Right now, I am livid. I use that word a lot when this sort of thing happens, but I know of no better word for it. I feel an impotent anger directed at a faceless system whose representatives are trying their hardest to accomodate
an unexpected situation within a broken paradigm.
Jessie got her legal gender fixed on Saturday. Great. Wonderful. She's a chick now as far as the state of Pennsylvania and the Social Security Authority are concerned. Excellent. This means that we're now in a legally-married same-sex relationship. I am apparently the source, or at least a source, of the downfall of Western civilization.
I've chosen to start with Independence Blue Cross.
I called my benefits rep to get Jessie's information fixed on Friday, in anticipation of the success at the DMV—a success, mind you, which went far beyond either of our expectations, and for which I'm inordinately proud of her—and she said at first that there shouldn't be any problems, then later called me back to tell me she'd hit a snag with updating Jessie's information in the computer system.
It seems that IBX has their software set up such that when two people are entered into the system as a married couple, the sex of the one listed as "spouse" is instantiated as a dependent field, linked to the sex of the one listed as "applicant". This is there to prevent typos, but it also locks out updates if one member of the married couple should happen to have zir sex legally changed. There isn't even a "try it and see" option. The field is locked. It can't be changed.
Their software will allow same-sex couples into the system, but not as a married couple. It calls them "domestic partnerships" and simply refuses to acknowledge them as anything but. That option then is forced into a different category of insurance. They're no longer married as far as IBX is concerned. They're "partnered" and it's a whole
different ball of wax as to whether or not we're covered.
Now, the benefits rep told me all of this on the phone and later again in an email, and she said to me that I needed to call IBX and ask them for an exception or an override in their system so that the claims that came back that had Jessie listed as female wouldn't get rejected. I know they can do this because they did it for her prescriptions so her premarin wouldn't get rejected. That took a doctor's note, so I called IBX to find out how to get this override put into the computer.
They told me on the phone that no such option exists.
Now, to their credit, they did tell me that I had options. I could contact my company and ask them to have domestic partnerships added to our insurance options, or I could have Jessie removed from my policy and added as a separate single enrollee not linked to my entry in the database. Neither of these reflect the actual legal status of our relationship, but while they acknowledged that verbally on the phone they also seemed totally oblivious to
it. It was amazing.
I managed after much waiting and wrangling to get someone in the Enrollments department on the phone, who cheerfully explained to me that domestic partnerships didn't cost anything(?!?!?!) to add to a group policy and that having our policy holders add that to their insurance coverage would make the whole problem simply go away on its own. When I finally got a word in edgewise, I asked why Jessie was no longer covered on my policy. The conversation went something like this:
- $buni->say("Jessie and I are legally married, yes?");
- $buni->say("My group policy covers legally married couples, yes?");
- $buni->say("Thus, Jessie should be covered under my policy, yes?");
- $buni->say("Why not?");
- $rep->say("Because Jessie is now female.");
- $buni->say("At what point in my previous two statements did I say anything about male or female?");
- $buni->say("You do acknowledge that we are legally married, yes?");
- $buni->say("And you acknowledge that the policy my company uses covers legally married couples, yes?");
- $buni->say("So, does it not logically follow that Jessie, as my legally married spouse, should be covered under my insurance policy which covers legally married couples?");
- $buni->say("Why not?");
- $rep->say("Because Jessie is female.");
- $buni->say("This sounds like a defect in your software.");
- $rep->say("Oh, no, ma'am! This is no defect. You have to have domestic partnership coverage if you want Jessie on your policy.");
- $buni->say("We don't have a domestic partnership. We have a legally recognized marriage according to the state of Pennsylvania. Where in this discussion did anybody mention domestic partnerships?");
- $rep->say("Well, Jessie is female now, isn't she?");
Again to her credit, she said she would call our benefits rep on my behalf and ask them to ask IBX to add domestic partnerships to their coverage package at no charge(?!?!?!) to the company, so that our situation would be resolved transparently without ever having to do any of the following:
- admit that IBX's software is defective because it does not take into account the concept of a legally-recognzied same-sex marriage
- consider the possibility that the software, or the policy, should be corrected in advance of the situation surely to follow when Massachusetts, California, and New York all finish with their legal folderol, assuming the federal government doesn't FSU with its FMA
- apologize for the insult of telling me repeatedly on the phone that my legally-sanctioned marriage is somehow "not a real marriage" because their software is not in error when it rejects the correction to
Jessie's gender, saying that we need domestic partnership coverage for that
She could've outright refused to help me on the phone. She could've done a lot of things that would have really gotten under my collar and made me blow my stack in a very audible way, even from the front conference room. She was as helpful as I'm sure she thought she could be. That in no way mitigates the fact that I feel as though I have been verbally insulted. I tell myself I shouldn't take offense, but it's hard not to feel demeaned by the whole
experience. I didn't have this much trouble when I changed my sex, but at the time we weren't legally married; we were just fighting for recognition as a couple, and not even that actively.
I can only hope that the upside to this is that my company will add domestic partnership coverage to its policy, but doing so doesn't fix the real problem. We're not a domestic partnership. We're married, and yet they sat there on the phone and told me without malice or regret that despite being married they couldn't cover Jessie as my dependent because she's a chick now, and that wasn't marriage according to their software. The real fix
is correcting the software, but try telling that to a midlevel bureaucrat.
I should've asked to speak with a supervisor. Barring that, I should've marched my way up the chain of command. The rep with whom I spoke is supposed to call me back this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If the answer isn't "your situation has been resolved" I'm going to have no choice but to start pushing my way up the line to talk to someone who can fix this, 'cause this time the fault isn't mine. It's theirs.
Now I just have to convince them of that.
As an afterthought, what really blows my mind on this is that twice on the phone with me she said that it cost a company nothing extra to cover domestic partnerships as equal to marriage. Nothing! Not one red cent more! Not a single penny over what we currently had to pay!
So why don't more companies cover domestic partners?
Every HR rep with whom I've ever spoken about it has said that the cost of covering the extra people on the plan didn't justify the personal savings the employees who needed it would see, but here on the phone someone from the enrollment group openly and actively said to me that it didn't cost them anything to add it! This can only mean one of two things:
- The woman on the phone was lying to me.
- The HR reps were lying to me.
I would very much like to know which it is.
I just got a call from the benefits rep, and she said basically that if I ever get a bill for anything, I'm not to call IBX and complain, or the doctor's office to challenge it. I'm to fax it to her and forget about it. This isn't supposed to be my responsibility; it's hers. This is her job. This is what she does.
I feel like I've been pardoned.
I'm still angry that the situation exists, but I'm at least relieved of the responsibility of worrying about it. This is Someone Else's Problem.