I’ve been a bad puppy. At least it seems that way. But I never meant for it to go down like it did. Still, I suppose it’s ultimately my fault, my responsibility and I’m the one who’s got to make it right.
Let me tell you what happened.
About six months ago I received a notice from my Medicare supplemental insurance provider—let’s call them “Purple Cross Purple Shield”-- that my pharmacy had not collected enough of a co pay on a prescription purchase I’d made months earlier. “This is not a bill,” they assured me. “We will deduct the money from over payments you make in the future.” Apparently they got tired of waiting for over payments, because last week I did receive a bill in the mail for the full amount of the underpayment. All 22 cents of it.
That’s 22 cents.
Cents, not dollars.
Now, I have no idea how much it cost them to send me that bill. The bill for 22 cents, that is. I have no idea how much it cost them to enclose a postage paid envelope or if it will cost them anything on their end when they receive it back, and I don’t know how much it will cost them to process that payment when they receive it. All 22 cents of it. But it didn’t make a lot of sense (that’s “sense” not “cents”) to me why an organization that had handled my health care costs promptly and efficiently up to that point would suddenly start hyperventilating over 22 cents, Then I read a little further into the letter, and there it was. “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires us to attempt to collect the balance owed.” So it’s not Purple Cross Purple Shield that decided to go into full collection mode over the 22 cents at all. It’s the government agency charged with controlling health care costs. Now I was beginning to understand.
On the plus side, the government agency never claimed that I purposely withheld the 22 cents, but they did insist on their right to a reimbursement of those funds. In a more perfect world, the agency might have gone after my pharmacy, which, after all, was the one that made the mistake about the amount of the 22 cent deductible. In a more perfect and reasonable world, the government would have written off anything under, say, $10 to $40 at a minimum, because is surely costs them more than that to try to collect it. Still, that wouldn’t have absolved me of my guilt for…for…for whatever it is I must have done wrong that ultimately put the full force of the United States government all over my ancient ass for 22 cents. Cents, not dollars.
Twenty two of 'em..
Don’t think I’m down on government, though. Not for a minute. Because they were there to help too. They wanted to help me so bad they made me the following offer:
“We understand that even the smallest unplanned expense can cause difficulty, and we have payment options available if you’re unable to pay the full amount due at this time.” The full amount of which was--you guessed it--22 cents.
Let me be honest here. I thought about it. I really did. After all, they are the ones who offered to set up payment arrangements for the money I owed them—all 22 cents of it. They also assured me not to worry that my coverage would stop “while we’re working this issue out.” All 22 cents of issue. But at my age I don’t have enough time left to do all the stupid that dealing with the government requires. So instead, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write out a check for 22 cents. I’m going to put my account number on the check like they asked, and enclose it in the prepaid envelope along with the handy payment coupon they also mailed me. But before I drop it in the mail slot, I’m going to enclose one more thing—my request for a written receipt.