Breaking News: There Are Idiots Everywhere

, , , , , , | Legal | May 29, 2020

My dad told me this story, as one of the strangest events he had ever witnessed in his life. At the time, he was visiting the US from Australia and had decided to go to a cafe for his morning coffee. The main road the cafe was located on had been blocked off and cleared by the local police for a bicycle race coming through the area.

There were signs everywhere, traffic cones, and policemen blocking off intersecting streets. But somehow, a car managed to get through the barriers, or partway through, and ended up stuck on the road. This all happened right outside the cafe, so my dad got front-row seats to the bizarre debacle that happened next. 

A policeman approached the vehicle and tried to explain to the driver that she had to turn around, as the area had been blocked off in anticipation of the race that was about to come through. To my dad’s astonishment, the woman completely ignored the policeman. She wouldn’t even roll down the window; she just pretended like she couldn’t hear him.

The cop got more and more frustrated, repeating louder and louder that she needed to turn around to keep the road clear, and she just continued to ignore him. It got to the point where the cop pulled out his gun and pointed it at the woman — something which completely shocked my dad because it would have been illegal for an Australian cop to pull out a gun under the same circumstances. But even with a gun aimed at her at point-blank range, and the owner of said gun yelling at her to get out of the car, the lady still ignored him!

Finally, the cop ended up using the butt of his gun to break the window, and only then did the driver acknowledge his presence. Just when my dad didn’t think things could get any weirder, the crazy lady got out of the car and started berating the cop for breaking her window, insisting that he was going to have to pay for the damage.

She was arrested, of course. The whole thing was so absurd that my dad could barely rationalise it; it almost seemed like a parody sketch or a prank of some kind. My dad joked that he had half a mind to go up to the two of them after all that to thank them for the entertainment they had put on for the tourists and ask where he was supposed to pay.

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Insuring Instant Karma For One Dirty Agent

, , , , , , | Legal | May 16, 2020

I work in Medicare insurance, getting people coverage through part C and part D. My job has many, many rules, and serious consequences for breaking them. One caller’s situation stands out.

She called in the middle of February, distraught, because another agent had called her and signed up for a new plan. 

This — in the first minute of the call — was my first red flag. It is illegal for a Medicare insurance agent in Wisconsin to cold call anyone, as well as to enroll them in a new insurance plan on an outbound call; agents can only ever enroll people who called them.

After sign-up, she’d run into trouble getting her prescriptions refilled, so she’d wanted to talk to her agent again. She’d spent more than a week trying to get in touch with him and had eventually found my number, thinking that my office was Medicare itself.

My office’s name does have Medicare in the title, but we always immediately clarify that we do not work for the government.

My workplace has an unusual approach to callers: no matter what they called about, spend at least ten minutes helping and continue to help for as long as they need. We are a sales office, but we’re paid hourly and our commission is negligible in order to support this behavior.

I start asking questions and track down the plan she’s been signed into. My first bit of good news is that it’s a plan that I’m contracted with; I can pull up the full contract and can figure out the answers to every one of her questions, but with every question she asks, my internal alarm bells chime a little louder.

Insurance agents are supposed to be responsible to their customers. Whoever this other agent was, he left her not knowing most of what she needed to know; he’d effectively bullied her into changing and then left her high and dry.

The medicine issue was actually coincidental; I told her what she needed to tell her pharmacist to clear things up but asked her to stay on the line and answer a few more questions, and I checked to make sure her family doctor was in the network of her new plan.

He was not, and the other agent had not even told her that changing plans would have restricted her from seeing him. This could have cost her thousands of dollars!

That medication issue that sent her to me saved her from an untold amount of hassle. The plan change could only go into effect at the beginning of the next month; the new plan wasn’t in place yet, and we could overwrite or cancel it just by submitting the paperwork.

I did one last piece of digging. Election periods are the times of year that a person is allowed the opportunity to change their coverage. If this other agent had submitted a change, what had he used? He hadn’t mentioned this to my caller at all. A quick rundown of options left only one answer. The other agent had used an election period called OEP to change her coverage.

OEP is effectively an emergency exit at the start of the year for when someone finds out that their plan is not suitable to their needs. Agents are prohibited from advertising or even mentioning OEP on calls; the customer must request a change or express distress before OEP can be brought up. Using OEP without the customer knowing or even understanding what was being done? Egregious.

So, I go through the paperwork with her and get her signed back into the plan that she had originally, and I give her the appropriate phone numbers to check up with her plan to ensure that she won’t have any trouble. But before we disconnect, I have one final errand for her.

I give her the phone number of the Commissioner of Insurance of the State of Wisconsin: the regulating body responsible for cracking down on bad insurance agents.

Let’s run it down, shall we?

Cold-calling a Medicare insurance customer, uninvited? $25,000 fine. Per person, if he’s called others.

Enrolling her on an outbound call, willfully signing her up into an unsuitable plan, and abusing OEP? Forfeiture of license, along with twice the value of any money they hoped to gain by doing this, plus a $5,000 fine and up to three years in prison. 

