As Gregor Samsa Awoke One Morning From A Night Of Uneasy Dreams, He Found That His Insurance Company Had Put Him On Hold Again.

September 6, 2012


Here is a completely true, unembellished (okay – there’s one embellishment.  See if you can spot it!) account of our attempts thus far to procure a breast pump through our insurance company, who we’ll just call Federated Kafkaesque Insurance.  A company who appears to believe very strongly that there’s not much you can’t just “walk off,” and that people get too hung up on material things.


A friend says to be sure and tell our insurance company that we’re wanting a breast pump, because that’s usually covered.  Great! We say.  We’ll give them a call.  Outside, dark clouds roll in as deep, mocking laughter echoes from the very ground.

My wife calls the insurance company to ask if the cover breast pumps.  Yes, they say.  They will cover it for 3 months.  The way it works is we purchase it, and then they reimburse us.  “Wait,” my wife says.  “Which is it?  Is it covered for 3 months, or do we purchase it?”  “Yes,” the insurance agent says.  “But which?”  “You buy it, we reimburse you, and it’s covered for 3 months.”

A second agent clarifies: if you want to rent it for 3 months, you can, but you need a prescription.  Or you can buy it and we’ll reimburse you.  You don’t need a prescription for that.

“Hello, medical supply headquarters.  Do you carry Brand X breast pump and do you take Federated Kafkaesque Insurance?”  “Yes to both.” “Hurray!”  “Yes.  And there is a branch office in your town; you need to call them.”

Who knew that in addition to a board game, it was also an effective business model!

*calling the local branch office* “No, we don’t take FKI.”  “Yes, you do.  I just talked your headquarters.”  “Right.  They do.  They’re in a different county.  We don’t.”  “But you’re the same company.”  “We’re in a different county.”  “Can you get it from them, then?”  “No.”  “Can I get it from them?”  “No, because you live in this county.”

Next call: *Long explanation of the troubles thus far.*  “Hold on for a moment.”  *pause* “Okay, I know exactly what needs to happen, your troubles are over.  The office right next door carries the pump and takes the insurance. Let me just transfer you over.”  *click*  “No, we don’t carry that.”  “But the person I talked to is next door.  She said she walked over and got the information.”  “Well, we don’t.”  “Can you transfer me back?”  “We don’t have that capability.”  “But she just transferred me to you.”  “We don’t have that capability.” *hangs up*

Tch. It’s waaaay over there! If only there were some sort of device to help me make the long trek, or a place to rest en route…

“Hi, I was referred to your medical supply company.  Do you carry Brand X Breast Pump?” “Let me look in the computer… No, we carry Brand Y.”  “Oh, well, does it have features A, B and C?”  “I don’t know.” *pause* “Could you check?”  (clearly irritated)  “Well, no.  In order to do that, I’d have to go all the way out to the floor and physically look at the product.”  “Oh… I see… um…”

“If I drive to city Z (3.5 hours away) and physically purchase Brand X breast pump from this company, will it be covered by insurance?”  “I think so.”  “That’s a long drive for ‘I think so…’”  “It should be covered.  Yes.”  “O…kay…” We have yet to be able to find out where this company is and when it’s open.

And the saga continues…

**Did you find the embellishment?  That’s right!  There was no dark clouds & evil laughter coming from the ground.  The laughter just sort of echoed from out of nowhere.**

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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74 Comments on “As Gregor Samsa Awoke One Morning From A Night Of Uneasy Dreams, He Found That His Insurance Company Had Put Him On Hold Again.”

  1. Hippie Cahier Says:

    I blame the economy. This is what happens when unemployed stock traders and banking executives are forced into customer service positions. (Good luck!)


  2. Jamie Says:

    haven’t read it yet. best title so far.


    • Jamie Says:

      okay, I’ve read it, and on your behalf: argh. and to Hippie C, I must say, this has been happening for a lot longer than since the economy went to hell. it’s all sort of part of the “hey, it’ll all be good if you just let the ‘invisible hand of the market’ run things” sort of approach to economics. but the invisible hand is picking your pocket, and squeezing your nuts, or ovaries (but not if that helps, because it’s not covered), plus it’s typing things on my keyboard, that sound a lot like populist rants. the invisible hand is up to no good. that’s all I’m saying.


