The Cost of Healthcare, Part 2: Strong Stuff, This Insurance

In my previous post I described my stay in the hospital after run-induced chest pain, and the associated costs. As they found nothing wrong, I figured that would be the end of it. But there was more to come…

You are about to enter...The Bureaucracy Zone.
You are about to enter…The Bureaucracy Zone.

In January 2010 (before my night in the hospital), I got a renewal notice from my life insurance company. In 2000, I’d purchased a 10-year, $1 million term policy at $600 per year. Now I was expecting my premiums to go up a bit, but I was in excellent health and physical condition. Why, I’d even joined a running class and committed to training for a half marathon! So imagine my surprise when I saw their new offer of $5,500 per year – nearly 10 times the old rate.

I called the company. A typo, right? A mistake? “No, those are our rates,” the rep said. I asked why they thought a 900 percent increase was appropriate, but she declined to elaborate. So I gave up on them. A bit of shopping online turned up some offers in the $800 range per year for $750,000 of coverage. I called my insurance agent, arranged and got the required physical exam and lab tests, and completed the application. Then I had my unfortunate running experience, but my agent didn’t seem to think it would be a problem.

Weeks passed, and I heard nothing. I called my agent. The insurance company needed authorization from me to access my medical records. I filled out the form. More time passed. Finally I told her that this company didn’t seem to want my business. We tried another. More unexplained delays and requests for access to my medical records.. It was now late fall, and I still had no idea if and when I would get coverage again.

Finally I told my agent, who was as perplexed as I was, to do her best to get some answers from someone. A few days later, she called me back. “I have a rather personal question to ask you,” she said. “Are you being treated for an inner ear condition and take home medications?”

This is my medicine.
Although I do admit to extensive self-medication with this.

I told her I was just fine and on no medications whatever. Well, she said, the insurance company thought I was suffering from a life-threatening condition and was on three “home medications”, whatever those were (maybe an abbreviation for “homeopathic”). Insurance companies aren’t supposed to discuss an applicant’s medical condition with others, but one of their reps had let that slip. At last, a clue!

My doctor’s office referred me to the records department at U-M Hospital. They asked me the same questions. “I hope that if I had such a condition,” I replied, “one of your doctors would have told me.” After a little more investigation, I had my answer. Someone else’s record had accidentally been placed in my file, likely in April 2010 at the hospital, and it was wreaking havoc with my life insurance applications.

Well, Mr. Jones, your medical records say you're in fine health.
Well, Mr. Jones, your medical records say you’re in fine health. So I’ll pass that along to your life insurance company.

I asked for and got a letter from the records department explaining the mixup, which my agent forwarded to the insurance company. Shortly thereafter, my application was approved, and my wife and kids were once again set to frolic on a beach in Tahiti if I happen to make an early shuffle off this mortal coil.

My takeaway from this is to check my medical records periodically to make sure there are no hidden surprises. I was without life insurance for nearly a year because of a simple mixup that no one was allowed to talk about. It’s about time for another physical anyway, and the start of those wonderful screenings that you’re supposed to get once you hit 50. But if you haven’t been to your doctor in the last few years, and especially if you spent any time in the hospital, it might be a good time to check your own records. Don’t get caught unawares!

One thought on “The Cost of Healthcare, Part 2: Strong Stuff, This Insurance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s