Wednesday, January 25, 2017

HIPAA Critical, Part II

Does anyone have the number for the idiot or idiots over at HIPAA that I can send my gas receipt to? I just had to drive across town to Son Number One’s pediatrician for a special office visit so that he could get his own health care web access all set up... you know, because he’s twelve now.

When you turn twelve these days, at least in California, you’re medically independent. For everything except the bill, that is. The bill they still send to me, even though I’m not allowed access to his medical records anymore. Funny how those HIPAA folks made a nice loophole for actually collecting the money and all.

Why did I have to drive all the way across town? Well, they want to make it so the twelve-year-old has their own personal user name and password-protected access to your health care plan’s website, but ironically, you can’t set that up on the website. You have to physically go to the doctor’s office and bring the actual twelve-year-old with you, so they can repeatedly ask why they had to come if they’re not having an appointment. Do you know why you, as the parent, have to go, too? Because twelve-year-olds CAN’T DRIVE, that’s why!

As if this galactically stupid monumental waste of our time is not asinine enough, the poor doctor’s assistant, who has approximately two bazillion better things to be doing, has to go through the ridiculous process of showing the twelve-year-old all the fun features of the new website he now has access to. The guy actually tried to show my son how to set up an appointment. My son and I looked at the guy with the exact same blank stare.

My stare meant, “Are you being $#&%’ing serious right now?”

My son’s stare probably meant, “Can I change the background image to a dragon?”

Prior to that, the guy had actually asked my twelve-year-old what he wanted his user name and password to be. Here’s how that would have gone if I hadn’t been in the room:

“What would you like your user name and password to be?”
“Your user name. Right here. What do you want it to say?”
“I get to choose??”
“Cool! Make it FlamingNinjaDeathRay.”
“All right. How about a password?”
“I dunno.”
“It has to have at least one number or character.”
“OK. Make it FlamingNinjaDeathRay2000##**##.”
“All right. You’re all set.”

Thirty seconds later

Me – “What happened in there?”
Son – “I got a website.”
“Yeah, I have a user name and password.”
“OK. What are they?”
“SamuraiDeathFlame, or something.”
“Is that the user name or the password?”
“I dunno. I’m hungry.”

Since I was in the room, we now have a user name and password that one of us will remember. Now my big grown-up twelve-year-old can finally take charge of his health care, as it was always meant to be. I logged on for him when we got home. (Don’t tell HIPAA.)

While I was on his amazing new health care web access portal – which looks exactly like the one I have, just conspicuously without the ‘Bill Pay’ option – I noticed that the doctor’s office had two online forms that they wanted my medically-independent son to fill out, since they sent them to his new account that I’m not allowed to have access to.

The first questionnaire started like this:

Please answer the following questions. It will help your clinicians spend more time discussing those specific issues that concern you.

Please list all medications, vitamins, inhalers or supplements your child is currently taking:
Actual answer – None
What his answer would have been – I don’t understand any of those words.

Please list your child's medication or food allergies, if any:
Actual answer – None
What his answer would have been – Cough syrup, peanuts, cauliflower, mayonnaise, carrots, and celery.

Has your child had any major medical problems since his or her last check up?
Actual answer – No
What his answer would have been – I have a wart on my toe and my dad is freezing it off and it hurts like crazy when he puts the cold thing on it, but I don’t know when my last checkup was and I don’t know when I got the wart and I also skinned my knee really bad playing kickball.

At that point I stopped reading the questionnaire, deleted it, and went ahead and changed his password without telling him.

I’ll bet you folks at HIPAA never saw that one coming. I’ll send you the gas receipt. And just so we’re clear, you can reimburse me, not my son.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I Have a Dream - A Father's Version - Part 2 - Repost

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past Monday, I thought I would revisit my old “I Have a Dream” posts. I wrote this one six years ago, and unfortunately, much of it still rings true today. The only real difference between then and now is we no longer have diapers, the sippy cups have been replaced with easy-spill open-top plastic cups, and the six-year-old is now a twelve-year-old, so he can eat two chickens instead of just one. We really do need a raise and a giant refrigerator!


Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. It is a Father’s Dream.

I have a dream that one day the people at Lego will take pity on my bare feet and finally round the sharp corners on their little plastic blocks.

I have a dream that one day my sons will pee in the toilet, instead of peeing on and around the toilet.

I have a dream that my sons will begin to think about putting a toy back where it goes, instead of throwing it over their shoulder when they’re done with it, or when they hear, “Dinner.”

I have a dream that eventually the daytime decibel level in my house will drop below the equivalent of a rock saw being destroyed by a jackhammer on a freight train.

I have a dream that one day we will be able to get my four-year-old tired enough that he will sleep past 5:30am.

I have a dream that someday soon my sons will be able to get out of bed, no matter what the hour, and go poop or get a drink of water without having to tell me about it.

I have a dream that I will change my last diaper on my child before I am old enough to need them myself.

I have a dream that the people who predict college tuition levels to rise 250% over the next 15-20 years have actually been smoking crack, and college is really getting cheaper.

I have a dream that somewhere, out there, there is a sippy-cup manufacturer that can actually make a container for milk that doesn’t leak when turned upside-down and slammed on the table by a two-year-old.

I have a dream that someday I will walk into my office and not find that my computer login name has been changed to bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbAW#4e5c by one of my sons randomly pushing buttons.

I have a dream that one day, taking the boys with me on an errand will not automatically add 45 minutes to that errand.

I have a dream that I will never again hear the words, "Daddy, help! I fell off the toilet while I was peeing." That I will never again have to deal with the cleanup of that unfortunate incident.

I have a dream that I can someday stop having to explain to the 911 dispatcher that my son was just playing with the buttons and they do not need to respond to my cell phone’s location.

I have a dream that a pharmaceutical company somewhere will eventually produce a safe and reliable children’s tranquilizer for short-term knockouts, so that we parents may sign escrow documents, or talk to the bank teller, or read the paper in peace.

I have a dream that someday I will hear about what actually happened at school, instead of hearing, “Nothing.”

I have a dream that the next call I receive from the principal will be to congratulate me on something outstanding my son did, instead of to discuss another “incident.”

I have a dream that someday we can find a food group that all five members of the family will willingly eat, besides bacon.

I have a dream that my three boys will somehow moderate their food intake to fit my budget, and not eat the entire contents of the refrigerator in one day. My six-year-old can eat a whole chicken, so I guess… I have a dream that someday soon food will get a lot cheaper, and giant refrigerators will go on sale.

And when this happens, I will sing:

                Free at last! Free at last!
                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Because teenagers clean up after themselves, are better behaved, quieter, and eat less, right? Right!?!

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whoops, We HIPAA'd your TDaP

I’m confused, California. I just want to make sure I’m perfectly clear on what’s happening here...

I have a son in the sixth grade, attending a public school in our great state of California. Next year, if we’ve paid off the right people, he will go on to the seventh grade. Our public school district, operating in and under the authority of our great state of California just sent me, his parent, a notice about his immunization requirements for school. What?

The letter starts like this:
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, continues to threaten students in California. To help stop its spread, all incoming 7th graders are required by law to have proof of a whooping cough booster (TDaP) vaccine, or file an exemption, in order to attend classes this year. Students will not be allowed to attend classes without an immunization or medical exemption signed by a physician.

Then you guys ask me, his parent, to please submit an immunization record for him. You see, this is the part that confuses me. He’s twelve, for goodness sake. You know he’s twelve because you know his birthdate, and you’re in charge of teaching him algebra, so I assume you guys can also do birthday math. So why are you sending this letter to me?

Don’t you remember the letter that your HIPAA folks sent me a few months ago when he turned twelve? Do your HIPAA people and your school district people not talk to each other over there?

How in the world am I supposed to tell you anything about his immunization record? Your HIPAA department just informed me that I don’t have access to his medical records anymore now that he’s all grown up, being twelve and all.