  3. Life With The Top Down Says:

    Labor is sure to be a breeze after all this nonsense! I’m so proud of your wife for not going into a hormonal murderous rage, but if she does, I will testify at the trial that it was justified. Just go on Amazon and call it a day.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      It’s become something of a line in the sand at this point. Our insurance company are masters of sneak. “Yes, it’s covered, but you’ve got to find the breast pump. It’s hidden.”

      I had to get some old fillings replaced and, yes, they said they covered that. Then we got the bill and it explained that, oh, I got the standard tooth-colored fillings? Oh, no that’s not covered. I needed to specifically request the cheap, ugly fillings that don’t work as well.


  4. 1pointperspective Says:

    I work with a ton of women, many of whom have had babies and many of them have bought breast pumps, and I have never heard of a breast pump being covered by insurance. Other than that, I deal with insurance companies on a regular basis. Needless to say, if your premium is more than 15 seconds late, there will be hell to pay, but when it comes to the money (or as they like to call it “benefits”) flowing in the opposite direction, they turn into incompetent passers of the buck.

    As far as the degree of evil they are capable of, please refer to Progressive Insurance’s recent public relations nightmare.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I was surprised, too. We both have the same insurance, so our double-coverage enables us to get the Super Platinum Deluxe Cadillac level insurance plan, which in theory covers everything… but they’re exceptionally skilled at sneaking they’re way around the semantics, making things more difficult than they’re worth so you give up, and deciding what is and isn’t medically necessary.


      • 1pointperspective Says:

        I stroll blissfully through life under the impression that I have good insurance. A little voice in the back of my head tells me that I only feel that way because I’ve never actually gotten sick,.


      • Love & Lunchmeat Says:

        Yep, this is exactly it. You can have your breast pump covered… as long as you don’t mind investing 57 hours in various phone calls with 89 different people… but the medical grade pumps really are better than the ones you’ll find over at your local baby store. It’s how much your wife really uses it (or doesn’t use it) that makes that time worthwhile. And every conversation will begin with, “Can I speak to your supervisor please?”

        I believe you can also buy separate attachments, and rent medical grade pumps… Oh, and the number one key to nursing success…. Don’t let the hospital nurses scare you into giving formula. They’ll try, but babies nurse way better when they’re actually hungry! Good luck to Mrs. Byronic!!!!!!

        P.S. All rants should include Kafka references. Outstanding!


  5. Shala Howell Says:

    I don’t know where you & your wife are going to give birth (or if you already have), but we just bought our breast pump through the hospital the day we left. They had a little cart that visited all the labor and delivery rooms with supplies (some necessary and some merely sentimental) so that the parents could get all those thousands of things we feel are necessary to make it through the first months. We ordered a breast pump, my husband went out to pick it out, and voila. You might ask your OB or call the Labor / Delivery department of your intended hospital to see if such a system exists there. Or a Lactation Consultant.

    If you’ve already given birth, you might try just asking some of your friends with 1 or 2 year old kids what they did with their breast pump and if they would let you borrow it for a test run. I say this because I breastfed my daughter for 15 months, and used the pump for about 2 weeks. I hated pumping. It was slow and ineffective and frankly I didn’t feel my baby-feeding factory needed the extra business.

    On the other hand, one of my friends pumped exclusively for several months. So pumping apparently works for some people. It would be good to know which camp your wife is going to fall in before you get too stressed out about all this. I’d hate to have you two go through all this crap just to end up with a backpack’s worth of worthless technology mouldering in your office closet.

    Good luck!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      The funny part is, I left out the conversations with “Panicky, Doomsaying Lactation Consultant.”

      That’s good advice about the Delivery Department. We’re such planners, though, I’m not sure we’d be able to keep from flipping out. Plus my wife is hoping to get a little head start. Stockpile.


      • Shala Howell Says:

        If I had to do the years of baby coma over again, one of the things I would do differently would be to set up a super easy & secure system for saving things like birth certificates, car titles, deeds to the house, loan info (student & mortgage & car), bills, tax documents, and the other million and one fiscal/legal details of living that march on regardless of how much sleep we’ve gotten in the last 24 hours. Even just a series of baskets in which to drop important tax and/or legal documents, bills, and checks in as they come into the house for sorting later would have helped.

        We bought a new car and closed on/moved into a new house all within a week of having The Five-Year-Old and while that stuff is all nicely organized _now_, I could have saved myself many hours of unnecessary stress had I put the system in place before The Five-Year-Old arrived. The first tax season post-baby coma was more of an adventure in hunting and gathering than I would have liked.


