Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Beating My Head Against the Wall

Since husband's retirement, I'm still trying to readjust my bill paying to match with the "new" schedule of income coming in.  My husband, a retired accountant, helped me set up a spread sheet with my "weird" parameters so that I could work the cash flow to more closely match the income with the outgo.

I'm no accountant, for sure, but the system I've been using for 20 years, including all my own spreadsheets for budgeting, tracking, and the like just don't work now that our incoming income dates are spread out so differently.  Trying to match up the out-going payments with due dates and actual money in the bank at the same time just isn't working out to suit me. (My lack of accounting training/understanding weird way of setting up my budget spreadsheets makes absolutely NO sense to him.  But then, in all fairness, he worked with millions of dollars and millions of other factors that had to . . . well . . . be accounted for!  And I'm not running a business!  Besides the old program worked just fine for me . . . until everything changed.  And my brain didn't work quite as quickly, or anything as it once did.  And stuff like that.)

I now have health insurance for me that we pay a bunch more for than when he was working.  And the literature explaining the date the payment is due doesn't mesh with when I have to pay actually them.  The monthly premiums are due on the first of each month, for that month:  i.e., January's payment is due on January first.  However, there are several switch backs up and down that mountain that I had no idea existed.  For instance:  Most bills I pay that are due on the first of the month, I pay so that there's about a week's grace period for the mail to get the check there and for their accounting folks to post it as paid before it is due and days before it becomes delinquent.  Right.  Easy-peasy.  Wrong!

I sent a check out on the 16th of the September, okay?  I figure it's got two, count them--one, two--full weeks to get credited to my account before the due date.  Welllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll I found out that doesn't work.  First of all, since I go through my banks "they'll-crank-out-the-checks-for-me" route, this is the time line my payment followed I learned just yesterday.
  • Check was generated by my bank on 9/16
  • Amount of check was debited from my bank account on 9/19
  • The check is sent to a "Lock Box" at the designated bank for the company administering the insurance (husband's former employer))
  • My bank generated check cleared the Lock Box bank account on 9/22
  • Lock box bank notified the insurance administrator on 9/26 that my payment was received
  • 9/26 is 6, yes, six days before 10/1 when the payment is due
  • 10/1 is a Saturday, a weekend day, not a business day
  • Notification of payment is required to be made by 9/23 for insurance coverage to keep insurance in active status.
  • I learned all this because I couldn't access my account information on 10/1-10/3 (haven't tried to access it today) because my insurance was not "active" though they had my payment long before the day it was due.
It is my contention that if a bill/insurance premium needs to be paid a full month in advance of the actual due date for that premium to be efficacious, why don't they just come out and say so in plain English?  And also, WHY, if my check has cleared their facility and they have my cash (so to speak) in their hands, WHY is that not legally binding on the administrators of my insurance policy/benefits until a week or two later, which would save us all a lot of paper work and headaches and loopholes, etc.?  Do you know that every month they generate a letter of about 2 or 3 typed pages and send it to me to let me know that my health insurance is current?  And when notification of the payments were getting there later than required, they would generate a new insurance card and send it to me each month?  I'm sure that cost nothing in time or money!

I asked the question of one of the people in the HR department who deals with this problem, not only for me, but others as well.  She was very kind and helpful and wonders about the convoluted payment process, too.  I said, "I guess it's a good thing that I didn't have to go to the ER this past weekend needing a pacemaker like I had to last year about this time while I had NO insurance coverage--even though I had paid my premium two weeks ago.  (My one year anniversary of my pacemaker installation (hee,hee) will be this Friday.  Yea!!!)

I also mentioned to this conscientious individual that the whole process is frighteningly close to the multi-layers of  excessively inefficient government bureaucracy.

So . . . I'm still working to fix my spreadsheets to fit my bill-paying needs to our cash flow.  Seems like cash flows out the door much faster than it flows in!  I know I'm not unlike jillions of others who work hard to keep their noses above water.  With so many things becoming more and more expensive, we're trying to pare back and stay afloat.  "Just keep on swimming; keep on swimming . . ."  (name that movie and whose line it was!)  And try not to bang my head too many more times against the wall.  I WILL get this mountain conquered!

One thing that was kind of fun in getting my husband/accountant to help me with the spreadsheet thing was I learned some cool stuff that Excel can do.  He mentioned that as much as he used Excel, and other spreadsheet software, Excel is really an amazing program with almost endless things it can do.


Mary Paddock said...

PW--They had your payment and they still considered it unpaid? Really? Are there late fees?

And--finally--can you pay them online using a debit/credit card? Even my massively behind-the-times electric cooperative provides a link to a Western Union bill pay site (costs two or three dollars, but it's worth it--the post office here is terrible about losing things). Everybody else has gone to online billing.

Excuse the intrusion, but I'm frustrated for you for what seems to be a very unfair billing practice.

Pencil Writer said...

Thanks, Mary. It's a poorly designed deal, but I'm working it out. I just like things to be rational. Can't imagine why that would be! :/ You are so sweet to try to help me work it out! I've tried a few things, but the lady in HR is trying to help out a lot. :-) (It's all good, right?!!)