Bureaucracy

The Great Commonwealth of Virginia has apparently been struggling to register births for a few years now.  The solution my leaders have hit upon is delightfully Orwellian.

A brief explanation: the two or three days you spend in the hospital at the birth of a child are filled with visits from all manner of health care providers and paper-pushers.  Oh, the paper-pushers!  Paper, paper, everywhere, and not a drop of ink!  At the hospital you get paper telling you your baby is alive, paper telling you your baby can hear, paper telling you how to put your baby in a car seat, and on and on.  Oh, and you get a baby.  Two, if God is having a laugh.

Two things you don’t get for your child are a social security number or a birth certificate.  You fill out the paperwork for those and receive them at a later date.  As a well-heeled American it’s actually sort of disconcerting to have your child not possess that card that all Americans have and need to accomplish anything at all.  The anxiety of screwing up your child’s life begins there, having failed to register him or her (or them) with Big Brother.

Now in the normal course of events the social security card arrives in a fortnight or so.  I don’t remember the timing on the birth certificate from my first kids ten and six years gone by, but it was some time after that.  At last, with those two pieces of paper in hand, your child actually exists!

But some time in the last few years, before the birth of my most recent son Benedict, the paperwork on the birth certificate became a burden for the Great Commonwealth of Virginia.  Not because there are too many births.  Because there is too much paper and they are losing it.

It’s not just a little form from the parents that they have to process, you see.  The hospital has to send their paperwork.  But how can they send their paperwork before they have finished settling up the bill with the insurance provider?  And…well, this is not meant to be a post about health insurance.  Let’s just say, there are inefficiencies in the system there.  Quelle surprise!

No, this is a complaint about Richmond.  Because the people in charge of registering living human beings were losing the parents’ paperwork before the hospital’s paperwork arrived.  They couldn’t process the certificates because they could not match a hospital request to a parent request.  This by itself is funny and the story could stop there.  One imagines–ok, I imagine–dumping endless mounds of lost request forms on someone’s desk like Santa’s letters in Miracle on 34th Street.

So reform is needed!  We can’t have future tax-payers citizens not being registered!  Will we modernize our data storage?  Hire more workers?  Buy several thousand bins of manilla folders?

Don’t be silly.  We just won’t allow parents to send their application for a birth certificate!

On the form they give you at the hospital, there is a big warning in the middle of the page, highlighted in tasteful neon yellow, commanding you not to mail the request until X date…one month after the delivery.  That’s right, this piece of paper that you must have to do anything for the rest of your life depends on you sticking the application to your refrigerator with a magnet and praying the kids don’t take it down for an art project…for thirty days.

God Bless America.

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