  6. Go Jules Go Says:

    Nope. Can’t spot it. There is nothing about this that sounds remotely untrue/embellished. My favorite part (and maybe this is it, actually): “In order to do that, I’d have to go all the way out to the floor and physically look at the product.”

    This is yet another reason why pregnant women should be able to drink without consequence.


  7. Kate Says:

    Maybe we’re approaching the problem the wrong way. You don’t need a helpful company, you need a helpful phone operator who is good with the google and getting the manager to make exceptions. Just start calling large-scale call centres at random and seeing if someone knows the deal…maybe start with your phone and/or internet provider and go from there. If that doesn’t work, you do / or will soon have a first born to offer in exchange for said breast pump…


  8. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    You just gotta love customer service. Good luck to you both.

    “Can you transfer me back?” “We don’t have that capability.” — I wonder what other abilities they lack.

    “Well, no. In order to do that, I’d have to go all the way out to the floor and physically look at the product.” — Oh, the humanity! To get off one’s lazy ass and move one’s legs and use one’s eyes, how awful.


  9. speaker7 Says:

    See I can’t see how there is one embellishment because this sounds like every experience I’ve ever had with insurance companies. Isn’t it wonderful? I’m so glad we didn’t cut out the middleman and go to a single-payer health care system, then we wouldn’t have this awesomeness.


  10. Anastasia Says:

    When did you move to Saudi and start using my hospital?! Welcome!


  11. Elyse Says:

    It’ll be much better once we have a voucher system. Trust me.


  12. Blogdramedy Says:

    I’ll trade you your search for a breast pump for my search for a simple shower head. It’s kind of the same thing… 😉


  13. Fish Out of Water Says:

    Nope, no embellishments. Sounds about right.


  14. She's a Maineiac Says:

    This story is 100% true, I’m sure of it.


  15. susielindau Says:

    The breast pump capers… Mine won’t cover an epi pen for bee stings. ($220) Luckily, last night when I got stung for the 4th time this summer, I pounded the Benedryll and survived! I hate insurance companies.


  16. bharatwrites Says:

    Your title deserves a ‘like’ of its own. On the whole the post is really funny!


  17. Angie Z. Says:

    Way-more-information-than-you-need-and-not-the-point-of-this-post alert — I do volunteer fundraising for a breastfeeding support nonprofit in my area. I’m not sure about insurance payments, but this nonprofit has been hit hard by Medicaid cutting its funding toward breast pumps. It might be similar guidelines as insurance, but our state Medicaid now only covers the first three months of a pump if it’s deemed medically necessary — so the baby has to have either health issues that would make breastfeeding more important or the mother has to have severe supply issues that would make it imperative for her to get a hospital-grade pump to establish her supply. I think they need a prescription for a hospital-grade pump. It’s all so very confusing. Three months seems to be the universal cut-off.

    In more relevant news, Mouse Trap also doubles as a breast pump.


  18. shermangerherd Says:

    I don’t know who to blame….maybe you should stop fooling around at night, then you would not need a pump?


  19. Remediator Says:

    I think you should have used the real names of the insurance company and the medical supply houses you have contacted — they don’t deserve to be protected by anonymity. And has anybody mentioned that the customers of these businesses are by definition at least a little bit incapacitated? Don’t these customers actually need above average service in their time of need, not the worst? I think it is a terrorist plot — the reason the medical supply house person couldn’t go out and physically inspect the product is because she was actually sitting in a huge office park in Yemen.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      That would be a pretty ingenious plot – destroy America by driving everyone insane via bureaucracy.


      • Paul G. Eberlein Says:

        Hey, it destroyed the former Soviet Union…they had so many bureaucrats, the system collapsed under its own weight. Or was it the limitless supply of vodka? Flash! Fermented potatoes are great nutrition for the unborn…


  20. Carrie Rubin Says:

    The joys of dealing with insurance companies. Of course, you know how this story will end, don’t you? You’ll drive the 3 and a half hours to get the pump, and the thing won’t be covered. Might as well prepare yourself for the inevitable.


  21. Audrey Says:

    And here we thought regular run-of-the-mill health insurance could be a headache. Get into the wide world of breast pumps and it’s an all-out nightmare! Keep us posted as the saga continues…


  22. mylifeisthebestlife Says:

    Good luck and god speed. I was never able to convince my insurance to cover ours. So we just went out and bought the Cadillac of breast pumps, to later learn that the Offspring only liked to drink straight from the tap.
    Breeding is fun.


