Lenten Thanks, Day 7:
I thank God and my lucky stars for my insurance coverage through The Hartford’s reasonably priced AARP program, which has covered almost all the damage from last fall’s hailstorm. The dollar amount added up to far more than I could have paid to repair the air conditioning, the roof, and the eaves.
Two other small financial mercies have developed in the past couple of days.
Wellcare, the carrier for my Medicare Part D insurance (that’s the part that covers your prescription drugs, in a half-baked way), decided to inflict coupon books on its customers instead of sending monthly statements. The reason for this expensive extra hassle is unclear; the stated excuse is that it’s somehow cheaper to send one weighty box of shrink-wrapped books than twelve single pieces of paper.
I wasn’t looking forward to this development, because it looked like just another way to try to force people who dislike having to waste money on postage and envelopes to grant the insurance company access to their bank accounts. Wellcare doesn’t like it when you go in from your end to send payments through your bank’s bill-pay system; they want to get your bank account number so they can engross payment from their end at their convenience. Which ain’t a-gonna happen. Several times over the past year I’ve had to hassle with some clueless CSR when the company has accused me of delinquency after my payment had cleared the credit union a month in advance of the due date.
So when this new wad of paper landed in the mailbox, I quietly cursed again. Ripped open the envelope. Dug out a pair of scissors to hack off the plastic that they’d wrapped this stuff in. Read yet another set of complicated instructions for how to fill out yet another set of forms…
And lo! What should I come across but an opportunity to cover the entire year’s premiums in one payment!
Hallelujah! When I signed up, they explicitly refused to accept a full year’s premium with a single payment. Management must have had a change of heart. Either that or the government is forcing them to offer a full year’s payment option.
They don’t offer any discount when you pay them upfront, the way a normal insurer does, which is annoying. But at least one monthly nuisance is obviated.
Unlike Medicare B and Medigap insurance costs, Part D premiums are not large—only about $23 a month. And they’re only letting people pay through December, so that’s just $230 or so. The cost is low enough that I could easily advance it from the tax & insurance self-escrow savings. When my tax refund arrives in another month or so, I’ll reimburse that account and maybe even set aside enough for next year.
So! That frees up $23 a month from the nondiscretionary budget! Hey! A shirt or a pair of jeans a month from Costco. 🙂
And then yesterday, another small miracle: When I go into my online bank accounts to reconcile this month’s gaggle of transactions, what should I discover but a new tab: “e-Deposit.”
Say what? The credit union’s management has personfully resisted letting customers deposit checks electronically since the idea was a glimmer in some technofinancier’s eye. So what’s this?
Check it out and find yea, verily: they’ve instituted a system that lets you scan checks to disk and deposit them online.
Naturally, the whiz-bangiest part of the feature, which allows you to use their system to scan and upload in one swell foop, doesn’t work with the Mac, nor does it work with wireless scanner/printers—not even if the printer is plugged into your terminal. However, they have a work-around: simply scan and store as JPEGs and then upload those.
I haven’t tried this yet. We’ll see if it works, as soon as some money arrives in the mail.
Most of my clients insist on sending checks. Google’s automatic deposit function doesn’t work, forcing me to have Adsense send payment as paper checks, too. This is a huge nuisance, because the credit union has few branches. Years ago, they closed the one that was relatively close to my house, so the nearest place to deposit checks is on the the Great Desert University’s west campus, a far piece off my beaten track. To deposit checks, I have to waste an enormous amount of time and gasoline.
Mailing checks to the credit union is out of the question. The last time I mailed a fistful of checks, the credit union lost over a thousand bucks! They finally found the checks, six weeks later, just as I was calling my clients to tell them to cancel payment. Of course, since Google employs no human beings, it was impossible to reach them, so I figured I would just have to write off that one as a loss. Thus the only way to get paper checks deposited safely is to physically carry them to the branch, walk inside, and watch the teller to be sure she manages to get it deposited in the right account (some of them have some real difficulty figuring out corporate accounts). It’s a time-consuming and, at $3.50 a gallon, increasingly expensive hassle.
So, I hope this system works. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it does—the credit union’s software dislikes Firefox and loathes Apple, and so chances are it will choke on the first JPEGs I send over there. But it’s a nice thought.