The latest chapter in the True Life Adventures of the piano teacher who hit a big bump in the road a few years back: A secret recipe of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and luck has beaten back the cancer, but the worthiest foe remains: Assurant Health! Assurant deals what they believe is a fatal blow, but Kareylou decides to make one last stand against the Goliath company. Read below the fold to see how you can help. It doesn't even cost any money.
I have been a "valued customer" of Assurant Health for about a decade. Always self-employed, for years I bought an individual insurance policy because that's what a responsible adult did; who knows, I could be in an accident! I'm sure I was considered a good risk: non-smoking, non-drinking, vegetarian yoga practitioner with the blood pressure and cholesterol of a monk. No family history of cancer, either. And piano teaching is hardly a high-risk profession. When I turned 44, I had my entire medical history in a manila folder marked "medical". (You see what's coming don't you, Kossack? When I see pictures of myself from "before", it's like the scene in the scary movie where the sleepy girl wanders down to the frig in nothing but a t-shirt. I'm just glad she didn't know what was about to happen to her.)
Immediately after diagnosis, Assurant Health launched a fraud investigation, the almost humorously absurd details of which I diaried about here:
I fought the attempted rescission, and "won". It has proved to be a hollow victory. Evidently what I won was the right to have a painful insurance procedure called wealth extraction. They have responded by raising my rates until I simply can't pay anymore.
I just got my latest renewal notice and this time my rates are going up another 33%. That makes approximately a 500% increase since I was diagnosed with breast cancer less than five years ago. So unless something drastic happens between now and when the premium is due, they still won. I give. I cannot work any more hours while under continuing treatment, and I don't really own anything anymore of enough value to sell on Craigslist except my piano, and to paraphrase the NRA, Assurant Health can pry my piano from my cold dead fingers.
For the first time since my diagnosis, I am feeling hopeless. Something broke in me when I opened that renewal notice. To be honest, I just walked around for a good long time wailing. It's so demoralizing I can't even tell you. I fought hard (and was fortunate) to beat back a tough prognosis, I'm still able to work 60 hours per week at my successful business, but it still ruined my life. I am optimistic by nature and have tried to remain so but it seems that every time I put my hand up over the edge of the well, there is the Assurant boot, ready to come down hard on my fingers. I have been an indentured servant to Assurant Health, and now........
Right at my lowest point, I saw McJoan's front page article about the denial of Wellpoint's rate increases.http://www.dailykos.com/... Why not Assurant? Why not me? Dare I hope to hang on til 2014, when I might be able to get on the exchange?
Who wants to take a minute to help me do to Assurant what was done to Wellpoint? Because a person's life should not depend on which letterhead their policy was written on.
Here are some emails, addresses and phone numbers. (Yes, Virginia, unfortunately I live in Virginia.)
Virginia Bureau of Insurance:
Toll Free Phone (Nationwide): 1-877-310-6560
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1157 Richmond, Virginia 23218
Corporate Headquarters (CEO = Don Hamm)
501 W. Michigan St.
PO Box 3050
Toll Free Phone (Nationwide): 1-800-800-1212
I also plan to:
- Contact my state reps and Congressperson (Jim Moran) and Senators.
- Go to Healthreform.gov and poke around, see if anyone can help
- Contact my local paper and/or news station?
- Eat some chocolate
- Write HHS Secretary Sibelius
- Write White House health reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle
- Write AHIP president and chief executive Karen Ignagni (no I'm not going to put lutefisk in the envelope, why do you ask?)
Any other suggestions? Positive energy?
A final thought, in which I restate the obvious: No sick person should have to spend whatever precious time they have left on the planet this way. And no one should have to send their retirement savings to millionaires in a desperate effort to reach retirement age.
Paradoxically, I do know how fortunate I am. I'm insured, they didn't drop me, I received great care at Georgetown University Hospital, and so far I survived. But I'm hanging on by my fingernails and crying over my bills when I should be enjoying whatever time I have left on our beautiful planet, and helping my sisters who are on the same path. I just worked so hard to help pass the health care reform bill. It would be a shame for me to go down now, wouldn't it?