Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Confusion reigns

This is a story about (un)intended consequences and how two seemingly disparate social hot-buttons can wreak havoc with each other. Ultimately, it's also about how misunderstanding and miscommunicating key facts can cause confusion and resentment.

About a year-and-a-half ago, we pondered whether same-sex couples would turn out to be a viable market. In the interim, same-sex marriage (SSM) has become a hot political issue, and today we have a story of how those two intersect.

At one of my favorite poli-blogs I recently ran across a comment from a fellow insurance agent. Comments at that site are anonynous, but I was able to connect with the commenter (I have my ways) to confirm that she is, in fact, a health insurance broker and that she was relaying what she believed in good faith to be accurate..

Here's the story:

This was amusing today. I'm an insurance agent. One of the lines I broker is health, and I got a call today from a woman who needed to find new coverage. She had been covered by her same sex partner as a domestic partner, but since Maryland passed gay marriage, she's now been told that she can no longer stay on the policy unless they get married. She was not happy with this turn of events:

"I mean, how fair is this? We don't want to get married, at least not right now, and we're being told we have to in order to maintain benefits? Heterosexual partners can be on the same policy as domestic partners, but now we can't? This sucks that they're forcing marriage on us."

As noted, I was able to confirm that the commenter is, in fact, a professional, independent agent. But we're sticklers for accuracy here, and this is a touchy enough subject that it seemed prudent to confirm some of the basic information. FoIB Jeff M pointed me to the Maryland insurance laws online; unfortunately, that didn't answer my questions. So I reached out to the Maryland Insurance Administration for confirmation.

In an impressive display of agency efficiency, my email was answered in one business day, and included an explanation of the true facts as well as documentation (available by request to interested readers):

"Mr. Stern:

The statute regarding coverage of domestic partners is § 15-403.2 of the Insurance Article. It has not been changed by the passage of the same-sex marriage law. I have attached a copy of a public letter by the Office of the Attorney General about same-sex marriage that discusses insurance.

Maryland Insurance Administration"
So it turns out that the HR person with whom the caller was working was misinformed (or perhaps the caller misunderstood). Regardless, the lesson here is that even "experts" can be wrong, and it's often wise - and especially when one's financial and physical health are at stake - to confirm that what one is being told is, in fact, true and accurate.

Not a bad lesson, that.

[Hat Tip: Ace of Spades]
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