Dealing with "Government" in Real Life

Dealing with "Government" in Real Life


Back when I was an intern in the CA Legislature it was sometimes my job to answer "constituent calls" and 90% of the time it was just people calling to complain about something but there wasn't anything I could do to help. 

There are some horror stories in which people just call their Assemblymember or Senator as a last ditch effort to try to get some answers and usually Senators and Assemblymembers get on it and people get helped. 

For example I remember back when I was an intern there was a parent who didn't understand why their child did not get accepted to any of the state colleges he applied to.  He had a 3.9 GPA, was second in his class, did all kinds of community work to help people, played sports, was on the student council, had recommendations from civic leaders, and even did an internship in a political office.  But after graduating High School and applying to Davis, Sacramento State, and about 5 other colleges he got rejected by every single one of them. To every sane and normal person this kid not getting into a college didn't make sense. 

So Senator Wolk's field representatives got on it, started making calls, began emailing the kids transcripts to deans, they began getting called to administrators and voila within a few weeks the kid had a choice of about a dozen colleges to go to even ones he didn't even apply to.  

I am actually glad I have that experience because I know things can and often times do get done.  I also was a phone banker in 2016 and called hundreds if not thousands of homes and listened to a lot of complaints from voters.  Some valid, most not. But some were also just a situation where people didn't like government but understood sometimes government people are just doing their jobs but things sometimes just don't work the way it should. 

People expect other people to do their job, but when they don't it messes things up, other times people doing their jobs fixes a problem without really ever having to do anything.  Anyone who has had the job of field representatives knows this sort of  thing happens sometimes, where government creates a minor problem, but then also government solves it somehow without anyone doing anything.  

Over the last few years this has happened to me and my family.  It's actually quite funny that these things happen, even though it's odd. 

Story 1: We moved to Sutter County from Solano County in May of 2021, but we began the paperwork for this new home in October of 2020 a few weeks before the Proposition allowing you to transfer property taxes to a different county was approved. I looked up the bill that predated the proposition because I was worried about the deadlines associated with the proposition and the paperwork.  We called and talked to a legislative aide who introduced the proposition as a bill in 2018 or so and they told us the correct information.  But the County wouldn't comment about something had not passed yet.  We were worried that we would not be able to transfer the tax because the paperwork began a few weeks before the election and it wouldn't go into effect until the new year.  Thankfully the thing that triggers it is the closing of a home and not the real estate paperwork that predates the closing that you sign with a developer.  The taxes got transferred correctly at some point in 2021 once the Counties got all the procedures down on the new law.  This is government people helping my family in a good way and the state of California helping my family by approving a proposition.  Our tax bill is probably $6,000 less then it would have been without the passage of the proposition. 

So my Dad filed his taxes through a national tax preparer, we got a rebate on the solar panels from the Feds and the State, and everything was fine. 

Then 2022 happened.  Sutter county in 2022 changed their digital software system for paying taxes online.  This is something that is internal to government offices, and there are thousands of homes in the area.  And in the entire county only about a handful of cases were problematic, and only 1 or 2 that was really messed up.  Guess which one was a just "what the hell happened here?" situation.  That would be mine. 

So my Dad looks online and sees the property taxes being just a gigantic mess and makes a call.  It turns out that the County government people were already aware of it, and they had a working group of people trying to figure out how to solve it.  From the IT people, to the Tax people, to records and so on.  It took several months to get solved, and it was solved by the head people in the county who personally did the paperwork old school.  I have nothing but nice things to say about Sutter County, they were incredibly nice and glad we were not angry or upset.  We were just kind of happy that people were trying to solve it.  Now things are good, but it was kind of a lot of phone calls and stuff and the problem being caused and solved without us doing anything. 

So then 2023 rolls on and we get back from Sam's Club one day and my Dad sees a letter from the IRS.  This is never a good thing, and it was a not so nice letter claiming my Dad had like $200,000 unaccounted for.  Which didn't make sense because it was profit from a sale of a home we lived at for over 20 years that was  put into a new home which is legal and not a problem and it was done within two months of closing the sale of the old home the closing of the sale of a new home.  

So my Dad goes back to the people who did his taxes.  It turns out the guy who prepared my Dad's taxes just forgot to submit the house paperwork to the IRS. The files existed, but the guy never clicked submit or something.  So they had to write a letter to the IRS saying it was their fault, and we submitted some more paperwork.  But the IRS people who submitted the letter in the first place was just doing their job.  

