When I retired from teaching in a suburban school district north of Detroit in June 2003, I left Michigan for my hometown of Pittsburgh with boxes of belongings, twenty-nine years of memories, and health insurance tied to my state pension. That insurance has served me well–except when it has not.
My Michigan insurance has allowed me to have routine check-ups, tests that doctors deem essential, and–unfortunately–four surgeries on my jaw. It has also caused me intense headaches and extreme aggravation when the communication system between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of Michigan has broken down. I have, as a result, received “overdue bills,” an anathema to someone who always pays her bills on time. I have received several letters from a collection agency, even after someone in Pittsburgh or Detroit has assured me that “everything is under control.” And I have spent hours on hold, waiting for a supervisor to listen to my situation and resolve it in a timely manner.
Health-care personnel have inadvertently reversed the numbers on my insurance card. Pittsburgh has mailed claims to the wrong address. Or a claim, like the proverbial check, “is in the mail”–and remains forever undelivered. Sometimes, Detroit insists it has received and honored the claim and cannot understand why the information has not made it to the physicians or facilities that provided the service in Pittsburgh. I share that lack of understanding.
My challenges with my health insurance have taught me patience, perseverance, and the value of keeping good records–filing every piece of paper I receive concerning my treatment, including bills, and creating a list of all the people with whom I converse, the agency they represent, and the date and time we spoke. My challenges with my health insurance have taught me to be my own advocate and to not allow the system, with its innate and inevitable flaws, to overwhelm or destroy me.
Yes, my health insurance rooted in one state and active in another has been a source of stress. But I cannot imagine life without it.