The ongoing battle of health-insurance reform is particularly close to home for me. I have one month to find a new insurance plan, which is when my six-month coverage ends.
My research starts innocently enough. I want to look into health savings accounts, mainly because my accountant, who is much smarter than me, recommends them and knows that I am motivated by spending the least amount of money possible.
So I do what any good journalist does. I make a strong cup of coffee and Google “Colorado health savings account.” I would like to work with a local company: I envision being able to walk into a Denver office, sit down, and go through a plan line by line to make sure it’s right for me.
I am in for a lot of disappointment.
I click on one of the sites, review information about HSAs, and find out that I will need to purchase a “very affordable” high-deductible plan to pair with a savings account, to which I would contribute money that would be marked only for health-related expenses. I wonder what is considered “very affordable,” so I click on “compare prices.”
This is my first mistake.
I enter a small amount of information: my zip code, name, address, and phone number. I’m also asked for my gender, height, weight (hey now!), and if I am a smoker. Using that info, a basic listing of high-deductible plans appears, which range from $30-$45. I make note of the information, intending to see if my budget can support the plan as well as an HSA contribution and still make financial sense.
That’s when my phone rings. It’s just after 7:30 a.m., which is officially still in the “emergency” range for me. I don’t recognize the number, so I let it go to voicemail, then listen to a sleepy health insurance agent.
“Jennifer?” he says, and then yawns obviously. “I have a request here that you’re looking for some health insurance? Gimme a call.” He says he’s with a provider that I don’t recognize from the Web site. I delete the message.
He calls again—twice.
And so does a woman (10 minutes later), who leaves a message saying, “You have been approved! We can get you into a plan by midnight tonight!” She says she will be working until 9 p.m. and to call any time. Keep in mind, she has none of my medical information, except that I’m 5′8, one-hundred-and-cough-cough pounds, and not a smoker.
My phone has been ringing nonstop, in fact, thanks to unsolicited health insurance agents who know very little about me yet want to sign me up for a plan as soon as possible.
Which is sort of flattering, but what they don’t know is that I’m an insurance nightmare. I regularly have to be screened for lumps in my breasts; past masses have been iffy and my mom had breast cancer. I’ve been treated for anxiety (having no idea of the insurance ramifications of therapy), and once ended up in the hospital, crying from abdominal pains that were deemed a “medical mystery” by the ER doc.
I know that searching for an individual health insurance plan is going to be a long process, but the level of confusion, urgency, and, frankly, harassment that began on my first day of research has been a surprise. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your stories. Are you on an individual plan? Have you used a health-care agent? Do you have a plan that has great customer service? I’d appreciate any advice—but no phone calls, please. Just leave them in the comments.