We like to believe, as the phrase goes, that we’re not “just a number.” And more importantly we don’t want to be treated like we’re “just a number.” I sure feel that way and I bet you do too.
Years ago, before all the initiatives and changes in health care – none of which I aim to debate here – I worked a short time at a temporary job with a health insurance company. It was a miserable place for me. My work was clerical and repetitive, the environment was abysmal, and I think I’d been naive beforehand, because I’d never seen quite so clearly the words “just a number” in action.
This company processed a staggering amount of claims and paperwork. And this was when paperwork was literally paper. Employees had great piles of forms falling all over their desks, some more so than others – things could get fairly sloppy. Papers went missing. And I don’t know where the blame for this lay, but there was a big issue with duplicate claim forms – finding duplicates was part of my job – in that the same claim might have multiple case numbers assigned it, making it appear as different claims. I’m sure that gummed things up.
I had no clue an insurance company worked like this. The volume was dismaying. The work flow was far from polished. And speed was encouraged. It was the handwritten notes intended to motivate employees tacked to the outside of the work station partitions that really got to me:
WE NEED 20,000 CLAIMS PROCESSED BY NOON!!
Geez-o-flip. How depressing is that?? There was no uncertainty here. People were numbers. In a scary way. Sometimes I’d think about the poor person who’d filed a claim and had no idea what went on behind the scenes. Probably better they didn’t know.