Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.


For quite some time, I’ve been anxious all the time but didn’t think anything about it as just about everyone I know is anxious right now (thanks a bunch SAG), but over the past few days I’ve started to have panic attacks.

Panic attacks, in case you’ve never had one, are like a fight-or-flight reaction gone horribly wrong. It’s that thready adrenaline rush you get when you almost have a car accident or the plane drops 1,000 feet without warning crossed with the screaming heebie jeebies of a horror movie. Times 10. For some reason, mine seemed to be much worse at night, to the point that I was averaging about three hours of sleep.

So yesterday, I went to see the doctor and he prescribed some medication (which I won’t name because if I do I’ll get several hundred spam trackbacks), plus some different sleeping pills since the ones I had couldn’t stand up to Captain Midnight Freakout. When I stepped across the lobby to fill the prescription, the pharmacist told me that my insurance had been cancelled.

This was unexpected, to say the least.

We have to work 300 hours per semester in order to keep our insurance, but any excess hours can be put into a bank so that if we do come up short for some reason (like being out of work for four months because of a strike), we can pull hours out of the bank so as not to lose our insurance. Right before the writer’s strike, my bank was completely full, and I did get some work during the semester, so I figured I’d qualified and when I didn’t get anything in the mail I thought they were just being slow about sending me the new cards and forgot about it.

Turns out, I didn’t work enough hours and had to pull out of my bank. This, I’m learning, does not happen automatically – they send you a letter asking you if you’d like to pull from your bank and guess who didn’t get hers?

Yup. I never got the letter, so I never even thought to call and ask about my status. Also, as it turns out they don’t send any kind of notice when they cancel your insurance. They just kick you off.

The pharmacist has clearly dealt with this problem (and the accompanying outburst) before. She just calmly told me to give them her fax number and fax over that form that I never got in the mail so I could sign it and they could restart my coverage.

Which they did, and then I sat and waited for them to fax the pharmacist back letting her know that all was good and she could fill my prescription.

And I sat. And sat. And sat.

Finally, I called the office back and reached a very frazzled-sounding woman who informed me that they might or might not be able to do it that day, basically told me to fuck off and then hung up on me.

Normally, this would have bothered me, but I wouldn’t have started to cry.

Which, of course, is exactly what I did. Right there in front of a dozen people in the clinic’s lobby.

I hate it when I start to cry. Some women manage to just look sad and kind of moist, but not me – my face gets all red and blotchy, my nose starts running like a faucet, and I get these hiccups which make it impossible to speak coherently.

I guess it worked out, though – as I stood there by the window of the pharmacy, blotchy and blubbering and hiccuping the pharmacist gave me the prescription, charged me the normal co-pay and told me that they’d call me if Motion Picture hadn’t updated my status by late this afternoon.

Now, I’m an adult and I’m certainly not asking to be mollycoddled by an insurance company, but what the fuck?

Why couldn’t they just send me a notice informing me that I was going to be dropped? Or how about one of those creepy automatic phone messages? One of those would have been great (“Hello _health plan participant_ this call is to inform you that your _motion picture_ insurance will terminate on _July first_ unless we hear from you about your _bank of hours withdrawal_. Thank you”), and I hear those autodialers aren’t all that expensive.

The postal delivery in Los Angeles isn’t quite as reliable as we’d like, so there’s a chance the bank of hours notice that I was supposed to get is sitting in the mailbox of some abandoned house somewhere, or being digested by the mailman-eating pitbull on the next street over (he doesn’t eat the actual letter carrier, he just chases them and then when they drop the bag full of mail, he eats that. He’s also developed an immunity to pepper spray. And people wonder why I don’t get my mail half the time).

I should be considerably more upset about this than I am, though – if the insurance company decides not to update my info until, say, next Thursday, I’m going to get a bill for the full price of the medication and the doctor’s office visit, but I’m pretty calm right now.

I’m also calm about the news that martinis are now off-limits (as is all other alcohol) while I’m on the meds. Since I do love a good martini, this should make me sad, but somehow it doesn’t.

Guess that means the medication’s working.

Filed under: Non-Work, , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Responses

  1. sal says:

    Arg! Sounds nightmarish. Hope you’re feeling OK. Makes me think that no matter how people complain about the NHS, at least we can what we need without all this insurance malarkey

  2. meg says:

    You have to start looking for the letter sometime in June (before the plan deadline of 30 June,) the one that lists who you worked for, and qualifying hours. If you don’t have enough hours to qualify, then you can pull from your bank, and then later you have to replace those hours. But -you- have to take the initiative. Shhhhh, there there, it’ll be okay……

    Peggy sez: The problem is that I never got that letter. Didn’t they used to pull hours out automatically?

  3. D says:

    I remember getting one a year or so ago. I know it seems like one thing after another this year with one “creative” guild after another striking or threatening to. I’m tired of thinking about it and it’s starting to piss me off. You seem a little more stressed about it though. We’ll get through this one and then it’ll be smooth sailing for a while.

  4. Peter says:

    Learn to make yourself cry on demand, that way you’ll have a big advantage in dealing with bureaucracy.