By the way, how old are your HIPAA people over there? I have to assume they’re all over one hundred and fifty years old. Is that why you chose the ripe old age of twelve? Because the people writing these laws are all from the good old days when everyone left the farm at twelve to get a job and needed to prove to their new employers that all their liniments, tonics, and salves against consumption and winter fever were up to date?

Anyway, if you want to know about his immunizations, you’ll obviously need to talk to him. Which leads me to the next thing I’m curious about. Are you just tired of having anyone over the age of twelve attend school?

Students will not be allowed to attend classes without an immunization or medical exemption signed by a physician.

So, in case you’re slow on the uptake, let me recap this for you. You told the twelve-year-olds that their parents aren’t in charge of their medical decisions anymore. Then you told them that they have to do a medical thing or they can’t go to class. So, what you did there was tell twelve-year-olds that they are now in charge of deciding whether to go to school or not.

I would assume you school district folks have met twelve-year-olds before. You must see the problem here. Or do all your old-timey HIPAA people just want them to go get jobs? I can’t figure you guys out.

Speaking of that, there’s one more thing in this letter that I can’t figure out. I don’t mean to get all logical on you or anything, but you started the letter by saying that whooping cough continues to threaten students in California. Then you said to help stop its spread, students are required to have proof of a vaccine, or file an exemption?

So, just so I’m clear, one of the ways you plan to stop the spread of whooping cough is by collecting vaccine exemption letters? Was there even a meeting on this, or does Phil in the back cubicle just write down whatever the hell comes into his head and then sends it out to the parents?

Again, not to get all logical on you, but the only way that makes any sense is if the non-vaccinated kids are required to carry their exemption letters with them at all times to hold in front of their faces when they cough. Since my twelve-year-old regularly forgets to carry anything that isn’t physically attached to him, I don’t see that plan working.

Anyway, good luck getting my son’s vaccination records from him. He doesn’t know the name of his doctor, the name of his doctor’s medical practice, the name of our insurance provider, his insurance plan number, the telephone number to any of the aforementioned offices, the fact that he even has a vaccination record, or the name of his school district.

Basically he knows the name of his school and the exact time of each recess.

But I think everything will work out fine, you know, because he’s twelve now.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Crash Boom Bang

Sing to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song. (For those of you under 40, Gilligan’s Island was a show about a bunch of people who could have easily gotten off an island if they had just killed and eaten Bob Denver. I assume you can YouTube the theme song.)

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from a snowy town,
and ended in a ditch.

The driver was a mighty steering man,
his wife worried and unsure,
three passengers in the back,
for a six-hour tour.
A six-hour tour.

The weather started getting rough,
but the Suburban was going straight,
if not for the driver of the sliding Nissan,
we might have made it out of the state.
Made it out of the state.

The Suburban landed in a ditch,
on an uncharted stretch of road,
with Ron the tow guy,
Tow Truck Chuck, too,
the state trooper and his car.
Now the passengers,
the driver and his wife
are all at the Shilo Inn.

Yes, we started the New Year with a bang. Well, first an expletive, then a bang, then a ricochet, then a crunch, followed by eight more simultaneous bangs as all the airbags in our Suburban deployed. Good times.

I’ve always been comfortable driving in the snow. I was born and raised near the Sierras, one of the biggest, baddest mountain ranges known to man. I understand what chains and four-wheel-drive can and can’t do for me. I actually kind of like driving in the snow.

So when it started snowing heavily on our way from Grants Pass, Oregon to Crescent City, California on Monday afternoon, I didn’t sweat it. I just put the Suburban in 4WD, slowed down, increased my following distance, and powered through the curves. My wife was not as relaxed. She’s the smart one.

I think it was the first car that was upside down on the side of the road that made her worry. And when I say upside down, I mean literally sitting on its roof in the ditch.

How? Why? What the hell is the matter with you people?

Oh, well. Some people just can’t drive.

Hey, look. There’s a pickup truck UPSIDE DOWN in the ditch.

Hmm... two cars sitting on their roofs within a mile of each other.

Now, for some people, that might have been a warning. Not me, though. I just shrugged and said, “They were probably just going too fast.”

