I’m working on a contract basis for HHS, taking incoming calls from Medicare recipients with questions about (and to enroll in) the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Leaving aside my feelings about this massive taxpayer-funded giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry…
We have a tool that we’re supposed to be able to use to help people select among the 40 or so regional plans that are available to them. Each of the plans (administered by insurance companies in another massive taxpayer-funded giveaway, but I digress) has to offer the same minimum coverage, so the only real differences between otherwise equivalent plans is which drugs are covered. The tool is supposed to allow us to enter the names of peoples’ drugs and narrow down the plans to those which cover those drugs. We’ve been taking calls for over a month. The first day the tool worked was last Thursday. Which means that for weeks we’ve been telling members of perhaps the most vulnerable and easily confused segment of the population that we can’t help them in making a decision which could potentially cost them thousands of dollars a year if they choose the wrong plan.
So the tool finally starts working, and it doesn’t work the way we were told it was supposed to. It doesn’t actually eliminate any plans; it instead gives an estimated yearly cost for the entered drugs, including full price for any non-covered drugs. This was never mentioned to those of us taking calls. Why? Because no one on the training staff, quality assurance staff or team management staff knew. Because the idiots who designed that shit tool didn’t actually tell anyone how it worked.
Enrollment starts 11/15. No one taking calls knows how to actually enroll people. Because we were never trained. We aren’t going to be trained; instead we’re going to be expected to “wing it.” With 80 year olds who are confused and frightened. We’re going to have to “wing it” because trainers, QA and team managers don’t know how to enroll people either.
We have scripts that we are supposed to use in response to particular questions and situations. Use of the scripts is mandatory and enforced by “quality assurance.” Diverting from the scripts by a single word means failing the call quality. Because it’s better to sound like a confusing robot than to actually explain things in a way that a human being who doesn’t write scripts for the government can understand.
Meanwhile, team managers are writing up call takers because they overhear the word “damn” being used away from the call floor. People are being sent home for being on the internet. And the reason we can’t be on the internet? Because other people working a different contract in another wing of the building can’t be, and management is afraid that they’ll walk through our area (where they aren’t supposed to be), see people online and get “jealous.” People who pre-arrange absences with team leaders get written up for absenteeism. Because writing people up and sending them home and generally stalking the call floor in search of petty rules infractions is so much the better use of managerial time than, you know, learning how to do the job and passing that knowledge on to the people doing it.
Not that I had any great level of morale after having my iPod stolen off my desk (and please, let’s not rehash that here OK?), but any shred of enjoyment of the work, the co-workers, the environment, the whole job experience has been wrung out of me. I hate the job and everything associated with it. If I drove in for my next shift and found a smoking crater where the building used to be, I’d dance a little jig and piss in the hole.