat Christmas music that I already know. It all sounded like so much fun. I had forgotten about four Christmas craft bazaars I had signed on to do in November and December.
Wiser people than me learn not to over-commit themselves. I am already nostalgic for days past when I was bored and depressed. Or at the very least, the pace of the 17th century sounds lovely. Everything at the speed of feet, hooves or boat.
The choirs started. I spent the next weekend going over my plans for the watercolor class, checking supplies and painting more examples of Fall Colors in Skies and Trees. The class, which was to start on a Wednesday, had filled up. If the sun shone in the morning it would be warm enough to paint in my sun-room. If not, I would fit everyone in my front room/music studio. I couldn’t set up tables until the sun had declared itself on Wednesday morning.
Tuesday I had time to worry about the evening’s presidential pissing contest and to feel dismay about the commitments I had made for the next three months. I can do this, I thought. I’ve been around for a long time. There’s nothing here I haven’t done before. I only talk this way when I’m on the edge. Then I opened the letter from Regence.
In smarmy language they told me they had not gotten my premium yet—the one that is on auto-pay—and they are sure it was just an oversight on my part but they do need to get my premium or they will cut me off at the knees.
I have a long, horrible history with health insurance companies and I get hot along the hairline and short of breath whenever I get a letter from them. I was already saying “What the fuck?” to myself when I dialed Regence’s number so that when I started shrieking, I’m not surprised that that’s what came out.
Customer service people -I refuse to say customer care because they don’t care-are better trained than the last time I yelled at them. The woman on the other end of the line was admirably polite and even re-assuring except that I was not in the market to be reassured. Snapping and snarking –I spent 25 years in therapy to learn to not behave this way—I found out what I needed to do so they wouldn’t screw me out of my annual physical and I hung up.
Then I called my (ex) insurance broker. Why had I not been notified about a rate increase? Well, he didn’t have my file to hand. Oh, why was that? He had moved to California. So you just left the state and didn’t inform any of your clients? Well he wasn’t in the individual insurance market any longer. And you didn’t tell your clients? He starts to explain why there is a rate increase in individual insurance. I cut him off. I know why. It’s so the executives can wring another few drops of blood out of us in exchange for their fucking worthless insurance.
By now I was screaming again. He hung up on me.
I went on a six hour crying jag. It was one of those eruptions that was so extreme it seemed unfair to dump myself on a mere friend. I stood sobbing and hiccuping at my phone list, going over the names of my friends, trying to gauge at what point in my hysteria one of them might be able to handle hearing from me.
When things were finally under control, I thought, Oh my god, what happened? I can’t do this. I need to go back on anti-depressants. But no, it wasn’t that at all. It was just over-stimulation at a time of year when I tend to be energetic anyway.
Local Dilettante Studio (classes and lesson in art, music, and words for people who have fallen through the cracks: www. elenalouiserichmond.com) is running smoothly and I haven’t yelled at a single student or friend. I don’t need to when I’ve got Regence.