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Monday, December 31, 2007

The Evil At The Heart Of Verizon

I had to threaten Verizon with a lawsuit to get them to come out to this house and fix the damned phone. Supposedly it's fixed now.

I rigged up a little robot to test it every five minutes, and I'm going to start to run it tomorrow. If it's not fixed, I AM going to sue.

The phone has been intermittently out since December 7th. Do you know what it's like to have someone with a heart condition and no phone service? Do you know what it's like to try to make doctor's appointments with no phone service? I am so stressed out that it's unbelievable.

After the phone had been intermittently out for two weeks (it mostly was out during the daytime), Verizon still refused to come out and look at the lines unless I could give them a cell phone number. This must be illegal. They didn't even need to come in the house - the problem was the line, as I told them it was. It's not like I hadn't checked everything on this end in multiple ways.

This is a company that is cruising for a major bruising.

My brother got me two cell phones. (I didn't dare leave the Chief alone long enough to go get them myself. If he had had a heart attack, he couldn't even have dialed 911!)

My brother picked the cell phones up on the 22nd. It was the 27th before we got Verizon to activate both of them. There was another problem, which they could not fix. Eventually I got to the point at which I had spent over an hour on the phone with the store where he got them, and they finally told me to call the Verizon help number. When I waded through that rigmarole, it told me to call back on a land line. My brother took them back to the store. Finally they said they had them fixed. He brought them back to me. One phone still did not work.

They really are that bad.

So let me reiterate:
Tell me this company isn't running major liabilities? If the Chief had had a heart attack during this interval, I am sure I would have been able to collect big time. They still didn't get the signal up to where it should be.

Jerks. Fools. Never f@ck with a programmer's spouse's life. NEVER.

By the way, this is in the Northeast. I stuffed the Chief and the two dogs into the car and started driving December 2nd, because I could see things weren't going well. The ruralish part of GA where I live has been badly hit by GA's attempts at providing more health coverage. So many people are covered under government plans with laughable reimbursement rates that most of the good doctors have left their practices. The hospitals are death traps. The locals won't even go to one of them, because they know their chances of getting out alive are not good.

The future of socialized medicine in the States can already be seen in a few southern states, and it is not pretty. You have to get enough money into the system to keep the doctors and health facilities in service, with decent nurses, or insurance does you no good at all. Sure, you won't get a bill - but you will be dead or crippled.

My epic battle to keep the Chief from becoming dead or crippled continues. During this interval I got viral pneumonia. It's not surprising.

I wish to proudly report that I never ever swore at any of the Verizon people. I never even yelled at them, although I did become firm and strident with the last support dingbat with who I was speaking. I think this is an accomplishment that should win worldwide reknown.

Wow. I knew Verizon was bad, but not that bad.

My dad had bypass surgery at 45 and a heart transplant at 65. He was days from being gone when his new heart came through. He lived for ten more years after that. I don't know if your Chief is a candidate for one, but if he is, don't give up hope.
Well, finally got the coronary CT results. Angio on the 2nd.

He's got enough left that if he's careful, has some selective surgery, and STOPS EATING FATTY FOOD he should have some excellent years.

If not, he's dead very soon, and we aren't talking in years here. Coronary disease, calcification and enlarged heart. I knew when I saw the pics, but I was hoping I was wrong, because I'm hardly an expert.
Sadly customer service has been downsized to improve earnings and the value of executive stock options (A terrible idea IMO which drives all kinds of bad short term sub-optimized policies).

Careful about "socialized medicine" comments. Maybe in Ga. but I have never heard any candidate for major office ever propose that health care professionals become government employees. Eliminating insurance companies in favor of a single payer system is not "socialized" medicine ever if the back office clerks are employed by a quasi-government organization. It works elsewhere and saves an immediate 15% or so.

Kill the health insurance companies - kill them now!

A) Companies do not value customer service. They are outsourcing it as fast as they can and frankly most don't care if your service works or not. They just want the money.
B) As part of that cost saving stuff, most of the phone companies are getting rid of most of the people who actually know anything. (I'm most familiar with Embarq aka Sprint). That means that you are pretty unlikely to get someone who can fix things, assuming that they even offer to do that.
C) I did support for Verizon Wireless (outsourced at an extremely low paying call center). The Verizon employees we talked to, when working on things we didn't have rights to fix, were a pretty sullen bunch. You would be too if there was a good chance they'd get rid of your job in the future. We had a lot of folks tell us that customer service had gotten SO much better ;)

Will be praying for the Chief to pull through okay. Hope you are feeling better soon too--gotta be stressful all around. (FYI, I'd recommend you don't go with a VOIP phone. I have to support those and they really are not a good choice for anyone with health issues.)
Jim - Medicare is the model usually used, but filing claims for Medicare can be a nightmare. A lot of doctors are now refusing additional Medicare patients, and Medicaid patients often have big trouble finding doctors.

I know paperwork, etc, consumes a huge amount of time in the UK, for example.

But really, the issue is poor reimbursements and how much you spend in general. A single payer system can be more efficient, or it can be less efficient. A lot of the extra costs are incurred if you are trying to keep costs down by denying service, and minor conditions turn into major conditions if service is too long delayed.

I personally dislike medical insurance companies, and I think that many of them have the ethics of the Gestapo.

But the reality still is that the care the Chief is getting would not be available most places in Canada in this time frame. He's having an angio next - even over the holiday, it was scheduled in less than 2 days. Mind you, this is for a non-urgent request - that was what the doc made us come in for today - to evaluate whether he was going to get it done today as an emergency or whether it could wait until Wednesday AM. See this abstract about the difference.

2 days vs 28 days is a big deal. If it looks bad and it is recommended, he may have angioplasty within a day or two after that, or he may not be sent home at all - he may be in custody until they've decided what to do, depending on the findings.

Mind you, this is all happening before he showed real signs of trouble, because I got the wind up, and I got him to a good physician. His bloodwork did not look bad, but I knew something was wrong. And the coronary CTA came back showing that he is a heart attack waiting to happen.

Early treatment will actually save a lot of money in the Chief's case. And if he had not been a stubborn nutcase, I could have gotten him much earlier treatment than this. The fault is his for refusing to go to the doctor for years and years.

Just something to think about. The results you get out of a system are going to be mostly commensurate with the resources you put into the system. Effective management of those resources means a great deal, of course, but low resources with great management still equals crappy outcomes, and low resources usually mean that you don't have the nursing staff, etc, to do the job right.

The politician's proposals for healthcare I have seen are witlessly off on the cost factors. Right now the private sector is subsidizing the public sector, so you cannot assume that you can simply expand the public sector to everyone with the same costs.

Overall, with our aging population, of course we will be spending more on health care than we did. But we can do that in many ways with a decent outcome, as long as we are realistic about what we need to put in. If we are unrealistic about it we are going to cause a huge range of problems.
Teri - no - no VOIP for me! It's awful many times.

Thanks for the prayers - they are much appreciated.

Oh - Jim - if you expand the government insurance to cover the population, believe me doctors will be public sector employees.
Mama, I wish you a very wonderful and blessed New Year!
Here's another, more recent study on wait times in Canada, if anyone's interested.

I found the study interesting because it refers to some others that say Canadian wait times are shorter than the UK's, for example.
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