How May I Help You
Rita Ulani Lai checked her headset and answered then phone. "Global US HR consulting, how may I help you?"
She had tried to convince her manager that Global US made no sense. But Global Corp provided human capital management consulting to multinational companies, the kinds with billionaires and trillionaires as CEOs, and while the Rita handled the US market, they felt reminding their customers about their Global reach was important.
"So, I have a question," the caller said. "I believe I may need to add a spouse to my coverage. Could I get more information about this process?"
"Sure," Rita said. "Do you mind if I get your employee ID?" Sometimes they did, and while she was supposed to log every interaction, Rita found somehow their client base seemed to have a lot of people who might have married someone, might have a child, things that before this job Rita would have been sure were certainties in life.
He gave her the number and she quickly scanned his record. Rita scrolled down to the info for his company. Even within the IRS regulations, their different clients had some nuances to how spouses and such got added. "So generally speaking, you have thirty days to add a spouse. We'd ask for the spouses information, which you can add yourself in the employee portal if you wish, and then also a copy of the marriage certificate which you can fax or upload to us."
"Thirty days from when," Mr. Parker asked.
"Thirty days from the date of marriage," Rita said keep her voice firmly in the bright but neutral category.
"So," Mr. Parker said, "what if I only just found out I was married but it was more than thirty days ago?"
Rita's eyes scanned to the corner where the team chat was. She had another. She grabbed a post it adding a tally mark to her list.
"So, your company's rules are pretty strict about the deadline for making changes. You will of course be able to add any dependents you wish to during the open enrollment period for next year."
Rita mentally crossed her fingers. Hoping he wasn't one of those that went from charming to screaming on a dime.
"Ah, okay. If I want to add my spouse as my beneficiary do I still need to send anything in for that?"
"No, you may change your beneficiary to whenever you want whenever you like."
"Okay. She told me I was too late, but I figured I'd check."
Rita smiled, the warmth in his voice was incredibly cute. "It doesn't hurt to check," she said. "Any other questions I could answer?"
"No, thank you."
Rita opened the team chat.
Rita: Got another oops, I didn't know I was married.
Eden: How do you get so many of these?
Rita: Just lucky I guess.
Ben: I'll update the scoreboard. Any details.
Rita: Not a lot. He said he hadn't known he was married within the thirty days.
Eden: I feel like it's a bad sign to not know if you're married.
Rita: He seemed happy to be married.
Ben: Maybe he's been in a coma.
Rita: Huh, I wonder if the IRS would accept coma.
Eden: I feel like no. So if I'm ever in a coma, you all better file my taxes for me.
Eden: Oh my gosh you guys, I got a doozy. I mean, hi, corporate overlords, by doozy, I of course mean that I had a complex question that I handled with grace for our client and now I want to share my triumph with my co-workers.
Rita smiled at her screen. Eden was very convinced that the company had hired someone to read everything they posted in the company chat. Rita had tried explaining the number of person hours that would take and that it was much more likely they scanned for key words and dropped into the chat every once in a while. But of course Eden said it would be just her luck that they dropped in on a day she was venting and then they would think that she chatted like that all the time.
Eden: So this guy calls, and he’s like my significant other is pregnant, I would like to add her to my coverage. And I look, and his company still offers domestic partner coverage, so that’s great. And I pull up his coverage, and he already has a spouse on his coverage.
Rita: Ruh roh.
Eden: Right, so I explain that um, you are only allowed to cover one beloved at a time. And he’s like but surely spouse and domestic partner are different things.
Ben: He’s not wrong. But not in the way he thinks he’s not wrong.
Eden: Well, anyway, apparently his domestic partner works for the same company, so then he explained that he was trying to save the company money by paying for one family plan instead of a family plan and a single soon to be employee + one plan.
Rita: I’m sure his company appreciates his concern for their bottom line.
Ben: And he’s not wrong. But again not in the way he thinks.
Eden: I did tell him the baby, once born, can be added to both plans, but I’m not sure he really understood why we could do that.
Ben: Not everything is patriarchy.
Ben: Okay, yes, this is probably patriarchy because insurance plans expect that parents might have multiple coverages, since everybody has to work and we’ve tied health coverage to work in the US. But they have managed to ignore the idea that people might impregnate people they are not legally married to.
Rita: Technically I think it’s also because the IRS has a fairly rigid definition of taxable dependents, and pre-tax benefits plans fall under IRS scrutiny.
Eden: Do any of our clients do post-tax plans?
Rita: Nope. It’s less common, mostly small businesses and we handle the larger ones.
Eden: So, you’re saying only one beloved for me.
Rita: Only one beloved on your health insurance. It’s a delightful way to phrase it.
Ben: Important distinction there.
When Rita had started on the team, there had been four of them in the pod. Then the pod leader left, and their fourth Carla had been promoted to pod leader, and well, it seemed like they had no plans to hire a fourth. Their pod only worked on a small portion on the company’s clients, in order to provide customized service. Most days Rita liked the small close nature of their team. With the pandemic their work from home once a week had become work from home all the time, so it felt like sometimes Eden and Ben were her lifelines. Of course, Rita’s sister and roommate might have something to say about that.
Rita’s roommate Harriet was a pharmacist, which meant she was still working in person, had never stopped. In the early days, they had had to work out some really strict protocols. Now with masks and vaccines and regular testing, they were able to hang out in the living room together without feeling like it was a huge risk.
But the work chat had made Eden and Ben feel close through all this. Rita could hear their voices in her head when she read their comments. It was nice.