Foot in Mouth Disease
Many years ago I was appointed to my first school position and I was very happy to learn new things and progress down a different road. I had two interesting encounters in my first year that taught me how damaging foot in mouth disease can be.
The first happened after it was announced I would be taking the job but before I left my position as City Controller. Ok an aside for a second, by law in Indiana the chief financial officer of a second class city in Indiana are called controller, as opposed to the more traditional term comptroller. The difference represents the political nature of the job. In their wisdom our legislators distinguished this by using the word controller.
Alright back to the story. So when I was Controller a vendor came into office and asked if he could visit with me. So I invited him in and he related that he was familiar with Marion Schools, the place I was going, and he proceeded to tell me how dysfunctional it all was. I listened for about a minute and I asked why he would say such things? His answer was that he was doing the former financial officer at Marion schools a favor by telling me all his former troubles. I told him to return to his sender and tell him his mail was not accepted. Well I was not quite that calm. Let’s say I was a little more animated in my refusal. The sales person wanted assurance that this would not ruin our future relationship. He was doing about $200,000 a year in business, with the school. I told him I never wanted to see him again. I last saw him getting on the elevator wondering what had hit him. My opinion was how dare he come to my office and talk badly about someone who was going to be paying me. I never saw the guy again; the company thought better of sending him around for a second discussion. I am sure his commission went down a bit.
The second time is even more awful. In my first few months I was tasked with the obligation to locate a new health insurance company for a small group of employees. The group had only about 100 employees. I was in that group and this would have been my first big decision.
A young sales person came in for an interview and he was telling me about his health insurance product. He progressed to a point where we started talking about potential benefits. He said in his plan offering we would avoid the high cost of those “people who use a lot of benefits”. I asked who those people would be. So for my edification he started naming them. The list included diabetics who had the disease prior to plan initiation. At that time it was legal to exclude such person.
So being curious I inquired further. What sort of things do diabetics cost the plan? He mentioned heart disease, and eye issues, lots of supplies and limb amputation. After a few minutes of blabbering on about the cost of sick people his plan would not cover. I stood up and told him that we don’t treat employees like and the words came tumbling out.
I informed him that I had friends with heart conditions and that he could take his plan and place it in an unusual spot. I told, not asked him to leave and I followed him out the door, complaining with vigor at a very loud decibel. By the front door the young man was almost in tears and I followed him out to his car. At the car as he was getting in, I said something to the effect that he needs to check out his audience before he proposes such nonsense.
Three days later I got a call from the young man apologizing. I said for what? He really didn’t know so I told him to have his boss call. He did in about 2 hours and it was a guy I had worked with for years. He said the salesperson was shaken and was thinking about quitting. I assured him he was fine so long as never showed up at my door again. As we talked the manager said you have Diabetes don’t you? I said yes and of course now someone had done some investigation and they knew why I was so angry. Something they should have done well before they sent that young man or anyone to visit me.
The thing is, it is surprising how many folks really foul up from foot in mouth disease. The second lesson is to hope that the people looking out for you really do. Had I purchased that plan something like 1/3 of the employees on it would have been disenfranchised for their most pressing issues. Things like Cancer, Heart Disease, Asthma, would have been not covered because of prior identification of the illness. Yes thanks in part to legislation and employer preference plans like this no longer exist. There is an old saying in public administration, you cannot legislate good or common sense. It is up to us to be sure and call out the bad when we see it and apply pressure to make change when we are being told to accept it.
I pray we never see plans like this again. Just like these two fellows I will probably never see again and I assume they are happy they will never see me again. LOL