Big Brother Is Watching Us

I remember when the HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was first enacted in 1996.  It must have cost the USA vast forests of trees.  Every time I took the kids to the doctors, I was handed a bunch of papers to read and sign to acknowledge I understood about the new HIPAA privacy rules.  After a while, the doctor’s offices got smart and asked if I knew about the HIPAA privacy rules and if I needed a copy.  Of course I would say no.  I had already received about a hundred copies.  No wonder health care is so expensive.  I can’t imagine how much these doctors had to spend on printer ink and paper.

Not only was I tired of signing all these waivers, I was annoyed by another provision.  Whenever the doctor’s office would call the house to inform my husband of the results of a medical test, they could not give me the message.  However, they would always call when he was at work.  He would list his cell phone number, but they would always call the house.  And even though he is busy during the day, and would often prefer that I take his messages, they were afraid to leave me the results of his tests.  I understand that some spouses prefer to keep all things private from each other; we are not like that and we were not given a choice.  Thankfully, things seem to have loosened up and I am now usually informed of hubby’s appointments and test results once they have established that I am the spouse.

Although this has nothing to do with health care, and so must be yet another government-mandated privacy provision, once the kids got to college we were informed that even though we still support our children, pay their bills and tuition, and claim them as dependents on our tax returns, we are in no way entitled to know anything about their college life.  We would not get a copy of their grades.  When we call the schools, even to ask about their financial aid or tuition accounts (which we frickin’ PAY), we are advised that they can only speak to the student about these private matters.  Never mind that for the most part, we don’t bother the kids with these details and they really don’t have much of a clue about them.  I’d rather they focus on their studies!

The private college did allow the student to sign a waiver allowing us parents access to information if we call for it.  Obviously, they’re smart enough to realize that these teenagers are not paying this substantial tuition on their own and it might be wise to let the parents in on important matters.  As expected, it took a little longer for the state university to come to grips with reality.  Do they know how difficult it is to get a hold of your busy young student during the week days (when the school offices are open) and explain to that student what you need to find out, and then have that student actually call themselves to straighten out the matter?  Government intervention always equals government-size headaches!

Why am I complaining about all this now, you might ask?  Well, even though I’m not entitled to know anything about the health care and academic life of my dependent sons, obviously we must provide all sorts of personal information to the school and some health insurance company that they must be getting kickbacks from.  And we are being threatened to comply!

After Middle Son J was already enrolled in classes, we got a form from his school here at the house saying that we must fill out and return before 9/30/09.  If we don’t, we would be charged a $112.00 fee.  Of course, this fee would be tacked on to son’s tuition, and there would be no way to avoid it.  The form that was sent was a health insurance enrollment/waiver form.  There were two choices:  Either provide proof (along with very private personal questions about the family health care coverage) that your dependent is covered by your health insurance, or face mandatory enrollment into their university-sponsored Accident and Health Plan!  The cost of this yearly plan ranges from $1108 to $2380 for one year of coverage.  This is on top of all the other costs (like tuition, books, and living expenses) most college students already pay.  Luckily, as a dependent student under the age of 24, Middle Son J is covered under our health insurance plan.  I wonder how many less fortunate students are wondering right now how they are going to come up with this extra money to be covered under a school medical plan that they never even heard of before and had no idea they would be required to have when they signed up for classes.  While they are trying to come up with a solution, these students who are probably least able to afford any of this will be hit with a penalty of  “at least $112” while they are trying to figure out what to do.

Meanwhile, I very grudgingly went online and filled out this form to let this insurance company know that we are not interested in their coverage.  I was forced to give them the name and address of our health insurance company, the policy number, group number, and phone numbers.  They insisted on knowing which medical services our plan covers.  And it’s not like the school or this company would ever be responsible for paying any medical bills our son would incur.  Many young people are temporarily without health insurance.  Like most things in life, it’s a gamble.  And the odds are in a young person’s favor.  If they do get sick, they’ll be treated and find a way to pay the bill.  It happened to me when I took that chance.  But that was back when Americans weren’t assumed to be incapable of making choices on their own, and we weren’t strong-armed into paying for coverage we neither needed nor wanted.

10 Responses to “Big Brother Is Watching Us”

  1. 1 robinaltman September 27, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Wow. That is beyond ridiculous. I am stunned. You’re right. It’s a total scam.

    HIPAA is a major pain in my toosh. I work with kids exclusively, and technically, they’re allowed the right to privacy after age 14 in Pennsylvania. But I just won’t work that way. I’m a mom as well as a doctor, and if my kid’s friggin’ doctor said I couldn’t see their labs because he/she had to talk to my 15 year old dimwit, I’d stab them to death (the doctor, not my dimwit).

    I get around it by telling kids I have to talk with their parents. I’ll try to keep things as private as possible, but no guarantees. If I think it’s something important the parents should know, all I can promise is that I’ll tell the kid before I tattle. And you know what? Not one kid in 15 years has complained. Because they don’t want to be on their own, either! They’re kids! They want their parents to help them, pay their tuition, feed them, clothe them, nurture them. If 15 year olds understand this, why can’t our government?

    • 2 les@mamaneeds2rant September 27, 2009 at 3:38 pm

      OMG, Robin. 15? I didn’t know it was that young. I thought they were considered adults at 18, which is still kind of a joke in most instances although if they can be sent to war, they should have some rights. How in the world can anyone ever justify not telling parents something medically important about their young teen, who by the way is considered a minor in every other instance, and as such, would make their parents responsible for their medical bills? Under the law, they’re not considered able to make informed consent to enter into any contract, yet they’re supposed to be able to make life and death health decisions. Good grief.

  2. 3 Cyndi September 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I am so not looking forward to dealing with college for my two boys – 3 years apart. I can’t believe the school has any right to insist on proof of coverage since, as you pointed out, it’s not their problem anyway!! The whole health care industry is an absolute joke. I remember all the HIPAA paperwork too. You’re right, a complete waste of trees. I always just let my doctor know it’s ok to leave test results on the answering machine and haven’t had any problems with that. I guess it depends on how paranoid your doctors are.

    • 4 les@mamaneeds2rant September 27, 2009 at 4:17 pm

      I know. Even though as far as health care insurance, this doesn’t seem too expensive, it’s a lot of money to a college student. On top of that, there is no information sent on exactly what kind of illness or injury this policy would cover, and how much would still be required to be paid out-of-pocket.

      When I went to college, if I got sick, I went to the infirmary (which we all had to pay a health care fee with our tuition whether we ever used it or not). Most of the kids I knew never had any huge medical bills even if they were not covered under their parents’ insurance. The biggest health risk for most young kids would probably be auto accidents, and I believe auto insurance would cover those bills.

      I really feel offended that I was forced to provide information that they had absolutely no right to ask for. And it’s so hypocritical that I have to jump through hoops to find out things that I believe I actually have a right to know.

  3. 5 Consuella Banana Hammock September 28, 2009 at 9:27 am

    having been out of this country for a decade, i am amazed at the amount of paperwork just to have an appointment with the doc. you can’t even schedule one without giving all your insurance info. what in the hell has happened in this country in the past 10 years? it was way easier in france. i hear your frustration!

  4. 7 Dawn September 28, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Oh Les, I have not dealt with the chapters you have with my children. My medical insurance is enough of a nightmare, my sisters so much worse. She spends twenty hours a month keeping on top of it all with her and five children. Trees and time.

  5. 8 Tammy September 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Yet another reason I want to sell everything and become a coconut farmer on a lonesome island in the Caribbean.

  6. 10 artsurd8 October 24, 2009 at 4:15 am

    this is a great share ! thanks!

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