The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.
I'm at the Human Resources Office at Cal State Fullerton, turning in my application for health insurance. I'm very excited to be doing this because I have not had health insurance for eight months because when my classes got cut last semester, I lost my insurance.
This was particularly unfortunate for me because not only was I making less income, I was also having to pay around $400 out of pocket every month for my anti-depressants, so I would not slip into a suicidal depression.
Needless to say, I'm quite happy to be receiving health insurance again so I do not have to make decisions like: Do I buy groceries or medication?
"Hello," I say to the woman at the Human Resources office, "I'm here to turn in my health insurance application."
"Alright," she says, looking over my application, "Your insurance will take effect the first of next month."
I panic a little. That's a month away.
"When I came to pick up my application, they said it would be effective this month."
"It would have been effective this month if you had turned this in by the first."
"They told me to bring it in ON the first. However, because the first was a Saturday, I am bringing it in today, Monday, the third. They did not make it clear to me that if I was two days late, I would lose a month of coverage."
"Let me talk to the supervisor," the girl says.
A few minutes later, a middle-aged woman with a stern expression returns with my application. "Your insurance begins next month," she says, matter-of-factly.
"I didn't bring it in on the first, like they told me, because you were closed."
"Well, you should have brought it in before then. It's in your packet," she says, indicating the 50-page booklet that came with my application.
"Can you show me where?" I ask.
She grabs my packet, rifles through it, and hi-lights something from a paragraph around page 42. "There," she says, "We have rules here."
"I understand," I say, "But those rules were not made clear to me, and now I'm going to go another whole month without health insurance, and continue paying $400 out-of-pocket for my medication."
"Your coverage will begin next month," she says, sternly, matter-of-factly.
"There's nothing you can do?"
"Your coverage will begin next month," she repeats, like an angry robot.
"Are you being like this because you are mad at me, or because there is really nothing you can do?"
"I'm not mad at you," she says, angrily, "I'm just saying there are rules and now you are making your emergency my emergency."
"I suppose I am. I've just gotten so screwed over by the health care system, time after time, and I feel like people use little administrative details like this to hide a frightening lack of compassion. It makes me just sick."
"I'll see what I can do."