My only precautionary thought on the whole drive was, “I wish this was a divided highway. I know I’m not going to screw up, but what about the oncoming traffic.”

Dennis, who used to drive a black four-door Nissan sedan, was on his way home at the same time we were on our way to Crescent City. Unfortunately for us, Dennis was one of the cars in our oncoming traffic. And unfortunately for everyone involved, Dennis had successfully talked himself out of stopping to chain up, since he was only a few miles from home and had made it this far.

Then Dennis stopped making it any further and slid into our lane.

The lady in front of me in the Lexus SUV was able to avoid him by driving into the ditch. I tried the same maneuver, but didn’t have quite enough road or time to get it done. About a split second after I swore loudly under my breath, we hit the little Nissan almost head-on. The ‘almost’ was probably the key to how well things went after that.

I had started to dive off the road, so I hit him with the driver’s side headlight area of my Suburban, pretty much square in the middle of his front bumper. Thankfully, that sent us ricocheting into the ditch instead of continuing through his car. We went twenty feet down the bank and slammed into the snow, which deployed all eight airbags. It was loud.

(FYI, airbags smell like metallic gunpowder and make the inside of the car smoky, which my wife does not like in the least.)

Amazingly, the five of us, Dennis, and his passenger all walked away without so much as a scratch. Given the fact that we hit hard enough for airbags, and the entire front of Dennis’ car was missing, we all considered that nothing short of miraculous.

Now, if you’re going to crash into Dennis and then into a ditch in pretty much the middle of nowhere on US-199 in Oregon, I highly recommend mile post 19, because that’s where Dave lives. Dave was checking on us before we were all out of the car. Dave was directing traffic and setting out flares right away. Dave was on his cell phone calling the state patrol for us before the airbag smoke had settled. Dave even opened up his shop for us so my wife could sit somewhere warm. Dave rocks. Dave got beer money.

Another perk to mile post 19 is Cheryl’s Bar and Grill. Unfortunately, Cheryl wasn’t open at the time, but her bar and grill has a covered porch that is really handy in a heavy snow storm. It sure beat spending three hours standing in the forest.

When crashing near Grants Pass, I would also recommend Caveman Towing. Besides their really cool logo of a caveman dragging a car with a rope, Ron and Chuck are pros.

When getting a cheap room late at night in Grants Pass, I would also recommend the Shilo Inn. Sure, the hallways smelled like mildew, but the room didn’t, the bed was comfy, and the boys loved the make-your-own waffle machine at the complimentary continental breakfast buffet. Also, its proximity to Caveman Towing and Enterprise Rent-A-Car make it a convenient choice.

I tentatively recommend Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Grants Pass, only because of the wait. The service was excellent, but apparently everyone in Grants Pass rents cars when it snows. Who knew? The perfect Suburban in the parking lot was unfortunately reserved, but the Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn four-door pickup with the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI and 8-speed automatic transmission was up for grabs. Mine!

When shopping for a tarp to cover a Suburban’s worth of soft-sided luggage, pillows, blankets, shopping bags full crap, etc. in the back of a Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn HEMI in a snow storm, I highly recommend the Grants Pass Bi-Mart. The 10’ x 18’ medium-duty outdoor tarp is perfect for the job, and on sale right now for $9.97.

And finally, when the two coolers you thought would hold the tarp down on I-5 fail to do their job, I highly recommend the Ace Hardware in Rogue River, Oregon. They sell 40-pound bags of wood chips for $6.99 that perfectly match the woodchips under your play structure at home. Nothing does a better job of keeping your all-weather tarp snuggly protecting your luggage than two hundred and eighty pounds of mulch.

One thing I certainly won’t recommend... meeting Dennis the way we did. Stay safe out there, folks, and remember: If the little voice in the back of your head is saying “I don’t like this,” or your wife is sitting next to you saying the same thing, it pays to listen!

Adios, Suburban. We’ll miss you, but I guess it’s time to go car shopping. Maybe I can leave my wife at home this time. That HEMI really had some get up and go...

What’s that my little voice is telling me? Never mind. Probably not important.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!