“Why do you think I would join your community after you throw my wife off the bus?” my husband asked evenly. The underwriter only reaffirmed the fact of our two individual applications.
If health care reform isn’t making you sick, you are probably among those wise citizens who’s not paying attention.
My husband and I recently had the exhilarating experience of applying for health insurance through a different carrier. We wanted to change carriers only because my doctor is not a preferred network provider under our current plan, but he does have this coveted status with the intended new provider. It would mean a considerable difference in the cost of an office visit if my doctor were an in-network provider.
Once our COBRA coverage from my husband’s former employment lapsed, we had two choices for private coverage: Lifewise and Asuris. Regence, our former carrier, informed us that they did not provide coverage for individuals in Eastern Washington, but only in Western Washington and Idaho. Since we were moving from Western Washington to Eastern Washington, we were told, repeatedly, by several representatives, that we would not be in Regence country. None of the Regence representatives ever mentioned the fact that Asuris, which insures individuals in Eastern Washington, was owned by Regence. So, we selected Lifewise prior to moving.
I found a true keeper of a doctor. I had been told he accepted Lifewise, but it turned out that there was a semantic nuance: he was not in-network provider. There was a chance he would join the network this year, but then he opted not to. One thing I appreciate about my doctor is his entrepreneurial spirit, even though it likely was his entrepreneurial spirit that influenced him against going in-network with Lifewise.
Once we learned that my doctor was not going to be a Lifewise in-network provider, we decided to attempt to change to Asuris, which we only recently happened to learn was in fact owned by Regence. We knew it was a longshot, because my various chronic health issues would probably exceed the number of points that enables an insurer to reject an applicant, unless the applicant is just getting off COBRA coverage. We were no longer riding the COBRA’s tail, but we have had continuous coverage through Lifewise. Washington state grants insurers the privilege of rejecting applicants for health reasons based on a point system, but the option is open to insure applicants with high point scores. Notwithstanding my high point score, I thought Asuris would be impressed by the low cost of my maintenance, since most of my healthcare expenses are prescriptions, and they pay nothing toward prescriptions — prescriptions don’t even count toward the deductible. Still, we knew it was a longshot. We just didn’t know it would be such a gratuitously insulting longshot.
We waited a month for the results of our application. Finally, the big day came, and it was in the mail. I gleefully opened the chunky package, which was obviously full of new policy forms.
The letter’s salutation included only my husband, although we had applied as a couple. The rest of the letter consisted of an effusive welcome to the Asuris community. I turned the page, and there was my name, outlined in bold red marker, NOT INCL. written alongside of it.
It was Saturday, so there was no way to vent my sentiments to anyone at Asuris. I didn’t mind being rejected, but they should have rejected both of us, or at least rejected me in the same letter in which they gushed over my husband’s acceptance. We applied as a couple, and as a couple we stand. The letter was not signed, but ended with a simple typewritten signature, Medical Underwriting.
Monday morning at 8:01, my husband called Asuris, demanding Medical Underwriting, but first being stalled at Customer Service. After getting through to an underwriter, he got the news we already knew, with a twist. “Your wife received a letter too. Maybe it just hasn’t arrived yet.”
My husband asked whether it hadn’t occurred to anyone in Medical Underwriting that because we had applied as a unit, we expected to receive or be denied coverage as a unit. But no, of course not. If one applying “spouse/domestic partner” is accepted, and the other “spouse/domestic partner” is denied, the applicants are immediately sundered into two entities, the healthy one heartily welcomed, and the health pariah outlined in red, to receive a rejection letter when Medical Underwriting gets around to it.
My husband explained, very slowly, repeating himself many times as if he were talking to a very young or very stupid person, that if anyone from Regence had ever mentioned that Asuris was a Regence-owned company, we would have gone with them initially instead of Lifewise, and that perhaps there was some responsibility on Regence’s part to have disclosed this in the first place. At that point in time, Asuris would have had no choice but to insure us, coming directly from COBRA. But the point was utterly lost on the Medical Underwriting person.
Another point utterly lost on the underwriter was that we were not upset that they determined me to be ineligible for coverage, but were upset with the way they handled it. “Why do you think I would join your community after you throw my wife off the bus?” my husband asked evenly. The underwriter only reaffirmed the fact of our two individual applications.
I have a very charitable friend who says she tries to treat unpleasantness she encounters with the attitude that the person being unpleasant has just received the worst possible news imaginable. So I tried to put the medical underwriter into some kind of perspective so that I would not resent the fact that she completely missed the idea that we might actually be insulted, not because I was not granted coverage, but because our joint application as a married couple was not acknowledged to be an all-or-nothing deal. Imagine your husband, but not you, receiving an invitation to a social event hosted by mutual friends. The medical underwriter offered no sort of apology whatsoever.
As far as I could advance toward being charitable was to resolve that I could admire this person for showing up at work, when she could probably receive SSI benefits for subnormal situational comprehension. But really, she’s just one of those rules jockeys who goes through life oblivious to the casualties of her unfeeling dutifulness.
Monday’s mail brought Asuris’s denial of coverage. There was no letter, no trace of human acknowledgment at all. There was a little chart that simply had a box for status, which contained the typewritten word “Denied.” The rest of the chunky package consisted of forms and prices for the state risk and pre-existing conditions pool.
End of rant. Life goes on. I have a doctor and we have insurance, so I suppose we’re still among those making it in America.