Your Answers To Our Questions Won’t Have A Negative Impact

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“This call is for Donald Forrester” is a strange beginning for a telephone conversation. I started to hang up, but before I could do so the “automated attendant” with a male voice asked, “Are you Donald Forrester?” He then added, “Say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. The automated attendant then linked his identity to my primary health insurance carrier. “We only need a brief moment of your time for a few survey questions. Your answers to our questions will not have a negative impact on our provision of your health care coverage…”

Out of curiosity, I wanted to ask, “Why then are you calling?” but technology related to “interactive voice response” is often limited. Seriously, how interactive can a robotic telephone conversation really become? I ask that, but I’m often amazed at the skill set “Siri” has in understanding what I say and knowing what I mean. I haven’t tinkered with my new phone to determine if I have options related to choosing a voice sound in negotiating inquiries or getting directions. On my last phone, I was able to opt to have the sound of an “English butler” provide directions. It was a nice contrast to what I sometimes experience firsthand when someone else is riding with me.

For example, the General and I invited our daughter and son-in-law to go to dinner last night. We opted for Trattoria Lisina, an Italian food restaurant in Driftwood. The ambience of the restaurant is always inviting, the food is excellent and you can negotiate getting most of the way to the location on a two-lane back road highway. Isn’t that the formula for a reduction of stress and a very pleasant evening? I know that you’re thinking, “Yes”. I would have thought so as well. However, from the sound of the back seat I heard my daughter using her mother’s voice, “Your driving is scaring me to death. You are going to get us killed.” Twenty seconds later, the second assault came, “You need to let Kevin drive. You are all over the road.”

I generally try not to personalize such disparaging comments, but honestly it was a dramatic overstatement of our circumstances. We were not in imminent peril. I have been driving for many years and plan to drive for many more. God help the person(s) who ever decide it is time for me to relinquish the car keys. Of course, the General couldn’t help herself. She re-enforced my daughter’s mistaken assessment of my behind-the-wheel prowess by saying we had ridden with another couple to Fredericksburg on Sunday. She found the ride most enjoyable because the driver paid attention, traveled at a uniform rate of speed and was not all over the road.

Where is the sound of an English butler when I need one? For one thing, a butler (who was worth his salt) would never question the ability or wisdom of the one for whom he worked. He certainly wouldn’t have gotten out of the car at the restaurant saying, “You either let Kevin drive back or I’m calling a cab.” I was amused. I had not idea that my daughter was good at stand-up comedy. Good luck at finding a taxi in Driftwood.

Getting back to my interactive voice communication with the “automated attendant” asking questions on behalf of my insurance carrier, he wanted to know if I considered my health condition “excellent”, “good”, “bad” or “grave”. Actually, I immediately made my choice between excellent or good and didn’t listen to the other options. I chose “excellent” as my response. However, you’ve got to hand it to me, the term “Grave” is pretty funny. Grave would have been a good choice of words to reflect a “red alert” for my health insurance company.

Suggesting that any “confidential answers” I provided to my health insurance carrier ‘s automated attendant survey would have no adverse impact on my health insurance coverage was outrageous. If I believed that, it would be synonymous to voluntarily waving my “Miranda Warning” rights. You know the drill, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”

Last year, my State Farm Insurance representative subtly tried the same approach. He suggested that since I seldom drive my truck, I could get a discount on my auto insurance if I allowed them to equip my truck with an electronic device. Through the use of technology, the device would allow State Farm to monitor my mileage. Of course, the device would also enable them to monitor my rate of speed and other aspects of my driving. While I absolutely deny that the General or my daughter’s assessment of my driving has value, I’m certainly not going to mistakenly open myself up for a computer to also make a faulty value judgment.

The automated attended wanted to know, on a scale of 0-10, if in the last 30 days health issues kept me from functioning in regular day-to-day activities. Choose the number that highlights the level of difficulty. I honestly answered, “0”. My vision has been impaired for the past 30 days, but I’ve still got one good eye. I sometimes cover the good eye with one hand while I’m driving just to check on the progress I’m making with the other. I’ve still got a ways to go. If the vision in both eyes were impaired, my driving would scare me to death. As it is, all is good. I guess you could say, “I’m good to go.”

“On a scale of 0-10, in the last 30 days, were there times you needed assistance to fulfill personal care and hygiene needs?” Are you kidding me? I brush my own teeth. Just for grins, I started to answer, “Depends”, but opted to select “0” instead.

I passed the litany of physical health questions by truthfully selecting “0” as the most appropriate response. My health is excellent. I was a little surprised when the survey questions then turned to “mental health” questions. Seriously, who in their right mind would answer a health insurance survey by acknowledging they couldn’t get out of bed in the morning because they were depressed?

Most folks think I’m a little crazy, but I passed the mental health questions with flying colors. I selected “0” related to impairment from regular activities because of mental health issues. I was out of bed by 5:00 a.m. this morning ready to find the adventure in a new day.

Actually, I am thankful for excellent health. Too often I simply take it for granted without realizing many don’t have the same opportunities.

All My Best!

Don

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