  23. thesinglecell Says:

    Um… am I the only one who things its super-creepy to RENT a breast pump?


  24. thesinglecell Says:

    SIgh… THINKS. Not things.


  25. madtante Says:

    And it’s all such BS. The United States set up national health care for war-torn Europe in the 1940s. We could figure it out before the internet. Now? Too difficult.

    My boss who just got sacked with all of middle management says COBRA is like over $1000 a week (for his family). I say, insure yourself. It’s cheaper but he didn’t ask me. People used to making money can learn from war-torn or low class folks.


  26. mlleallie Says:

    Oh man, this definitely gave me a laugh! Insurance is always a good time…


  27. thefoodandwinehedonist Says:

    Boom Boom couldn’t breastfeed because the twins were preemies. It was a bummer because Ive always dreamed of living in the Playboy Mansion and having topless women around the house. This was the closest I could get. My advice – just buy it and if u get reimbursed consider it a bonus. As you progress through parenthood you’ll end up blowing more money on absolutely ridiculous stuff.


  28. Paprika Furstenburg Says:

    If they give you the runaround long enough the baby will be on solid food and you won’t need the breast pump. I think that is their ultimate goal.


  29. mistyslaws Says:

    And now I am happy that I was never told that breast pumps are covered by insurance, because in my hormonal pregnancy state, I probably would have murdered someone.

    I know this is probably really weird, but I seriously still have my breast pump from a few years ago, and I would happily send it to you if you want to pay for shipping. It was a pretty expensive Medela, paid around $400 for it back then. It still works as far as I know. You would just have to buy a supplement kit (runs around $30 at Target/Babies R US). If you want to chat about it, just email me. mistyslaws at gmail dot com.


  30. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    I “Like” this, but motsly in that “I want to punch someone in the face” kind of way. Aurgh.


  31. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    I “Like” this, but mostly in that “I want to punch someone in the face” kind of way. Aurgh.


  32. benzeknees Says:

    Even in Canada where we have universal health care, breast pumps are not covered, you have to buy them yourself. All kinds of free advice on breast feeding though, but no help for you to do it. It’s sort of like smoking here – the government spends a fortune on encouraging people to quit smoking, but they will not give you a penny towards any of the quit methods (prescriptions, patches, etc.) & the insurance companies are the same way. Even though we have universal health care, most of us have supplemental insurance to cover ambulance costs, dental costs, prescription costs, etc. The insurance companies will only cover a minor amount of any method to help you quit. I know this is now completely off topic,but in a way it’s the same thing. Good luck with the pump, never used one myself.


  33. Carol O. Says:

    Well, I’m so old I actually used a manual pump.. even at work.. in the rest room.. of an otherwise exclusively male autobody shop. EEyah… but daughter would need lunch (her sitter was just up the street) –and I needed to get ready for her suppertime.. however (thank God for howevers, right?), that very daughter just had her own baby girl, and there were no easy answers about electric pump cost and insurance, etc., but I can reassure you that the pumps come with all new fittings, etc — so, don’t be ooked out. All this is only one of the thousands of things you’ll both do for that little Byronic, and will realize with astonishment that you would so easily have added walking on blazing coals to any preparations, if you thought it might bring a sigh of peace to the little one. 🙂 This is getting exciting — hope you don’t have too much longer to wait!


  34. pegoleg Says:

    The only thing that could possibly be more hysterically frustrating than your conversation with the United Behemoth of Idiocy Insurance Company, will be when you get a chance, in the near future, to call the Einsteins staffing your Friendly National Governmental Healthcare Agency.

    “Press 1 if you have breasts, press 2 if you have been informed that your application for acknowledgement that you have breasts via Form H-237234BR completed in triplicate has been approved by your state DMV, press 3 if you need approval to have breasts in Spanish, press…”


  35. earthriderjudyberman Says:

    Paprika Furstenburg nailed it. Some insurance companies just make it more and more difficult for people in the hopes that they’ll give up and go away. They want your premiums, but they don’t want to provide service.


  36. Eireen Says:

    I don’t envy you. Honestly.


  37. Count Zero Says:

    Get yourself a good insurance broker. They will whip those pesky insurance company drones in line in no time.


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