  5. Catherine says:

    I got panic attacks when I was in my 20’s and it just SUCKED ASS. Explaining/describing it is rather a bitch, as well. (Isn’t it at least good knowing what it is, though! The first time it happened, I hadn’t a clue on Earth, thought I was meeting my untimely demise. I thought, wow, death is frightening. No wonder people are a bit wary.) I feel your pain, friend, and hope you’re over it quickly.

  6. JCW says:

    My poor baby,

    Although I can’t speak to your specific circumstance regarding coverage notices, I do know what it’s like to find out you’re not covered when you should be.

    Word of advice regarding martinis: You may indeed still have them – do not pay too much mind to what the doctor says about drug interaction… they tell you the same thing no matter what anti-anxiety or anti-depression drug you’re on.

    However – if you were an expensive drunk before, you may find that you are a cheap drunk once the medication kicks in.

    In other words – for some folks alchohol has a greater effect on them while they are taking meds – so just don’t drink and drive. Have a drink or two before bedtime at home and see how it affects you.

    When I first went on Prozak YEARS ago, I was issued a similar warning. I thought to myself “Gee! I can get high much more inexpensively!”. No such luck. In my case, the alchohol interaction was non-existent.

    Not that I’m pushing the booze – but most folks I know have not become the sloppy, passed out drunks they were warned about due to meds.

  7. nezza says:

    I’m with Sal. We may moan about our NHS, but although it’s perhaps not as a good as it was, it’s not that bad…

    Sorry you had to have that happen though. *sends a hug* I’ve been having issues with anxiety lately – especially at night. My head has ended up feeling so weird I’ve thought I was having a stroke or something a couple of times. Extremely unpleasant.

    Ref your mail – could you get a PO Box?? Although, I guess you have to pay for that, so you still can’t win can you?

  8. Wen says:

    Peggy, I think they did used to automatically pull hours out of your bank so that you wouldn’t have a gap in coverage. My fuzzy brain seems to remember they did that for me 5 or 6 years ago…

    Since you’re calmer now, call Motion Picture on Monday and make sure that your coverage is retroactive. This may actually involve several phone calls and that martini you’re not supposed to have…

    Good luck missus!

  9. I’ve never understood the infuriating illogic behind the Health Plan’s insistence that we must authorize them to pull the hours required from our bank in order to retain medical coverage.

    What the fuck?

    I’d always assumed this would happen automatically, until I got a notice informing me I’d come up 170 hours short, and would have to authorize The Plan to draw those hours from my bank. (This was back in 2002.) The only good thing to come of that was in reading the fine print, I learned that if you come up short on hours due to being on disability (and can prove it with EDD statements), The Plan will provide something like 40 hours per disabled week towards your qualifying period. In my case, I’d been out 4 months after shoulder surgery — so The Plan re-upped me for another six months of medical coverage without touching my bank at all.

    Useful information, that — but it doesn’t solve the problem of each individual member having to authorize The Plan to draw from our bank of hours. This should happen automatically, with The Plan required to notify us exactly how many hours were drawn from the bank, when they were withdrawn, and how many hours remain.

    Given the increasingly unreliable nature of the Post Office, maybe Nezza’s right — a PO Box would at least minimize the potential for lost mail.

    Hope the meds are working, and you’re feeling better.

  10. Charli says:

    I hope new meds lets you sleep. My apt doesn’t have a/c and this new found heat makes it interesting at night, have a fan, but really, that’s not enough.

  11. rickfle says:

    I lost my MPHW policy as a result of the strike, and I’m now paying for insurance (with two dependents) for the first time in fifteen years. At least you’re a daily crew person and had a fat bank. I’m a musician and I had only 150 hours left in my bank in April, so with no work from Dec to April I was doomed from the moment the strike was called. I don’t remember when hours were automatically drawn from the bank. In my time, at least, it’s always required an authorization. I do remember when banked hours could be transferred from person to person, though. That could have saved some of us from falling off the plan this time around. Oh well…

  12. Jen says:

    If you’re on the medication that I think you’re on (which I was on for 6 months), the only reason you aren’t supposed to have alcohol is because it raises your tolerance for alcohol through the roof. So go ahead and have a martini – just don’t be shocked when it does absolutely nothing to intoxicate you.

    If you want to ask questions about it from a person who’s been on it, feel free to e-mail.

    I’m glad the whole insurance fiasco smoothed out and that you are not running around without insurance. For some reason it’s a lot worse knowing you don’t have it than it is when you don’t have it but think you do.

  13. geekhiker says:

    *sigh* Sorry to hear of your troubles. Medical coverage in this country, in all it’s silly, overly-complex forms, is such a crock. Glad you had an understanding pharmacist, at the very least. Hope the calmness continues and, of course, that you’ll be off the meds and back your regular old self in no time. :)

  14. Darryl says:

    I just remembered something. I’ve been on SRI’s for years for obsessive compulsive behavior (more mental than physical) and one drug I was on amplified the effects of alcohol to the point where all I wanted to do was drink. It was AWESOME. Until I went to a family Christmas party at the inlaws and got lo-ho-hoaded and loud and made a couple of comments about a painting a girlfriend of a nephew had given to my rich aunt-in-law and my wife had to carry me out. I soon after changed medications (but I still drink a little).

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