Monday, June 13, 2011

Pining For The Fjords

I had all sorts of things to write about this week, but nothing I wrote could get my mind off the topic I’m about to tackle. Yes, it has a bit of a self-indulgent aspect, but there’s a life lesson in here worth exploring, if only for a moment or two. On Tuesday last, June 7th, we marked the second anniversary of Steve’s passing according to the standard calendar. [For those who understand the secret handshake, his yahrzeit begins this Friday at sundown.]

By the time he was really sick, Steve had already left his job and we had to COBRA his health insurance. I had been in contact with Aetna, and paid exactly what they told me to pay, sent in all the paperwork, and was told all was covered. A month into the Cobra, it was clear Aetna agents had no idea what they were doing. Cashed cheque or not, they were telling the oncologists we had no insurance…which was completely wrong since Steve also was on my insurance and Aetna knew that. There were lots of calls back and forth until Aetna finally saw the error of their clerical ways and said they would get everything fixed. 

Then they told me I would have to hospitalize Steve because they didn’t think home hospice was “adequate.” Excuse me???? Steve was livid and announced, “I am not going to a hospital.”  I agreed. Steve stayed home where he belonged and we contracted for hospice through my insurance. We told Aetna in writing that we would end the COBRA on May 31st.

Steve died on the 7th of June, 2009. On the 8th, I was standing in Hodroff’s funeral home selecting his casket (religious box: you get A or B... with a star of David or without… he got the star) when  Tamika from Aetna called. I told her my husband had passed away. That didn't stop her. She was calling to tell me it was too complicated to fix the insurance problem, so they were going to cover Steve for July instead of May.


I asked her to repeat what she’d said, and she did indeed say that even though he was dead, they would extended his insurance “for free.”  I couldn’t help myself; I shouted at her. “WHAT PART OF DEAD AREN’T YOU GETTING??????” 

Does a certain Dead Parrot sketch come to mind? It should. It was like standing in the middle of the sketch only it was my husband not pining for the fjords.

I spent the next six months battling Aetna. I was pretty sure I was out of the fjords and into Dante’s 8th circle of Hell, the one reserved for those who intentionally perpetrate fraud.

Then, Saint Tina of Health Advocates arrived on her white e-horse and said, “No problem; let me take care of it.” She did. For the next eighteen months.

On Wednesday June 8th, 2011, I received word from Allina's billing office that the last Aetna screw-up was handled, and the balance on the account was $00.00.

Two years and one day after Steve slipped away, I was able to close the white book for the last time.  

I underestimated the profound sense of relief. The Nightmare-Part Deux is finally over. No giant bill for a zillion dollars is going to fall out of the sky to crush me.

How the hell did this take two years to resolve? It wasn’t that complicated. It was straight forward, no hospitalization, and nothing weird.  But TWO years for relatively simple tests and procedures?

This isn’t about the hospital or the doctors. This is about insurance companies…or in this case, just one company. Their obfuscation and dissemination of misinformation was the rule, not the exception. When was the last time someone went through monumental illness and didn’t come out hating the insurance industry?

If Congress wants to fix what’s wrong, go after the health insurance companies and the so called “health care” providers who prey on the sick and profit from the misery of others. Get hospitals back to being not-for-profit and concerned only with the dignity of the patient and the outcome of the illness.

Stop making disease a profit churning industry. We deserve better than that.

Wifely Person’s Tip o’the Week
courtesy of Jan Leichter
Are the baby bunnies eating your petunias?
Put a cut up jalapeño pepper in a big jar of water and let sit a couple of days. 
Transfer some to a spray-bottle then spray away!


  1. Insurance Companies are going to be the downfall of this country . . . Glad all is resolved FINALLY!
    (Been there and done that! Mine only lasted 8 months . . . I had enough copies of my Mom's death certificate to wallpaper a powder room . . . everyone at the Insurance company wanted one . . . hmm, what do you you think they are doing with them)

    I sure miss Steve!

  2. Massive props, as the kids say, for the gumption to describe such a poignant, personal situation using the Monty Python parrot sketch. "May the rogues rise to meet you," indeed.

  3. Hi Wifely Person

    You have a lot of interesting and thought provoking commentary on this post and many others, for which you are to be credited. You are obviously a well read and thoughtful citizen.

    With regard to your scathing comments about Insurance Companies, Health Insurers in Particular, I suspect your feeling would be congruent with the likes of Pelosi and others, who frequently decry the "obscene profits" of the big mega health insurers, so I'm sure you must be familiar with the percentage of what they soak in (aggregate premium dollars collected) that is then immediately sent back out to pay claims, right? Something like 35%, and the rest is exploitation, extortion and heartless profiteering,right? NO.

    They average paying out 85% of what they take in for claims payments to their insured. The rest is for overhead and administrative costs, leaving an average profit margin for the bigs in the industry of a WHOPPING, UNCONCSCIONABLE

    3% !! Wow, a big 3% profit margin! Such Greed!

    During the height of the public health care "debate", always citing the myth of the "47 million uninsured," (actually it's more like 9 million, when referring ACCURATELY to people who don't have it, and won't likely have means to get it anytime soon, as opposed to 18 million who already qualify for EXISTING programs but won't get off the couch to go sign up, 11 million who are illegals, 9 million who are uninsured as a snapshot in time, but had it 30 days ago and will have it 30 days hence, etc.)

    YAHOO finance as well as an analyst in USA Today published the FACT that the average profit margin for health care insurers is 3% !! Perhaps a slightly relevant fact, right? It was interesting (and typical) to see how quickly the USA Today website took that "don't confuse the angry, ever moralizing leftists with an important basic fact" analysis piece down.

    Everybody has beefs at times with health care insurers, but what few seem to realize (and a slanted media does little to highlight) is that

    MEDICARE and MEDICAID turn down and won't cover things far more frequently than private insurers do. And if you want to compare administrative efficiency and bloated, larded cost and redundancies, the GOVERNMENT's byzantine bureaucracies are WAY BEYOND any imperfections private insurers have.

    Enjoy the 15 member POLITBURO that will be empowered by Obama"care" to decide and dictate EVERYTHING to people, doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals.

    And if you don't like it when they tell granny to take morphine and die, SORRY. Nothing you or any plaintiffs attorneys or court petitions can do about it. Government Politburo knows all.

    Better help Bachmann kill this waiting monster while there is still time.


  4. WP, I enjoy your writing, here and at NYT.
    Thanks for sharing, Dan