Friday, September 21, 2012

Medicare, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Me

Found this kind of funny since I have a busted up foot and have no health insurance. Well, at least at the beginning of the story...

Note: This essay was written Thursday September 20,2012

My best friend, who also is disabled and struggles with her own chronic health issues, recently made a statement to me in reference to how I was feeling about unexpectedly not having health insurance. She said that for people like us, having your health insurance abruptly ripped away from you is like a person suddenly being laid off from their job. Those of us who are disabled or have chronic illnesses may depend on our health insurance every single day just like most people have to depend on having an income from a job every single day. Once that gets taken away from you unexpectedly, how do you feel?




There is a long story to why I have lost my health insurance twice since July 2012 and when I have more energy and more answers, I will blog more about my experiences with the Social Security, Medicare and disability systems. Today, I just cannot because the system has me completely exhausted and worn done and I want this entry to focus on the miraculous thing that happened today. A thing that despite all the negative things we have to say about the health care system, the insurance companies, and the government, proves that there are good people out there who care.

The short version is this. I switched from my ex-husband's health insurance that I was on as part of our divorce agreement to Medicare Part B July 2012 as I found out I was being dropped from his coverage. I had been eligible for Part B for quite a while but chose to stay on his as it had better coverage and was more affordable. I had notified all parties involved about my decision and took all the appropriate steps and was told that if and when I was dropped from my ex's group coverage, I would be eligible for Medicare Part B through special enrollment which is what I did. Because of my extensive medical care needs and Sjogren's specialists that are only located in CT (I live in MA), I also signed up for a Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) PPO Medicare plan; known as a Medicare Advantage plan. This became my official insurance for everything. It cost a lot more for premiums, co pays, drugs, labs, etc. but was my best option at the time.

Social Security Adminstration (SSA) made a huge error and dropped my Part B in mid July which in turn dropped me from BCBS. To this day, nobody can explain the error. It was a fiasco. They still owe me large sums of money that they mistakenly took from my monthly SSDI checks. Errors they have admitted to but have yet to set straight. However the health insurance was put back in place after approximately two weeks and life went on.

I contacted Congressman's John Olver's office in western Massachusetts to assist me in getting this money back. They began to diligently work on the issue but meanwhile once again, without notice, my Medicare Part B was dropped in September without an adequate explanation except to be told there was a systems error. This of course prompted BCBS to drop me from their plan which is standard procedure, leaving me with no medical coverage at all. I had no notification except from my local CVS pharmacist who called to notify me that one of my refills did not go through because my insurance was denied and then a voice mail from SSA saying "you no longer have Part B, I don't know why, and don't know what to do about it." I was unable to connect with my case worker at SSA however I was able to speak with the congressional aid at Congressman's Olver's office who started to follow through on the issue for me.

Meanwhile I was dealing with an exacerbation of my Sjogren's syndrome which required an increase in medications and more lab work, an orthopedic appointment of a six month old sprained ankle that had gone bad, and an MRI. I started physical therapy for said ankle and then had to stop as I had no insurance and was worried the issue won't get straightened out as by this point I didn't understand what the issue was or what was going to happen next.

I have learned to handle stress very well. I have to with an autoimmune illness because stress just makes my symptoms worse. But not having health insurance puts me in sheer panic mode and I had my first panic attack in years. I became afraid to answer the phone or check the mailbox because it was always bad news that just made my situation worse and more frustrating. My days became filled with dealing with emails, phone calls, documenting every single thing said or done, working with health care providers and the pharmacy; the list goes on and on.

After several straight days of dealing with this, yesterday I heard back from the Congressman's office who told me she got me reinstated in Medicare Part B but being the skeptic I am, I knew I would not feel sure about this until I called BCBS the next day to get reinstated with them because they would check the system and I would know for sure I was all set.

So today I called and sure enough, according to the system, I did not have Part B and could not get my BCBS back. I told the rep how I had to borrow money to pay for my medications yesterday and had to cancel appointments which was concerning since I just found out that my MRI showed a torn tendon in my right ankle. Also I had missed an important eye doctor appointment today. She promised me that she would flag my file and watch the system for my name to come through as maybe I went into the system late yesterday at SSA and might come through tomorrow morning. I knew better though. It wasn't going to be that simple.

So I hung up and just cried. I asked God why can't the people in charge just make this right so I can get the care I need and so I can not feel so riddled with anxiety to the point where I feel like I am on the verge of panic? Don't they realize because of my health issues how vulnerable I am? I have utilized every resource I have. I prayed for the strength to just keep going.

And then the phone rang. I hesitated to pick it up because well, it's always bad news lately. It was a woman named Judy from BCB. She told me that effective today I will be fully reinstated onto my BCBS plan. I told her that I had just spoken to someone from BCBS who said I wasn't in the Medicare Part B system yet so that couldn't be done. This woman said that yes, that is true what the previous woman said and that that same woman had then contacted her and that the priority to them is that I receive the medical care I need. And apparently she was the one that was going to make that happen.

I started to cry, a lot.
Because I had health insurance again.
Because I could get the care that I needed.
Because someone cared enough to go to the edge for me.
I was no longer just a number.
I was a human being.

She said my coverage will be retroactive to July 1st (as it should be) and she will check to make sure that none of my recent claims will be denied. She said she needs twenty-four hours to get my prescription coverage in place but to bring all my scripts, including ones I paid for out of pocket so far, to CVS and they will be covered effective tomorrow. She said to make sure I attend my physical therapy appointment tomorrow and to be assured that I now have medical insurance. She will deal with the rest. She was my angel.

This is what happens when God is listening and when you are fortunate enough to find your way to the compassionate people who work in the health insurance industry. Thank you Judy.

Addendum: I called Blue Cross/Blue Shield again today September 21st to reconfirm that I still have an active policy because well, it just seemed all a little too good to be true. And yes, I still have coverage. So today I am off to get a prescription and another much needed physical therapy session. God is good.

Photo Courtesy of Google Images


  1. This one made me cry in the best way possible. YAY! Char

  2. What would we do without angels like Judy?! God bless her.

  3. Christine -- I am so sorry you have had to go through this twice in the last three months and I have been thinking about you and hoping that things would soon be corrected. The effort and stress that it took for you to get this fixed is inexcusable, but a sad fact of how healthcare seems to work. You are totally right that it often just takes one person who wants to and puts in the effort help to fix these health insurance issues. Hope that you can take a few deep breaths now.

    1. Thank you. I am hoping now to put that particular issue behind me and get on to the business of dealing more with some of the current health issues. I know that you know what that is like.