Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Dying Game

No one dies in the United States without a mountain of paperwork.  Last week I gave myself a bit of a reprieve from this onerous task.  This week, if I don’t deal with it, I will be buried myself.

The medical bills seems to multiply by themselves like mushrooms.  Leave them overnight in some dark corner and feed them shit, they just grow and grow.  I am accustomed to the whims of medical bills.  Never pay the first one since likely the physician or more likely the insurance company hasn’t quite caught up with the billing cycle.  The second usually reflects an adjustment then the third probably reflects the actually cost to patient.  I like to wait for the final, since only then they mean business and have exhausted billing everyone else.  Being on the other side of this billing nightmare, physicians are at the whims of insurance companies.  What they get paid goes through so many machinations of denials, appeals, special rates, etc.  It is mind numbing and the truth be told, most physicians just hope for the best.

Regarding funeral arrangements, my dad made his wishes the least costly possible, thank goodness.  He always joked, “If you could just dig a hole in the ground I would be happy.”  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be because given my family’s dynamics, I would be the one burdened with the backhoe.  I accompanied my aunt when the time came.  Although I knew exactly that my father wanted a direct to cremation, the funeral handed me a list of itemized costs of the various services.  I nearly fell off the chair when I saw a coffin price top $46,000. “Am I buying a car or a coffin?”  I, the eternal smart ass, asked the intake person.  The costs of wakes, funeral cars, etc., would have easily gone way over $25,000.  I do not have that much guilt over his death.  His last summer was spent with the best medical care, assisted living care, and hospice care I could give him.  I bought special bath chairs, new comforters for his bed, new sheets, etc.  He wanted for nothing in the end except relief from his life of physical pain.  That was something no amount of money could buy.

 The funeral business is the most sinister out there.  They prey on the grief and guilt of their customers.  I had grief but not guilt.  That’s where they couldn’t bullshit me.  When they handed me the bill, they also made the very odd comment, “if you pay up front they’ll be a $1500 discount.”  I couldn’t believe it, but like a devious customer who just got handed the wrong change, I didn’t question it.  They got paid on the spot cold hard cash.  Somewhere my father is smiling.

That leaves insurance policies, stocks, bonds, etc. to deal with.  I have to sell his car too.  Up until the last minute, he wanted to drive.  He was independent to the core.  Thank goodness, some of that independence has been inherited.

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