How to Make Money

Go on. Take the cream off the top. Everybody’s doing it.

WHEN I STARTED building my house on the coast of Argentina, I thought I had the money for it. I had most of it, at least, and could cover the rest out of my earnings. But I’d failed to calculate the capacity of the foreman in charge of the project to skim off the top. He took here; he took there. He and his coworkers, aka his cohorts, would underestimate the time for putting in the windows or putting on the roof. So they’d call to say they had to clock in more hours. They’d underestimate the amount of materials and, well, we’d have to head out to buy more.

In the thick of it, I dutifully coughed up more money and gave the foreman and his cohorts my support. The foreman asked for more. I gave more. I didn’t know about his shady practices of selling the materials bought in excess, of working at other sites while clocking in time at mine, and of overcharging for materials and pocketing the difference. But as the project dragged on my money ran out even as the foreman bought shiny new shoes and a Peugeot 206. My bills became harder to pay. Credit cards maxed out. And pretty soon we were scrapping to get by. I stressed out and the pressure led me to think of a drastic solution. Rob a bank maybe?

In the end I chose to stop building my dream house by the beach. I’m honest. I like to play by the rules. And I have no training in robbing banks. The bank teller, no doubt, would look at me and say, “Are you for real?” And I’d say, “Well, no. I was just kidding. Sorry.” And the cops would slap me on the wrists and say, “Son, it’s not funny to pretend to rob a bank.” Or tell me to come to them first for an insider’s route to get the money, with a healthy cut for them and the true possibility of a lynching for me.

My bank robbing thoughts soon ended. I wised up and fired the foreman and took control of the project. I stamped out the thievery, recovered financially and finished the house. And we moved in and lived there for two glorious years. We still visit whenever possible and spend our summers there.

Me a bank robber? Wow, those certainly were desperate times.

My memories of those days resurfaced this week. I’m not strapped for cash, or not more than usual. No, it’s because I’m getting slowly robbed. No, it’s not another foreman. This time it’s my health insurance company. Analyze what they do and it’s a lesson in how to make a lot of money. My son has autism. His treatment is expensive. Admirably, the government covers the costs. But I pay out of hand for the services and then request a reimbursement from my health insurance company. They in turn collect the money from the government. And here’s the hitch. They reimburse me 75% to 90% of what they collect. The difference? It goes right into their pockets. Why? Oh, because that’s the way it is. Now scram, kid.

Think about it. They pocket, say, $100 a month that would otherwise go to me. That’s $1,200 a year. With thousands of people in my position, the scam is fattening their wallets. Admirably again, there is a law that says they can’t really do this. But disgracefully the law is nebulous so that with a team of lawyers the insurer can defend itself or at least try to do so. And as disgracefully, the government is not pushing for a rewriting of the law to stop the scam or doing much regulation at all. I have to do the pushing. I have to hire a lawyer. I have to pay the lawyer fees and collect reams of paperwork and get notarizations and sign papers and go to court and hope the judge is good and honest. All for the $100 per month the health insurance company is scamming out of me.

Is it worth it? Maybe I’ll just forget the $100 a month (it’s actually about $215 per month). Maybe I’ll stop the project of suing for what is rightfully mine (if the judge thinks so). But I can’t really cancel the service. No other health carrier is going to take on my son knowing his condition. I’m a slave to a scam. What can I do? Fight or eventually rob a bank to cover what they’re scamming me out of? At least I have experience with bringing down a corrupt foreman. But this is bigger. So it’s time for big-ass gloves, a mouthpiece and a helmet because I’m going to go out fighting. It’s good to fight when the fight is good.

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