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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Health Insurance bad for your health

Carole Townsend

Carole Townsend

EDITOR'S NOTE: Carole Townsend, a correspondent for the Daily Post, is beginning a new blog called Food For Thought. It is available online at www.gwinnettdailypost.com/townsend.

There are two topics that make me absolutely crazy, and those are oil companies and health insurance companies. Say what you will, but they both run this country with the sole purpose of extorting billions from Americans. There's not enough room here for me to rant about both, so today I'm going to vent about health insurance.

Back in March, my husband and I decided to shop around for health insurance. The company we were with had jacked up the premiums every 6 months ever since Obama-care became an idea. The rates were exorbitantly high, and the restrictions and exclusions read like the unabridged version of War and Peace. We were constantly writing checks either to this company or to health care providers for what this company didn't cover.

After doing quite a bit of research, we found that the very same company offered a plan with better coverage for about $400 a month less than we were paying. The premiums are guaranteed to stay fixed for one year. Go figure. We kept thinking, "So what's the catch?" The rep told us that there is no catch; it's just a different plan. Not sure that would be legal and certainly not ethical in any other business. We'll see if the rates stay the same.

As I said, we started researching the switch back in March and actually put everything in place in late April, for the new plan to start up June 1. That was a month ago, and if this first month is any indication, we're in trouble. When June 1 rolled around and we had not received new insurance cards, my husband began calling to see what the problem was.

Now, this multi-billion dollar corporation does not have humans answering their phones. They have machines that eventually answer, ask you to make certain choices, then transfer you to other machines. We have actually kept records, and not one phone call has lasted less than 45 minutes BEFORE a human picks up, if and when that happens.

Long story short, there was no record of our changing plans, even though we had email confirmation and the name of the woman who had steered us through the process. Not to worry though, they assured us the matter would be cleared up within a week. When a week had passed and we placed the customary one-hour phone call, no one had any idea what the mix-up was. Not to worry, they'd fix it.

Did I mention that our June check cleared the bank right on time?

Sometime in the third week of June, we received our new insurance cards, but they had a July 1 start date on them, meaning anything we had done in June, according to the insurance company, would not have been covered.

Phone call. Wait. Machines. Transfers. Promises.

My husband went to fill a prescription, quite by coincidence, on July 1. The pharmacist shook her head politely and said that she was so sorry, but our insurance company told her our coverage expired on June 21 for non-payment. I held my breath and cringed. Gandhi, by now, would have cursed a blue streak and lunged across the counter at the woman. My husband is not Gandhi.

Surprisingly, he thanked the pharmacist and walked out, pulling out his cell phone to make the by-now-customary phone call to the insurance company. He of course could not reach a human, so he fibbed to the machine and pressed "2" for "I am a pharmacist." A human answered right away but said he could not help my husband because he had pressed the wrong number. "Customer service" would not be back until Tuesday, after the holiday.

Unbelievable. If we ran our company like that, we'd be out of business. By the time it's all settled -- if in fact that actually happens -- we will have ulcers and anxiety problems. But fortunately we have health insurance, right?

What do you think needs to happen to bring these Goliath companies into line?

Carole Townsend is a freelance writer and a 25-year resident of Gwinnett County. As a mom, a wife, a former corporate executive, stay-at-home mom and correspondent for the Daily Post, she brings a unique perspective to life and living it in Gwinnett. "Food for Thought" gives Gwinnettians a forum where they can share perspectives, opinions, advice and solutions, as well as enjoy a few chuckles.