That’s three counts of it, mind you, so up to six times the money he tried to make, a $15,000 fine, and nine years in prison, and probably being banned from insurance work in the United States for life.

If he’s done it to one innocent old woman, he’s probably done it to others. I will never know the fallout from the case, but knowing the tools at the Commissioner’s fingertips, I’m reasonably confident I got a swindler his comeuppance.

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Underaged And Overspoken

, , , , | Right | May 13, 2020

My younger sister has gotten a hold of my twin sister’s ID. At seventeen, she uses our sister’s ID to buy cigarettes as we are eighteen and old enough to buy. Our mom makes sure the closest gas station knows our little sister is underage so she can’t buy cigarettes there and has to go out of her way to get them.

Today is the day before our little sister’s eighteenth birthday and we’re buying drinks at the closest gas station.

Cashier: “And how are y’all doing today?”

Little Sister: “Great! I turn eighteen tomorrow!”

Cashier: “Awesome! Happy birthday!”

Little Sister: “Now I won’t have to use my sister’s— I, uh, never mind.”

She runs out of the store.

Me: “Now she can stop using a fake ID.”

The cashier and I laughed over her almost admitting to breaking the law. She never did get in trouble for using that ID and busted it back out to buy alcohol after my twin and I turned 21.

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This Is Why You Should Only Break One Law At A Time

, , , , , | Legal | May 10, 2020

I am driving to work one morning and get stuck in traffic near the interstate exit lane. The lady behind me tries to switch lanes but hits my rear bumper. I get out and inspect the damage. There’s enough to justify exchanging insurance information. The lady who hit me gets out.

Lady: “Don’t call the cops!”

Me: “I need a police report for my insurance.”

In retrospect, I smelled alcohol, but the accident plus the rush-hour traffic have me more focused on exchanging information without getting killed than putting two and two together.

Lady: “Don’t call the cops! I’ll pay for the damage!”

Me: “Lady, I don’t know you from Adam. I can’t take your word for it.”

Lady: “I swear on my kid’s lives, I’ll pay for the damage! Please don’t call the cops!”

The police roll up without me having to call them because, you know, it’s rush hour and a huge line of traffic is conspicuous.

Policeman #1: “Please return to your cars.”

I get in my car and watch the following unfold via my rearview mirror: [Policeman #1] talks to [Lady]. He makes a call on his walkie-talkie. Another police car rolls up. So far, I don’t think anything strange is going on. 

Then, an unmarked police car rolls up. Then, a second unmarked car rolls up and a policewoman gets out. All the while, a lot of talking is going on with [Lady]. The policewoman handcuffs [Lady]. [Policeman #1] walks up to my car. After checking my license and registration:

Policeman #1: “You’re good to go. You can pick up the police report tomorrow after 9:00 at the downtown office.”

Me: “Oh, uh… Will that have her insurance information in it?”

Policeman #1: “She doesn’t have insurance.”

Me: “You’re kidding.”

Policeman #1: “No. She doesn’t have insurance. She just got off her shift at [Bar]. She’s driving on an expired license. In her mother’s car. Which has an expired plate and registration. That, plus she’s DUI, means she’s going to jail.”

Me: “So… I guess my insurance will have to cover this one.”

Policeman #1: “Yep.”

I end up going to her court date. I am still mad that someone could be that irresponsible. I am told to meet with the prosecutor and let him know I am there and why. I walk into an eight-by-ten office packed floor to ceiling with paperwork. There are at least four other guys in that office all working furiously.

A very haggard-looking attorney looks up at me and says, with a sigh:

Attorney: “Can I help you?”

I explain why I’m there, and he gets a puzzled look on his face, which I like to interpret as “Huh, an actual concerned citizen,” but could also be “What a dufus; I’m busy.”

Attorney: “You can go. We don’t need your testimony. She’s got some other stuff going on. She’s going to jail for a while.”

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The Ups And Downs Of Roadtripping

, , , , | Legal | May 7, 2020

I’m roadtripping with my mom and step-dad from my home in Florida to their home in Vermont, along with my best friend. We’re on the last leg of the journey and I’m driving while everyone else is asleep, as it’s around six or seven.

The roads are familiar to me but I’m not used to driving over hills, so when I crest a hill at speed, I’m unable to slow down enough before crossing into the construction zone on the other side.

Of course, I’m immediately pulled over, though I try to be as smooth about it as possible to not wake everyone else.

Officer: “License, registration, and insurance?”

I hand them over.

Officer: “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

Me: “Speeding in a construction zone. Sorry, sir, I’m not used to driving over hills.”

At this, the officer does a double-take at my Florida license, then walks behind the car and takes a good hard look at the Florida plate, and then walks back up to the window and hands back my documents.

Officer: “Is your destination close?”

Me: “Yes, sir. Next town over.”

Officer: “Carry on. Drive safe.”

Me: “Thank you, sir.”

I drove off just as my passengers were stirring from the talking and lack of car movement. I told them to go back to sleep and then later regaled them with my short tale of how being a silly Flatlander got me out of a nasty speeding ticket.

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