Need help? Ask the White House

For the past 2 months, I’ve been trying to get my health insurance straightened out.  The new plan that is compliant with the Affordable Care Act was supposed to become active for me as of January 1, 2014.  Unfortunately, the transition for me was not a smooth one.  My online account didn’t show that I had current insurance.  I received no premium billing statement for February at the end of January.  On top of that, Anthem Blue Cross sent me a refund check with a notation that suggested the refund was because of an insufficient payment.

As with most mega companies, there is no easy way to contact Anthem Blue Cross if you have a problem.  Their web site has a messaging system within the online account.  They also list an 800 telephone number.

I started with the online messaging system.  During a 60-day period, I posted 4 messages.  I received a response to the first message 3 weeks after I had posted it.  The response was one sentence with no reference to any of my other questions.  A week later, there was a response to my second message.  The reply was that my question had been answered in the first reply.  Not so.  Apparently, the people tasked with answering the online messages weren’t very interested in actually reading my questions.

During the period when my online messages were not being answered, I tried for about 2 weeks to speak to someone at Anthem Blue Cross by telephone.  Their telephone system is a nightmare.  It is automated and recorded messages reported that they were overwhelmed with calls.  Callers were told that long wait times on hold should be expected.  That was an understatement.  I never did reach a live person.  On 2 separate days, I was on hold for over one hour before disconnecting the calls.

Since I was getting nowhere trying to contact Anthem Blue Cross, I decided to send messages to the 2 United States Senators and the United States Representative, who represent the area where I live.  I received one reply from Senator Dianne Feinstein, which was obviously a generic message.  Nothing in the message addressed my problem.  I didn’t receive a reply from Senator Boxer or from Representative Capps.

I was beginning to feel like I was at the end of my rope.  During the first week of February, my wife tried to use her Blue Cross ID card at a local pharmacy and she was told that the insurance was expired.  Where else could I turn for help?

Feeling a little bit desperate, I decided to visit the web site for the White House.  Yes, that’s right, the house of the President of the United States.  I didn’t think it would help.  I was polite in my message.  I described the problem I was having with Blue Cross because of the Affordable Care Act.  I felt a little better after sending the message, even though the problem was still there.

What happened next was quite a shock.  Within 24 hours of sending the message to the White House through their web site, I received a telephone call from Eric with the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services.  You’re kidding me, this is a joke, right?  Nope, no joke.  Eric was located in Seattle.  He said he was aware that I had sent a message to the White House and he asked me to describe my problem.  After telling him about my problems trying to contact Anthem Blue Cross, Eric told me that he had a co-worker who knows someone at Anthem Blue Cross.  He said he would see what he could do about making contact with Anthem Blue Cross for me.  I thanked him, in advance, for any assistance he could provide.  I also told him of my amazement over the fact that someone actually called me as a result of my message to the White House.  Eric told me that I was not the first to express amazement at getting a response from the Federal Government.

The next evening, my wife and I were watching television at a little after 7 pm when the phone rang.  I checked the caller ID and I almost dropped the phone.  The caller ID said Anthem Blue Cross.  Ruby began by telling me that she was told I was having trouble with my insurance and she offered to help straighten things out.  Okay, I must be imagining all of this.  During the past 2 days, I received telephone calls from 2 huge organizations, and both callers were willing to take the initiative to help me.  What a pleasant surprise.

This story has a happy ending.  It took Ruby a little over a week to straighten out my account.  I was able to go online to my account and see that my insurance was valid.  She sent me temporary ID cards by email.  I am still amazed this resolution was the result of my desperate message that I sent to the White House.

There is a moral to all of this.  The White House does read messages that are sent through their web site.  I’m glad I was polite in the message I sent because they certainly saved the day for me.

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