Welcome to Christina’s Guide to Retaining your Sanity While Making Insurance, Prescription, and Medical Phone Calls.
1. CALL EARLY. This is like tackling crowds at Disney World, but with no joy or Fastpasses (or is that Genie+ now?) . If you show up at the same time as everyone else, you will wait in line for four hours, will not get to ride Peter Pan’s Flight, and your party will desert you. Consider off-peak times: find coverage for your desk, use your PTO, or arrange for a babysitter for your children. Accept now that this is unfair and that you have no control over the process. It will save you grief later.
2. PREPARE YOURSELF. Charge your cell phone, regardless of whether or not you are calling from a landline. Keep your external battery close. Assemble all possible phone numbers, mailing addresses, and social security numbers for all parties involved. Gather non-perishables. If you’re treating this like a natural disaster, you’re doing it right. Keep google nearby if they ask for the name of your oncologist’s maternal grandmother, which they will. Make sure you have the ability to take notes. Keep extra pens and pencils on you like you’re taking the SATs. You may not get up from your chair, which leads us to number 3.
3. USE THE BATHROOM. I cannot stress this enough. When you finally get a human being on the line, you do not want to be stuck needing to pee from the cups of coffee you’ve consumed to keep yourself mentally sharp. Use the bathroom ahead of time.
4. STEP INTO THE OFFICE. If you have the ability, get yourself as relaxed as possible. Climb into the bathtub- no one can see you! At the very least, make yourself a warm beverage to keep yourself tethered to reality. If you’re so inclined, you can even light a candle in honor of St. Monica of Hippo, the Patron Saint of Patience.
5. DIAL THAT NUMBER. Since you already have your member ID number, mailing address, and your second-grade teacher’s name as a security question, you’re ready to go! Dial that number, and make note of the automated menu options so you can more quickly access someone in the future. (Was that 3 you dialed? Write it down. Now.)
6. MUTE IS YOUR FRIEND. Place the call on speaker, and then on mute. That way you can hear their annoying hold music, looped over in 30-second increments, but they cannot hear you curse the day private insurance was crafted. Also, remember when I instructed you to go to the bathroom? It’s been three hours and now that you’ve finished that hot beverage, you’ll need to go again. Keep that mute on.
7. START A NEW HOBBY. You’re going to be on hold for a long time. Now is the moment to start that new hobby. Crochet? That blanket will be done before they can connect you through to the proper department, rest assured. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he posits that it takes 10,000 hours to perfect a skill. You’ll be playing the cello like Yo-Yo Ma if you start now. It will also feel slightly subversive and sneaky because they don’t own you. Keep fighting the man, even if it’s with knitting needles in hand.
8. TAKE NOTES. Ask the names of every person you speak to and WRITE THEM DOWN. That way you can specifically reference Sandra in Billing and Matthew in Appeals when you fall to your knees and shake your fist at the sky hours later. Make sure you also note your case number so people know this is not your first rodeo. Ask for direct numbers to specific departments so you don’t have to jump through hoops set aflame by red tape like a circus poodle. Trust me: you do not want to end up at the main menu again.
9. PERFORM A RITUAL SACRIFICE. Put down that knife – no need to get Old Testament about this, Abraham. (You did arrange for that babysitter, right?) You may have already completed this step by using your hard-earned paid time off. Be prepared to prove your devotion once more. Have your credit card ready: they will charge you for medical records. Keep tissues close, in case your tears magically hold any value to anyone you speak with. If they are proven of worth, KEEP THEM COMING. Sacrifice that onion in the back of your crisper drawer and weep like you are at your dictator’s funeral and under threat of capital punishment if your grief is not visibly and audibly quantifiable.
10. COMMENCE SURVIVORSHIP. Wipe the blood from your (hopefully metaphorical) blade. You’ve done it. You’ve survived to see another day, pay another deductible, and wage another war. Celebrate by raising a glass to the fallen or watching an episode of The Golden Girls.
EXTRA CREDIT: Buy a fax machine from Facebook Marketplace. You will likely skip steps 6-9.
EXTRA EXTRA CREDIT: Consider applying for medical school so you can go off-grid in New Mexico and provide your own care.
This blog post was originally posted on Christina’s blog, Girl Meets Cancer.