Monday, June 14, 2010
Some say the French administration is a bit heavy. I’ll ditto that. The rather stressed ID portrait above is one point of an administrative journey that actually began back in 2008. It concerns my health insurance which is handled by an association rather than the government because I am a “travailleur independent” or free-lance worker. Quite frankly, I wish the French government Social Security still handled my health insurance. The association (RAM) has made one error after another.
We now have a “carte vitale,” kind of like a credit card with a chip that is scanned by the doctor or medical practitioner and sent electronically to the reimbursement center. Then you get reimbursed in about one week. The problem is that they decided to change the original card to one with an ID photo on it. I still have the “change your card” form from back in 2008. But – one problem – the RAM made a mistake with my first name. I use the name Jeanne in France, but my legal first name is Ruth. My second name is Joan = Jeanne in French. Voilà. The RAM had me down as Jeanne Feldman which is fine for my friends and my blog, but not ok for official documents. After receiving the form in 2008, I sent them a letter to that effect, along with a copy of my passport. Nada. Never heard from them again. Which was no big deal since I still had the old card which worked fine. Until I was dumb enough to believe a letter they sent me saying that the “carte” had to be validated once a year to remain usable. When I did that by inserting it into a kiosk at the Social Security, the damn machine invalidated my card! So I had to apply for the new one. I did this the end of last February (2010).
On March 15 I received a letter that my request had been received and that I would (eventually) receive the form to apply for the new card. Then again, nada. Around mid-April I started phoning the RAM, “Where is the form?” “Oh oh oh – we’ll apply for it again.” Still no form. Called again. It finally arrived on May 6 – with the wrong first name! I finally went in person to the RAM on a Friday to see what could be done. Would I have to wait another 2 months just to receive another form? And then wait another 6 weeks to actually receive the carte? I spoke with a lady who told me she could speed up the process if I could provide an ID photo. I didn’t have one. Hadn’t even thought of it! Oh well – could I come back Monday with the photo? OK.
On Monday – the task was clear. Get the ID photo ASAP and then go to the RAM to straighten this all out. I had noticed a photo machine in the Metro near where I live. Why not just go there? Of course I also had a backup plan which is essential in France. If Plan A didn’t work, I’d go to the photo shop 2 Metro stops away where they could take my photo in the shop (Plan B). I arrived at the Metro station and went into the machine. Oh boy, it needed exact change and all I had was a 20€ bill. I went to the ticket window to get change. “Sorry, the machine is out of order. Is there another one?” “Yes, in the Monoprix down the street.” So I went there, found the machine and tried to get change for my bill. Not one cashier would give me change!
OK – time for Plan B. I arrived at the photo shop - closed on Mondays! Then I realized there was another Monoprix near the photo shop (Plan C). I went there, found the machine and got in line to ask for change. It was at that moment I had my “flash” (cool – not hot). “Buy something – then they have to give you change!” So I did. I got out of line for 2 seconds to find sugar free candy that I actually like and is cheap so I’d get lots of change. Bingo! I then took 4 ID photos in the machine and went directly from there to the RAM where I left the form, copies of other official IDs and the photo which I even offered to cut with my own scissors. I do think this really impressed the RAM lady who was actually very nice to me. And I received the card in less than “un bon mois” (i.e. 6 weeks). I’m also now contemplating whether or not I should go back to my local Monoprix, buy something really cheap and then pay with a 50€ bill. I’m thinking, I’m thinking.