Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Close Enough for Government Work

Today was one of those days where I attend mysterious meetings where I do my best to look professional and not betray how completely ignorant I am. That's especially hard to do when you are sitting through 2 hours of Medicaid acronyms and legal advice. Basically I learned that obtaining medical benefits from the government is crazy complicated, and that they often fail to give you everything you could be eligible for. At which point you should call the legal aid hotline, where a short androgynous woman inexplicably named Missy will put her mullet and New York accent into action and help you stick it to the man.

The cruel irony is that this alphabet soup of programming and forms is meant to help poor, often under-educated people. If college-educated adults are intimidated by the system, what does that mean for high-school dropouts and immigrants? For all those people salivating at the thought of single-payer health care coverage, I could tell you a ton of stories about how exasperating and inefficient Medicaid is. My boss asked Missy, a former state of Missouri employee, if there was any hope for the system becoming simpler/easier to understand.

As if that would happen in our lifetime. Missy gave the best explanation I have ever heard for the Hydra that is government waste. "Government doesn't want things to be simpler, implementing that would cost them money." One of our nurses weighed in "that is costs them even more, though, to pay for those gnomes who sit there putting poor mothers on hold for 20 minutes wasting all their cell phone minutes."

I like that image, of a vast cave where squirrelly gnomes sit in nooks and crannies wasting taxpayer dollars. I also couldn't help picturing the sterile offices of Insuricare, where Mr. Incredible surreptitiously helps old ladies navigate red tape until he snaps and throws his greedy boss through a wall.

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