I got a bill in the mail today. That’s odd, because I don’t generate bills, and my mailing address is known only to the Social Security Administration, the IRS, my publisher, my bank, and Amazon.com. But I got a bill — from an insurance company. The message opens with this sentence: "This is a reminder that as of October 03, 2006, we have not received payment of the past due premium balance shown above."
I will not name the company, but I will say that it’s a major player in the insurance business and it is a name you would instantly recognize. If they are stooping to this fraud, then it’s likely that all of the big names are doing so as well.
The message continues with this threat: "You will still be liable for the past due premiums accumulated through the disenrollment date."
Never in my life have I been involved with this company in any way. So what are they talking about? "This letter pertains only to your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan benefits." Ah, yes, thank you, now I know where they got my address, and this may help to explain a puzzling letter from Medicare that I got last week; it listed my income and assets and instructed me to respond only if I had more than that. I asked somebody else to read it to be sure I got that right. I was verifying something for some unknown purpose by not responding. Ain’t that curious? Now I get this bogus bill.
At the bottom of the insurance message was an escape clause: "If you believe we have made a mistake" call this number. I borrowed a phone and called immediately. After going through two automated messages, one of which asked for my SS number and didn’t recognize my laughter, I punched in the account number on the bill. Their system didn’t recognize that either, but it did fetch a live human being, after a five-minute wait. The poor fellow must still be wondering, why me?
I demanded to know why and how I got this bill. He wanted my name. I refused. I gave him the account number on the bill. It wasn’t in his database. I ranted a bit. No dice. Finally he asked me if I lived in Pennsylvania. What? "Some states automatically enroll people," he said. My, my, a little ranting wasn’t entirely wasted on this fellow. Finally I gave him my name. There were two of me, one with the correct DOB, so he had me identified. He searched for my application. There wasn’t any in his database. He promised to send my name to the "disenrollment department," but he wanted contact information. I said, "Google my name," and hung up.
From top to bottom, this is fraud. Did some hotshot marketing person assume that Americans over the age of 65 were morons who could be intimated by a fraudulent demand for payment? Are insurance companies themselves being hustled by the federal bureaucracy to enroll seniors in their latest fraud? Could it be that seniors have not signed up for further entanglement with multiple bureaucracies? Is this bankrupting prescription drug "benefit" falling on its face? I don’t know.
But I do know that during my wait on the phone, a lilting voice informed me that my premium for a Medicare Prescription Drug benefit could cheerfully be deducted from my Social Security. Oh, that’s cute. The "private" insurance industry has devolved into one more state bureaucracy, tightly leashed and fed by the District of Criminals, and that’s what makes me angry. The most important social innovation in history, insurance, has been discredited and destroyed by the state. Now they act like the state. Beware the fraud.