Thursday, November 19, 2009

(More) Adventures in BCBSAZ-Land

TBG got a thoughtful and lovely letter last week from our friendly health insurer. No, I am not delusional. This clearly written in a fairly large font one page missive was an easily understood reminder of the fact that his benefit package included help with managing disease.

Managing disease is not a phrase you want to see in a personal letter from your insurance carrier.

We were confused. Just this summer our doctor declared TBG a marvel of health and vitality. I wondered about it from a paperwork angle - who input erroneous information which would be used to jack up our rates once again? - and from a medical angle - what did they know that we didn't?

I was perplexed but not worried until this morning when the answering machine revealed Kathy's message. Kathy's a nurse with BCBSAZ and she, too, was offering to help manage TBG's mysterious disease. Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining about this part at all. Her voice was calm and inviting and welcoming and totally relaxed and some part of me wished that we really did have a disease she could help us manage. Nope, we wouldn't mind having her in our lives on a regular basis, reminding us to get a flu shot and watch the trans-fats and complimenting us on going to the gym and getting a good night's sleep and eating a nutritious breakfast and all those things you have to watch out for by yourself once your Mom stops doing it for you. She could call me every morning with a reminder and......

OK, I digress. But really, when have you been drawn to a voice on an answering machine????

Nice as she sounded, at this point I knew I had to take action. TBG listened to Kathy and promised that he had not been hiding any ailments from my wifely instrusiveness and we agreed to try to call her and see what she thought was wrong with him. And so I began dialing.

As a recovering-social-worker I have paid my dues on the-line-is-busy-please-hold queue and my technique is flawless : speaker phone+redial+checking email+listening to 92.9 streaming live=less stress. Note that the equation does not result in speaking with someone; that is a matter of chance. My chance came at about 2pm - the phone was actually ringing.

Kathy is as good on the phone as she is on the answering machine. She was moved by the fact that her line had been busy all day, and she accepted my reassurance that I totally understand being busy with a gentle laugh. There was a real person at the other end of my line who was actually listening to what I was saying and who was believing me. Smart and kind.... how often does that show up in your life?

She let me tell my story and ask my question and she didn't need to hear any identifying information other than TBG's name. She remembered calling him. I was beginning to get weirded out big time - he wasn't an anonymous robo-call recipient, he was TBG and Kathy was worried about him..... or so her phone call led us to believe..... and the us included Kathy because (finally, a chink in her perfect armor!!!) though she had to look him up to see exactly what was wrong, she knew that there must have been a reason she was calling.

Blood tests...... diabetes work up ..... lab results....... oh, I see......

Apparently, the act of ordering laboratory tests to check for the presence of diabetes sets off a chain of letters and phone calls offering support, regardless of the results of those tests. Since TBG's letter didn't refer to a specific disease, and since Kathy had to search to find the specifics of his case, I'm assuming that BCBSAZ sends these communications out to everyone who's been tested for a chronic disease.

It's a really nice service, and probably a very useful resource, and I'm glad to see my insurer reaching out to help before things go from bad to worse, but what if I hadn't had the time to spend re-dialing Kathy's line all day? What if I'd ignored the letters because I was afraid to find out what they were writing about? I have a history of not opening mail that I think will be bad news (NB: I do not recommend this as a course of action for anyone at any time in any place!). I'd just be worrying and wondering and not acting and BCBSAZ would be sending dead trees through the USPS wondering why I wasn't interested in caring for myself with their already paid for so why not use it help.

And then there are the wasted resources - snail mail and stamps and gas for the mail carrier and my time and Kathy's time. And I'm still going to worry that the simple fact of having ordered the tests will have some impact on our premiums come next November's of-course-they-are-going-up annual rate adjustment. And all that could be one reason that health care costs have run amok.

But Kathy rightly pointed out that broadcasting this program widely catches many who would otherwise never see it, and she promised to take TBG off her list right away.

I have the answer to my question. I spent an lovely 12 minutes talking to Kathy. We won't be getting any more confusing communiques. I should shut up and stop right now.

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