And then a few weeks go by and we get a letter back from the IRS saying they received the paperwork, to not respond to the letter, and they apologize for the inconvenience, but they need more time to look into it. The fact we got a letter from the IRS saying "We Apologize" is like one of these things that just doesn't happen, I should probably frame it. 

Then a few weeks went by and we got another letter saying the case was closed and no further action was required.  

But you see how this story is like problems for me and my family by government people even though we didn't do anything, but then problems also solved by government without us really doing anything.  But when this happens (to other people like the voters I called) they can probably feel like government doesn't know what they are doing and can get angry at people. 

But then I think back to what it was like being an intern and I realize this story is just people solving problems that come across their desk. Like some guy at the IRS shows up to work one day, and a computer system or something flags us for having some discrepancy, so a letter gets mailed and a case opened.  Then that person gets paperwork and a letter from a tax preparer, investigates it a little bit and goes something like....Oh yea, honest mistake, no law was broken, case closed.  And then that IRS person is on to solving some other problem. 

Story 2: Now this one is just kind of odd.  My sister lives with me and my Dad, she is on SSI for a severe mental health disability.  She has both Medicare and Medi Cal.  So when we moved we notified the Social Security Office of our change in address and the post office to forward mail.  

So two years go by and we get a letter in the mail saying my sister was being dropped from MediCal, she gets a monthly mental health medication that is about $4,000.  So my Dad starts working the case. 

It is easy to forget that Medi Cal is administered on a County basis in California.  When we moved we forgot (/didn't know we had to) to notify Solano County medical services we were moving so they could transfer the coverage.  It also turns out that Medi Cal letters don't get forwarded to new addresses because its private medical records.  So the letters Solano County were sending that went unanswered never got forwarded so it's just Government people doing their job in Solano County when they just dropped her MediCal coverage.  

Luckily the case is being transferred to Sutter County but Solano County has a big back log of cases and it took a month for them to start the transfer which takes like 6-8 weeks.  And luckily Solano reinstated her coverage which was supposed to last until the end of the year. 

But my sister has Kaiser as an HMO, and as of this month Sutter County through Medi Cal does not accept Kaiser.  When the transfer finally began a few weeks ago it triggered Kaiser to stop having my sister be a member.  

So there were a bunch of phone calls to Kaiser and Kaiser billing, and it turns out we were able to get my sister some of her medication to last until January. But the monthly shot she gets could be administered by anyone and it's due in a few days.

Unfortunately because the transfer is not complete yet she can't just get it administered through Sutter county services because she's not official yet and there's no case number for her as of yet because it's not complete. 

But you know how I said Kaiser is not an HMO option for Medi Cal in Sutter County as of today.... Well... That's true, but also maybe a little bit of a lie.  Because supposedly there's some kind of Medi Cal change that occurred in Sacramento recently that will allow people already with Kaiser through Medi Cal to keep Kaiser once they move into this County, but that goes into effect January 1. 

But that doesn't quite help my sister this week get her $4,000 monthly mental health medication.  (this medication really helps my sister) 

So we are going see if Kaiser will give her a shot as normal in a few days, and hopefully they can bill Medicare or MediCal directly.  But it's not like we have an extra $4,000 to pay out of pocket this month to get reimbursed next month for it. 

The odd thing is that this is the right and normal way of just trying to deal with mental health in CA.

If my sister was "In crisis" which she currently is not, she would go to into an emergency room and there's an entire different set of rules and regulations and billing that occurs in that kind of setting. She would get her medication, be treated, and then recover to her sense or normalcy until next time. 

But right now she's more or less her "normal" self and not "in crisis".

But at the same time this situation is kind of bonkers.  How can someone with a severe mental health disorder like my sister who is on SSI, Medicare, and MediCal, somehow get dropped by her HMO, while also exist in some kind of MediCal transfer limbo. 

But you can see how this is just sort of people doing their jobs and things being off for some reason.  Kaiser drops my sister because she's not in Solano anymore and Sutter is outside of their coverage. Solano dropped my sister because they didn't get an answer from letters that never got forwarded to us. The case hasn't been completed so Sutter can't help.  So if we do get Kaiser to give my sister her medication as usual, they might try to bill us for it since there is like nobody really to bill for it.  

If they send the bill to Solano they might go "she doesn't live in this county anymore, not our problem" but if they send it to Sutter they might go "she doesn't have a case here yet and Kaiser is outside our area, but won't be in two weeks" 

Both are technically right answers. 

But still, someone who has both Medicare and Medical who has a regular monthly mental health shot for the last 6 years or so shouldn't somehow just be dropped or not covered. 

But this really isn't anyone's fault it's just people doing their job and it will/is getting fixed. 

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