Just yesterday I was talking to my friend The Ziff. In the course of our conversation he mentioned that there is a Medicare app for the iPhone that means you no longer needed to carry your Medicare card around. This seemed to me to be altogether A Good Thing not least of all because it sheds weight from the wallet. I downloaded the app but, of course, one needs to have an on-line Medicare existence to link everything up. That proved to be a problem.
I logged into myGov; this is a site that is designed to test the patience of all but the most hagiographic of saints. I think even the good lord himself would struggle with his temper if faced with myGov. It was designed by a person with a deep grudge against humanity. Eventually I gave up with myGov and I took the plunge and called the Department of Human Services call centre.
I was not expecting a response in a timescale that was anything less than geological. I was not disappointed; it took 15 minutes before I was answered. It turned out, when I finally spoke to a human (who was actually helpful and patient (I assume she was not a bot)) that my date of birth was wrong in their system. I was a month younger according to them than I am according to my mother. Now, in the matter of my birth I reckon my mother to be the definitive source. If she says that I was born in September then she would know because she was there. Quite how you can transcribe the 9 that relates to September to the 10 that relates to October requires some serious typographical incompetence. In fact, I rather think that at some time some data transfer was undertaken and that the idiots who did this data transfer added a random number to randomly selected people’s month of birth.
Of course, you cannot change your date of birth on the phone because in this post-modern world nobody trusts anybody anymore. I blame Donald Trump myself. Until he started banging on about fake news all was well with the world. To change your date of birth you need to attend a “service centre”. Now I am not a man who (fortunately) has had many dealings with government service delivery. The extent of my model citizenship is the payment (at the last possible moment of course) of my taxes. It was with some sense of foreboding that I set off to the Batemans Bay government service centre. That sense of foreboding was entirely misplaced for I received at said centre a level of customer service and engagement that any private sector organisation would have struggled to meet, still less exceed.
Above: The Baylink building
The G (that is her indoors) dropped me at the door of a large and inspiring building that spoke, nay, shouted “government office” as you looked at it. I entered through a pair of sliding doors and found myself in a massive auditorium. The long-serving and parsimonious management consultant in me screamed “what a waste of real estate” but as I looked around all such negative thoughts were removed at the approach of a young woman (well she was a good deal younger than I am) who asked if she could help me. I was still worrying that I might be about to receive every possible assistance short of actual help but I said: “I have two things that I need to do. The first is that I need the men’s room and the second is that I need to talk to a Medicare person.”
“Certainly,” she said, “follow me and I will show you to the men’s room. What is your first name?” I told her and then added as we walked toward the facilities, “you can leave me at the door if you like for I can go on my own now.” She thought that was a sensible approach and said I should check back with her when I was suitably relieved. I did so and she said that there was one person ahead of me in the Medicare queue.
I had brought my book anticipating that I could read a chapter or two while waiting but I had read no more than two pages when I was called. I was summoned to a second woman sitting behind a desk. I said I needed to change my date of birth. She gave me what can only be described as a look that combined quizzicality and humour with a dash of “what kind of dimwit are you?” I explained my predicament. She, like me, was amazed that a 9 could be mistyped as a 10 but, once I had produced a passport and a driving license, she fixed it all up very quickly. I said that I was trying to link Medicare to myGov and she said she would give me a “linking code”.
I thought this might have been useful some 45 years ago when I was doing a PhD in Knot Theory and linking numbers were an important part of my work. Nevertheless I entered into the spirit of the thing and said that I would be doing the linking before I left the building and that I would re-join the Medicare queue if I still had a problem. At this, she whistled over a young man called Christopher. Christopher was told that he was to be my IT Support Dude for the process of doing the linking. He took me over to a computer. With a great deal of difficulty I managed to force myself to deal with a machine running a Windows operating system. It may even have been running Internet Explorer. I put all such thoughts about the evil empire that is Microsoft far from my mind and I got to linking. It worked. I cannot tell you how amazed I was but now I was linked. In two minutes I had fired up the app on the phone and there was my Medicare card on the screen. Knockout stuff. Of course we all know now that our Medicare data is about as safe in the hands of the government as something that may not be very safe but … well, you have to live dangerously.
The whole process took no more than 15 minutes (including the visit to the bathroom) and I found myself calling The G to say I was ready to be picked up way ahead of schedule. Now you may say that the service I got, which was efficient, relevant and friendly, is no more than I should expect. And perhaps you are right but it is nonetheless really good when you get it. And let me tell you that it beats any service that I have had from Telstra or Origin or NAB, it beats it hands down. I shall complete the customer response form so that they know that I had good service. What I would like to happen is that the three people I dealt with should be complimented on their service. I know the government cannot dish out bonuses but a word of appreciation from someone in the Senior Executive ranks would do a lot for morale. But I doubt that will happen. But, then, perhaps, they will prove me wrong.