Friday, February 24, 2012
All of our money was gone. :(
Our personal savings were depleted.
All the college money I had been saving for the kids was wiped out. I had to cash in the savings bonds I had saved for all three of them, in order to pay bills the insurance wouldn't cover. I had to pay these bills, or the doctors would refuse to see us, plus we wouldn't be able to order needed medical supplies.
Andy's former coworkers brought us a carload of groceries and paper goods. We were overwhelmed with their generosity, but my oldest son felt ashamed. We had never needed to accept charity before. I told him that it was their blessing to give to us, and we needed to not be so prideful as to spoil their blessing. It did feel weird to be in that position, though.
It was obvious that we were sinking fast. Even with the kindness of those coworkers and our church, family, and friends, it wasn't going to be enough; soon we would have to decide between making our house payment and utilities, or paying for the medical expenses. I decided to heed my friends' advice and take my case to the State Insurance Commission to see if they could light a fire under the tail of the insurance company. In order to do that, I had to take a day off from work....!! (Expletive deleted!)
I was afraid that the people at the Insurance Commission would be as cold and rude as some of the people at the insurance company and the collection agencies, so I took my best friend with me for moral support. However, the lady at the agency was very sweet and sympathetic. The only problem was, she could do nothing to help me.
"If you had a traditional health plan or an HMO I could help you," she said.
I asked, "Aren't an HMO and an EPO the same thing?"
"They are very similar, but EPO means the insurance is employee owned, so they set their own rules, for the most part."
She jotted down a few notes for me, explaining that there was a small chance that I might be able to get some help because of something called the ERISA act, but I would have to take it up with the Federal Department of Labor, and it would require an enormous amount of documentation.
She sighed and said, "I wish I could guarantee that this will work. I know this is a lot for you to do with so much on your plate already."
It was a good thing that my friend was driving; I never would have made it home through all my tears and as hard as I was shaking.
Long story short, I did begin the process with the Department of Labor, but soon after that Andy's condition deteriorated and he was hospitalized for several months. About the same time, my new insurance plan through the school plus his Medicare Disability kicked in. Over the next few months my former insurance company began to pick up the overdue bills, but there were some that were missed. I never did get reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses that I had paid, because that also would have taken considerable paperwork, and by then Andy was so critical the only thing I could think about was the probability I was going to lose him. Oh, that and the fact that I was still taking care of my kids, working full time, and trying to maintain our home.
If you missed my earlier posts, the reason I took on a different job in the middle of all this is Andy was too sick to watch the kids anymore while I was at work, so I needed a different position so I could work during the same hours they were in school. The new job had great hours, but quite a pay cut came with it. Under the new health care rules of 2012, he would be insured as soon as I started my new employment because insurance companies no longer can turn a client down for pre-existing conditions. If it were that way ten years ago, I never would have had to mess around with Cobra.
The hours and hours I spent on all the insurance red tape cheated us both out of much of our last time together...
... and that was undoubtedly the most expensive toll of all.