We’re all familiar with the economic reasons for either doing-away with
Social Security or at least allowing part of one’s Social Security contributions to be invested by the
worker, much as he or she is able to do with his or her IRA’s, or as most federal, state, and local government
employees and railroad workers can do with their pension plans.
Here’s one more reason for privatizing social security. My wife and I are
both retired. The health insurance coverage that my wife and I have is obtained through the teacher’s union
and the school system where my wife worked until her retirement. Both the city and my wife contribute to
cost of the insurance premiums. Late last year, we received a notice from the city that the part of our
health insurance coverage which was equivalent to Medicare B would no longer be subsidized by the city.
Instead, we had to apply for and obtain Medicare B coverage, starting the following July. It was also
required that we have the Social Security people notify the city of our being covered under Medicare B.
In early December 2011, I contacted the Social Security Office which happened to be
located in Jamaica, New York. I was told that I would have to fill out some forms and mail the forms back to
their Jamaica, NY office. The forms were mailed to me. I filled them out and sent them, via registered mail,
back to the Social Security Office. The registered mail receipt showed that the completed forms were received
on 29 December 2011.
Since my wife and I were going out of the country from mid-January through
Mid-February, I called the Social Security office in Jamaica, NY before leaving to ascertain the status
of the Medicare B applications and to make sure the city where my wife had worked was notified. The Social
Security telephone system is automated and is one of least consumer friendly systems that I have run across.
After a few frustrated tries and many minutes of waiting, I managed to reach a human. I explained the
reason for the call and proceeded to provide a mountain of information that was required to guarantee
that I was indeed the person who I claimed to be. The agent at the other end of the phone line checked
on the status of the applications and reported that she could not find any information concerning the
applications, but that since the applications had been submitted just a few weeks earlier, it was probably
too soon for the applications to have been processed.
After returning home from out trip, I again called the Social Security office
in Jamaica, NY on 2 March 2012. Again, I waded through the prerecorded useless information on the phone line,
trying to reach a live person with my inquiry. The automated phone system hung up on me. I called back,
went through the useless information a second time and, after several wasted minutes, finally got to the
point where I could request to speak to an agent. By the way, trying to enter “0” to reach a live person
instead of wading through automated messages does not work with the Social Security phone system – neither
does shouting “help” into the phone! A recorded message informed me that they were busy and I would have
another 10-minute wait, or, I could opt to have Social Security call me back. I chose the latter option.
Ten minutes later, I received a call from Social Security. I went through
the tedious verification process again and then explained why I was calling. Again, the agent informed me
that there was no record of the applications submitted by my wife and myself being processed. I said that
I was surprised since the applications had been submitted more than 2 months previous and I knew that the
applications had been received by Social Security, since I had signed receipts showing that the registered
mail had reached their office on 29 December 2011. This time the agent said that the applications probably
had not been acted upon because they had not arrived during the official enrollment period of
1 January 2012 – 31 March 2012, i.e., I had sent the applications in two days “too early.”
I was dismayed – why hadn’t the first person I talked to back in
December of 2011 told me this? Why hadn’t anyone at Social Security bothered to notify me that they couldn’t
accept my applications because I had submitted them 2 days too soon? Since the application had been received on
29 December 2011, the Thursday preceding the New Year weekend, why couldn’t the Social Security people
simply put the applications into the system on the following Tuesday, 3 January 2012, right after the
New Year holiday weekend? Did anyone down there have the intelligence or the desire to service their
clientele or did they simply “go by the book” and avoid doing anything else until their retirement
I told the agent on the phone that I would resubmit the applications and asked,
if there were two sets of applications in the system would it create confusion. He said it would not – I’m not
confident. Will they also notify the city of our Medicare-B status as I had requested? I doubt it.
If this were a private company instead of a government agency,
would its customers have received the same treatment? Would a private company remain in business if they
treated their customers in a similar fashion?
This is just one more reason to privatize social