November 3, 2007

On Bats, The Suckage of American Health Insurance and Paperwork Warfare

Two nights ago I was having dinner with a colleague who recounted a truly horrible experience he had with the modern-day American health care “system.” While in Montana over the summer, he got bit by a bat and well, as a result, he and his entire family had to get rabies shots. These shots are hard to get and priceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey. The final bill was $ 20,000 and his NYU based health insurance, United Health Care is claiming they are not responsible!### Like getting bit by a bat and the possibility of rabies are not bad enough. Isn’t the point of health insurance to take care of the unexpected??

Someone also pointed me to The Daily Kos’ wrangle with BCBS of California and well, they picked the wrong guy to mess with given there are so many many many many eyeballs tuned to his blog, everyday (just check out the number of comments). I wonder if the public relations director will contact him as they did with me after I blogged about my trials and tribulations. I certainly don’t have the audience and readers he does, so I am always surprised they ever contacted me in the first place.

The Daily Kos also provided a link for a site that I was thinking of creating if my problems with BCBS were not solved (glad to see someone else has) called Sick of Blue Cross. I personally like the name I came up with a little better Blue Cross No Shield but the important thing is that a site like that exists and it is very good site, design and content wise. There should be a site created for every health insurance company and they should federate and pool resources to gain more visiblity.

While I am not hopeful that the health insurance industry will change within, I think mounting and steady consumer pressure can do a lot to force the industry to change their awful ways. And while I think the bad publicity is a key part to putting pressure on the health insurance to change, I actually think that the power of the consumers also can come from elsewhere, and this elsewhere is overwhelming the administrative channels within and outside of the health insurance. The gist is if they send us a lot of (useless) paperwork, send them A LOT of paperwork back.

On the Daily Kos, a lot of people noted that things got moving when they complained to the Department of Banking and Insurance. While my own complaint to that department did not produce any immediate fruit, it did get the ball moving for the appeal process, which eventually panned out for me. That is, I learned a lot and started to get decent customer service. Doors opened.

Now, it took me weeks to find out that I could complain to the Department of Banking and Insurance and I am sure many find themselves in that situation of walking in a no man’s land of confusion and frustration. If more and more people know that you can file a complaint to these Departments (and why are doctor’s offices not relaying this information??!!), they and the health insurance companies will get inundated with that which they love to inflict on us, paperwork.

This may slow things down for you but at a certain point, state governments will get the message that something is deeply wrong. So, people MUST use these channels and overwhelm these agencies with complaints, faxes, emails as this is a powerful and very material message that something is deeply wrong and broken and must be fixed.

Also, send faxes and letters to various departments in your health insurance company (appeals, customer service, medical director’s office, public relations office…) get people’s email’s and send them emails. Inundate them with a barrage of administrative paperwork. If they are not being helpful, send a fax or two a day concerning your case until you get clear answers. While individual faxes won’t make much of a difference, imagine if there are 300 a day coming in or 3000…. This can work with the numbers are there and I have a feeling that the numbers Are There.

So spread the word for housebreaking your health insurance and push the paperwork back on them.

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