December 21, 2009

Warding off Spousal Party Syndrome: Tips for Coping at the Punchbowl

By

cbuck120dsIt's that dreaded time of year for many of us - the time to tamp down our anxiety, put on a game (or should I say party) face and accompany the spouse to the spousal holiday office party.

 

There will be few folks you will know, plus some you wish you didn't know and well, there's always the spouse's boss. You've been primed on what to say and not to mention and to look ‘surprised' if "you-know-what comes-up." Honestly, you need a roadmap to dodge the minefield.

 

And then there's the party - an awkward, stand-up affair with the holiday punch bowl, plastic garland, red velvet ribbon and enough Poinsettia plants to make it look like the room broke out with a case of hives.

 

You can always spot the folks from accounting - that's a given. The IT people pretty much stay close together like positive ions but the sales team, whoa! Need I say more? I mean how many times have you seen them laughing and shouting and high-fiving each other. Since when did selling become a contact sport, you wonder? Why do they do that? And at some point in the evening, believe me, you're going to wish Bing Crosby never had a dream.

 

Now the buzz at this year's holiday party will be healthcare reform. You're going to hear a lot of nicknames for the reform bill but let yourself be surprised when the most unlikely of spousal folks are spouting off the names of Senators as if they were news anchors. Little wonder: besides the stories and footage of Jon and Kate Gosselin, healthcare reform has been the lead story ever since the raucous town hall meetings this past summer.

 

And that gives you a leg up. You're now the subject matter expert on healthcare because you are in healthcare and you know a thing or two about healthcare reform because you're in the trenches as war correspondents are likely to say. For example, you receive RACAlerts, Special Bulletins and RACMonitor delivered to your email box twice a week. You've attended enough Webinars to win frequent flier miles, not to mention the fact that you're on the RAC Preparedness committee or know someone who is. You have enough binders to be a member of Oprah's Book Club.

 

Fast forward to the spousal party.

 

You're pumped and primed. "Bring ‘em on!"

 

With a shrimp skewered on a plastic toothpick and a glass of punch in your hand, you listen for an opening amid blather that's taking place next to the punchbowl.

 

"Hey, I got a new MAC," you overhear someone from the graphics department smugly announce.

 

You dive into the breach.

 

"Well, perhaps you heard about the other MACs," you posit rhetorically.

 

"Yes, the enactment of section 911 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, has brought about the phasing in of Medicare Administrative Contractors for claims processing," you say authoritatively.

 

"And, "that's in addition to the government's Recovery Audit Contractor program," you continue, having deftly inserted your remarks with surgeon-like precision. "Yes, there are forecasts of the Medicare Trust Fund becoming insolvent earlier than predicted but auditing initiatives are targeting not only inaccurate claims but also (you roll your eyes and tilt your head in the direction of Florida) major crackdowns on fraud and abuse are taking place even as we speak."

 

Quickly distancing yourself from those alleged DME resellers, you say that not only is your facility on the forefront of physician documentation and accurate coding of medical records but that your team is now preparing for the Medicaid Integrity Contractors."

 

You've essentially brought the room to a standstill and the group of eight is now the coalition of the mingling and, yes, there's Bing Crosby in the background with treetops glistening but now everyone's listening to you.

 

"The MICs have already ready fanned out across the country, examining Medicaid claims for overpayment, but wait, there's more," you say, sounding like Ron Popeil, warming up a studio audience. "Coming soon to bolster integrity efforts and to recoup cash for the trust fund, there are Zone Program Integrity Contractors, called, (a hush falls over the heretofore festive spirit) Z-PICs!"

 

It's uncomfortably silent on the long drive home from the spousal holiday party. Out the car window you see rows of somnambulate-like homes with twinkling lights and plastic molded Santa Clauses and reindeer-drawn sleighs bolted down on front lawns. Ah, the holidays, you muse to yourself...

 

"So, ZIPCs," says the spouse, cracking the silence like broken ice. "Well who would have thought it..."

Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of RACmonitor and is the program host and executive producer of Monitor Monday.

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