Monday, August 01, 2005

Tales From The Trenches 2...

When we left off, I had called XYZ Boxes, from whence Bill and Loni had been “let go.” I was transferred to Zack, who claimed that he was (in true Alexander Haig mode) “in charge.” After identifying myself and the nature of the call, I asked Zack for information about Bill and Loni’s COBRA situation. Zack bluntly told me that he had “no knowledge whatsoever” of any COBRA-related issues. In fact, he seemed rather proud of his ignorance. I explained to him that COBRA violations run to $1,000 a day, levied not just against the company, but potentially to him, personally. Apparently, this was of no real concern for Zack. So, I asked him for the phone number of the new company, which he was loathe to give. When I explained that it would take me a few seconds on Google to find it, he rather heatedly said “then do that,” and hung up on me.
Mama always told me “don’t get mad, get even.”
So, I Googled Acme Bags (you may recall that they were the older, larger company which had recently acquired XYZ Boxes), got the phone number of the home office, called, asked for HR, and left a message on HR’s voice-mail.
Oh, then I made one more phone call: to Shari at the Department of Labor, to “drop a dime” on Zack and XYZ Boxes. Seems that the DOL takes a dim view of such shenanigans, and I recommended that they open an investigation into how XYZ was dealing with its COBRA-eligible ex-employees.
By now it was pushing 4:00 in the afternoon, and after 2 hours of non-stop insurance fun, I sensed that my new clients were growing tired of the whole situation. So I reassured them that everything would be fine, and bade them farewell for the day.
When I arrived at the office at 7:45 the following morning, I had two messages awaiting me on my voice-mail. The first was from the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Acme Bags, expressing concern, and assuring me that they would be looking into the matter immediately. The second was from the VP of XYZ Boxes, who informed me that Zack was most definitely not the guy in charge, that his attitude was not indicative of XYZ Boxes, and that they, too, would immediately take steps to make sure that “all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.”
Who could ask for anything more?
And thus ends this saga of two folks who just wanted to be sure that they received that to which they were entitled. As it turns out, we ultimately forewent Bill’s COBRA, in favor of a Medicare Supplement policy; since he was still working at age 65, he could exercise most of those “guaranteed issue” rights at age 75, which he did.
Lessons learned: First, don’t assume that employers do, in fact, have a clue when it comes to COBRA. Second, even if one misses the “window” at age 65, some MedSupp plans are available later if one continues working. Third, insurance can be a difficult maze; it helps to have an experienced guide, and ask lots of questions.
Oh, and Shari (from the DOL) called me back the next day, to clarify a few things before she opened the investigation. By that time, of course, I had heard from Mr CFO and Mr VP, so I suggested to Shari that it looked like things were working out after all, and that it would be fine to let it go. She agreed, but assured me that if things went south, she’d be more than willing to reopen the case.
Well, the high road may be lonely, but it’s the only way to go.
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