It was bone-chilling cold here on Monday, zero degrees Fahrenheit following our first real snowfall of the season. Our street was plowed but remains covered with icy snowpack. Not my kind of weather.
But I had a follow-up medical appointment in the late morning, so I dressed in my warmest layers and set out, figuring that I would park in the garage and only be exposed to the elements for a brief few minutes.
When I arrived on time for my appointment, however, I was in for a much ruder shock than frigid air. The woman behind the desk asked me for my insurance card and ran it through the system. Then she informed me that our policy was inactive.
What??? She said she’d tried running it several times that morning and gotten the same status. She even called our health insurance provider to double-check, while I stood there, heart pounding. Same response.
Did I want to pay out of pocket for the visit? No. It could wait. My new objective was to get home and figure out what was going on.
A little background. Just over a year ago, Al lost his job at the hospital. He has since found a new job that he is really enjoying, thank goodness, helping people with intellectual disabilities live independently. However, his new employer does not offer great health benefits, and given my complex needs, we made the expensive decision to stay with our existing coverage via COBRA, while we wait until I’m eligible for Medicare, now just a few months away.
Back in November, we received a notice that we needed to re-up our enrollment in our health insurance for 2019. Al took care of the details, we continued to pay our monthly premium, and received confirming paperwork that all was well.
Apparently, however, as I discovered when I got home and made some frantic phone calls to both our health insurance plan and COBRA benefits manager, the COBRA people had failed to notify our insurance plan that we were still enrolled.
Just a minor oversight.
They assured me that any medical care we’d received so far in January would be covered retroactively once that notification slunk through the mail from Party A to Party B. This herculean feat should be accomplished sometime later this week.
Certainly, I was hugely relieved when I hung up the phone (and my blood pressure returned to normal). But for the drive home on slippery pavement and the half-hour it took me to get through to the right parties and ascertain that we had not be kicked off our plan, I was desperately trying not to freak out.
For something so essential, it just shouldn’t be this easy for anyone to lose health insurance coverage. I’m lucky. I know it. We have the financial resources to cover our medical insurance costs, even under COBRA, to wait out the transition to Medicare (which, thank goodness, still exists).
But a lost job, a missed enrollment notice, a missed insurance payment, a bureaucratic snafu can leave anyone so vulnerable, especially anyone with serious health issues. This is not a new or revelatory observation. It just hit me like a brick of ice on a very, very cold day.
Our nation needs to fix this. We must.
Image: Nathan Wolfe