Suzi's Blog

This Is About Insurance, Not Food

I did not blog yesterday, for good reason. I was on a mission to clarify my health insurance and it took all day.

Two months ago, Suzen got a letter here at Cooking by the Book from Blue Cross, the provider of health insurance for her and her employees. She opened the envelop with care because in previous years at this time she got notices of premium increases. Big increases. Over the past few years, her premiums had doubled. Well, the good news is that this letter did not announce any premium increase for the coming year. The bad news? She was dumped. Canceled. Eliminated. No more coverage. She got 30 days notice.

I listened to her reaction, which was not pleasant, and I watched her scramble to get coverage for everyone. She did. It took time and money. While she was doing that, I sat back thanking God that I am on Medicare now [yes, I'm that old]. Of course, I had taken out one of these additional programs to cover costs that Medicare does not. I got that additional coverage from BlueCross.

Then, I got my letter. BlueCross is ending the program I am in, effective December 31. That notice letter really did not give me any specific help about what to do. I did attend a community meeting sponsored by BlueCross where they tried to steer all of us to a different program. [As an aside, my canceled program would still be available to me if I lived in Brooklyn or Queens or anywhere else in New York City or upstate full time in the Catskills; but it's not offered to me, or thousands like me, who live in Manhattan]. When that community meeting was over, I left a bit more informed but still uncertain and pretty angry. I was about the youngest person in that room. As I left, I looked back at tables filled with people in their 70s or 80s or beyond. They had not yet gotten up from their tables. They were just sitting and staring at red-and-white tablecloths. I think some of them were clueless.

Yesterday, I went to a different community meeting by another health care insurance firm. It was in Chinatown and there was a big room filled with older Chinese people about to be lectured in — I had not known this — Mandarin. A kind person took my arm and led me to a different room. And there, another white male and I sat and had someone tell us in English about this firm’s competing programs. The other guy is a lawyer with all his neurons intact. Most of my neurons are still there, too. So the two of asked a lot of questions. We each had lists of doctors and went through the phonebook-sized lists of participating doctors to make sure our doctors were in this new program. It seemed that all mine did participate.

But I went another step. As one American president said, trust but verify. I left Chinatown and went to he Upper East Side where all my doctors are located. All eight of them. No, I’m fine. But at a certain point in time, you, too might need some tending and mending. A general practitioner, a urologist, someone for allergies, someone for asthma, a guy to deal with a shoulder screwed up playing football 40 years ago, … Just little things. I don’t have a cardiac guy or an oncologist. I’m planning on another 20 years and I just need a big maintenance crew. Think NASCAR.

So, I went to eight offices in four different buildings spread over a square mile. I showed them my current BlueCross insurance card that is about to expire, and I asked them what insurance their doctor will take in 2013: will they take the BlueCross HMO I’ve been offered, will they take the United Healthcare program endorsed by AARP. I asked and I made them show me the piece of paper or the computer screen that listed these program. The kind office staffs did not consider me obnoxious. I considered myself diligent and paranoid.

When I got home last night, I turned on the television and looked at local news. The first story was about a woman with a business on Staten Island that had received $100,000 in damage from Sandy. She had applied to insurance company, because she had hurricane coverage. She has been denied because the insurance company is saying Sandy was not merely a hurricane. It was a “superstorm” they say and as a superstorm lies outside of coverage.

I wonder how that woman is going to go about shopping for her next insurance. Where will she walk to? What will she have to ask?

We’ve heard talk about how recent healthcare legislation will reduce costs, cut premium increases, and let us keep our insurance and current doctors.

I am tired of platitudes and empty promises. I think what we need now is a few good prosecutions. There are thousands of pages of regulations governing insurance companies, so I can’t imagine that these debacles could be cured by just adding more regulations that are never enforced.

I’ll write about food again tomorrow. If you want, I’d like you to share this post with friends, families, and your insurance agents.