Under Cover

We, the Baby Boomers, had a variety of role models while we were growing up. These leaders helped us to decide what we wanted to be as adults.

How many young men practiced an extra hour of basketball motivated by the on-court heroics of Dr. J. and the off-court exploits of Wilt Chamberlain.

How many young men and young women entered public service and government spurred by their admiration and respect of Robert Kennedy and Golda Meier.

And how many of us followed the day-to-day unraveling of the Nixon White House so flawlessly executed by the greatest of all investigative reporters, Woodward and Bernstein? We read the book. We saw the movie. Journalism schools reported a glut of applicants. We all wanted to go undercover and land the big one. Well, this morning I finally had my chance.

Like other self-employed individuals, I too am constantly barraged by solicitations from associations that are supposedly representing me in Washington. Each piece of mail included all of the various ways they have influenced legislation, made my life better, will lower my phone bills, get me better insurance, and all they want in return is the $50-$100 dues they have already earned.

Now I don’t mind these missives. Some are pretty amusing and they all fit easily in the wastebasket. One group, however, is particularly annoying. To protect Joyce from legal action, I won’t use their real name.

The National Association of the Semi-Evolved sells health insurance. No, let me correct that, bad health insurance. Over the last five years I have talked to many of their ex-clients. Somehow I got on to their mailing list. About two months ago I made the mistake of sending back a reply card (postage paid) with a dismissive note about their products and agents. This prompted a call from a local supervisor.

I talked with the supervisor for almost a half hour. Actually, I told him to mail me a brochure and I’d get back to him. He couldn’t. More precisely, he wouldn’t. I was ready to just blow him off when he started to make some extremely strange charges about my current carrier, John Alden, and other normal insurance companies. He begged for a face to face meeting in my home, and this was my opportunity to finally be an investigative journalist.

At about 8:40 this morning, a rusted blue van parked in front of my house. The magnetic sign identified the occupant as a representative of the National Association of Sleaze and Expediency. As the rumpled salesman entered my home I felt like I was about to compete with Dan Quayle on Jeopardy.

I had seen so many movies about going undercover and investigative work that I thought I knew what to expect. I was totally unprepared for the boredom. Five minutes into his presentation I had already tired of the half-truths and generalities. He produced a copy of a Blue Cross claim statement and misrepresented what was in black, white and orange highlighter before me. He lied. And when caught in his lie he restated his remark in the form of a disclaimer that would have made a law professor proud.

My lack of patience got the best of me. After thirty-five minutes of sparring I finally landed the knock-out punch. I told him I wasn’t interested in his conveniently handy book of testimonials, I only wanted to see one claim they had paid successfully. Beaten, he recommended that I stay with my current carrier and quickly packed up his stuff. He was careful to grab all of the written information I had been able to drag from him. He left, tail firmly between his legs, his parting shot roughly translated to “Why buy insurance from a company that will pay most of your claim, when you can buy insurance from us and be guaranteed to have half your bill paid?” I was polite. I didn’t laugh until he climbed into his van.

And there you have it. A story of fraud and intrigue equal to the best of Carl Monday or Geraldo Rivera. Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to get washed. He insisted on shaking hands when he left.