Thursday, July 28, 2005

Tales From The Trenches 1...

There are days…Case in point: Bill and Loni are a nice older couple who’ve recently lost their jobs. Their old employer, XYZ Boxes, was sold to Acme Bags, which laid off most of XYZ’s workforce (gee, THAT hardly ever happens, hunh), including Bill and Loni. Their termination date was June 14, but the coverage was good through the end of the month. Since there were more than 20 employees working at XYZ, they were subject to COBRA.
In any case, they were told that they needed to send XYZ a check for $870 to cover their July insurance premiums. They were given nothing in writing to indicate how that number was arrived at, nor how much of that was for Bill and how much for Loni. In fact, they had literally nothing in writing to indicate that the check would even be used to pay their insurance premium. Nevertheless, they knew that they needed the coverage, so they sent the check.
I first came into the picture last week, when Loni called me for help and advice. Her sister is one of my clients, who referred Loni and Bill to me [ed: call Ripley’s!]. We spoke on the phone a while, and agreed to meet in person to see about options and recommendations. The appointment was yesterday afternoon.
When they arrived, I met a very handsome, mature couple. Bill is 75 and Loni, 63. Bill has a rather problematic health history, while Loni is in pretty good shape. In fact, we quickly decided that she would qualify for a “regular” major medical plan, and moved on to Bill, who posed a more difficult set of problems. For starters, he had not taken advantage of the “window” at age 65 (which would have made a Medicare supplement guaranteed issue), and at age 75 he probably won’t qualify for a plan that will cover what he wants.
In order to have a complete picture, I asked how much of that $870 monthly premium was attributable to each of them. As I indicated above, they had no clue, nor did they have anything in writing regarding their COBRA rights, costs, etc. That’s really not unusual: companies have a 44 day window from the “qualifying event date” to get this info to their former employees, and the clock had really only started ticking a few weeks ago. What did seem unusual to me was the requirement that they (essentially) pre-pay the COBRA premium, with nothing to indicate the validity of the amount.
So I called the Department of Labor, which oversees and enforces COBRA.
At the DOL, I spoke with a very nice, very knowledgeable young lady named Shari, who shared my concern about the oddity of the premium request. We agreed that the best course of action would be for me to call the folks at XYZ, to try to determine what was going on, and to let Shari know if I needed any help after that.
And so, after finishing the call to DOL, I rang up XYZ Boxes. I explained who I was and why I was calling, and was forwarded to the man ostensibly in charge. Once again, I identified myself and the purpose of my call, which was simply to determine how Bill and Loni’s COBRA options were being handled.
It went downhill from there.
Part 2:I don’t know, and I don’t care.” Or “Yes, please report my company to the Feds!
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