By Hannah Berman

My mother always said that regardless of how bad things are, they can always be worse. She was right. For a long time I thought there was nothing more annoying than a spam call, also known as a robo call. I was wrong.

Several years ago, when I selected my health insurance, I also needed to choose prescription coverage. After many inquiries and much investigation, I made my choice. No longer do I go into a local pharmacy for my maintenance medications. According to the plan(s) I chose, I must now use a “mail away” pharmacy.

That worked well for a while, but things recently changed. Companies often sell out to another company. As an example, I offer the fact that my long-term-care policy has a new name. When I took out this policy it was known as General Electric; it is now known as Genworth. My coverage didn’t change. But my premiums are now exorbitant. (That had nothing to do with the name change of the policy. The premiums for long-term-care insurance have skyrocketed, so I am currently paying three times the amount that I once did.) Sadly, the increase in cost shows no sign of stopping. But that policy and the tremendous hike in cost is not my only problem.

My prescription drug plan also recently changed its name. I have no idea why this happened and I haven’t bothered to inquire since there is not much I can do about it. What was once known as Humana is now called “Center Well” pharmacy. As usual, there are increased costs but that has little to do with the name change. My problem is that Center Well is driving me crazy with their phone calls. I suppose I should be glad that the company is so attentive to my needs because it appears that the company has my best interests at heart and that they don’t want me to get a late delivery of any medication.

However, I am not glad. This is because, on average, I receive four to five calls each week to remind me about something or other. The automated message lets me know that it is time to reorder one or more of my meds. The message also alerts me to the fact that my privacy is of the utmost importance to them. For that reason I need to supply them with my birth year. For starters, at my age, I am not anxious to let anyone know the year in which I was born. But if I want to learn what the message is about, I have no choice. And even this is not made easy. Before I can say my birth year, I must wait and listen to the recorded voice explaining what I should do. The message I hear is as follows: “For instance, if you were born in 1964, just say 1964.”

BRILLIANT! Why anyone would need that useless instruction is a mystery. And I must wait for that message to finish playing before I can give my actual birth year. This takes up another few minutes of my life that I can never get back. These calls are driving me nuts. They are frequent and they are time consuming. Why would they think I don’t know when it’s time for me to reorder? And why would they think I don’t understand how to say my birth year? Do I really need an example of how to do that?

On one occasion I was so disgusted that I refused to take the call. That was a big mistake. It turned out it was the one call that was important. It was to let me know that unless I said OK to a $400 charge for a certain medication, they would not ship that medication, which had been ordered by my physician’s office. ARRRGH. I can’t win. Apparently I need to answer all of these calls despite the fact that nine out of ten are absurd reminders I don’t need.

The worst of it is that these calls also come on Shabbos. My answering machine records all messages in their entirety and I usually don’t remember to turn down the volume on Friday. It was never a problem until now since nobody called me on Shabbos. Now the pharmacy calls any and every day of the week, and all too often my Shabbos is interrupted by annoyingly long and unnecessary messages.

Looking back on it, I now feel that those robo and spam calls aren’t so bad after all. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and can be reached at or 516-295-4435. Read more of Hannah Berman’s articles on


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