Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Nice Personal Touch

I want to preface this post with saying that something certainly needs to be done about the health care system in this country. My youngest brother does not have health insurance, is unemployed and before that, he only had health care services because he was in school at a local university. He hasn't seen a dentist in years and has just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. For that diagnosis, he had to get care through the Indian Health Service, about an hour's drive away. My folks are both retired and drawing Social Security - mom will finally be eligible for Medicare this month. She has hearing problems and needs hearing aids, but can't afford them. She's still paying on a hospital and clinic bill incurred from a hospitalization several years ago. My partner has been going round and round with his insurance about another bill. In other words, I am very aware of the challenges that my own family and friends have to face when dealing with insurance and paying for health care.

I know how very fortunate I am because I have had hardly any problems with my insurance (Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield) regarding my care. A few months ago, I was paying as much as $200/month on dressings, gauze pads, and tape for the open wound, but my wound care nurse gave me a durable medical supplies catalog and I started ordering through them and they bill my insurance first. For the past three months, I've only had about $75 or maybe $100 in out of pocket expenses. My insurance also pays for 70% of my acupuncture treatments - I still have to pay for the herbal supplements though. That's okay.

When I mentioned to my counselor that I have had good luck with my insurance - and although my partner has the same insurance company, his policy is not as good as mine - she observed that my policy may be better than most because I work for the state and also because I am a professor (a well educated consumer). I had to concede that my profession may indeed have played a part in having a good insurance policy.

This is all a prelude to something that occurred with my insurance last week. I received a form from Regence that asked me to report any injuries or accidents that might involve billing another party for any services that I received. (Granted, they were trying to find someone else to pay for my services.) The dates of service coincided with the removal of the tissue expander (see that post here). So, I called the Regence number and talked to someone named Robin. After explaining to her that the services were related to my cancer treatment, not any kind of accident, I then asked why I had received the form. She said that certain diagnosis codes flag the computer to send out the form. In my case, the diagnosis was "open chest wound", which was true enough. I then told her about everything that happened and she said that I do not need to fill out the form stating that there was no accident and that she would file the report via the telephone herself. Cool. I just had to talk to her for a few minutes - I was saved from having to write out the explanation on the form.

Well, yesterday, in the mail, I received a nice hand-written card from her. Among other things, she stated that she wanted to send me encouragement, that she was encouraged by my cheerfulness, and that my great attitude will play a big part in my recovery, and finally, she reminded me that their website does have tips and other resources for handling side effects or other aspects of my cancer treatment.

How often does one ever get a hand-written card of encouragement from one's insurance company? If anyone else ever has, I would love to hear about it.

I would wager that it's very rare. So, let's all give a big round of applause to Robin for taking the initiative and giving me her personal touch. And, Regence, she deserves a raise. Patients with chronic or life-threatening illnesses all deserve more Robins in their lives, especially from insurance providers and other people giving health services! Thank you, Robin!


jeanne said...

That personal touch -- it really DOES make a difference! (I felt the same way when I got a phone call a woman at BCBS to warn me there was a form "rejection" in the mail, and how I should appeal the decision.)

Wendy S. Harpham, MD said...

Wow. Everyone is quick to share the horror stories; thanks for sharing this story of humanity.

I'm wondering if you let her know about your blog...

With hope, Wendy

Dee said...

Hi Jeanne,
I forgot about the phone call you got from BCBS - I remember you blogging about that! Thanks for reminding me! It would be great if we got more of those stories, huh?

And, Wendy, I am going to try to write a letter to her superiors and argue for a raise for her. And, if I knew how to find her, I'd certainly send her my blog address . . .

MisAnthropology said...

You... you... you mean there are actual human beings behind the scenes at these places...? Thank heaven for that.

::applause to Human Robin::

Dee said...

Hi Mary,
The fact that it was a hand-written note, too, and not computer generated was cool. Yes, let's give some applause for Robin!