A friend of mine for more than 50 years died recently. He was a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and was nicknamed "Lucky" by his buddies because he was the only member of his tank company who was not wounded or killed in that horrific battle.
While talking to his widow, who lives in a suburb of Chicago, Ill., she told me the insurance company that insured her husband, United Insurance, a subsidiary of Kemper Insurance, had sent her a check for less than half of his $10,000 life insurance policy, which he had paid off many years ago.
I asked my friend, Joe Griffies, a Vietnam veteran and veterans advocate who is the host of the radio program,"The Welcome Home Show," to look into the matter. Joe's program is on WIBG on Saturdays from 2 to 4 pm and it reaches out to listeners all over the country.
Joe called the insurance company and basically said that it was cheating this woman when she is grieving the loss of her husband and is most vulnerable. He said this is the kind of story that MSNBC, Fox News and CNN would love to have. The woman he was talking to said, "Oh, don't do that!"
My friend's widow got a call the following day from that woman, who said the company "had made a mistake," and a check for the balance of the $10,000 would be sent to her. She received the check the following day via special mail.
This story is not unusual. The same thing happened to me more than 30 years ago when Blue Cross of Pennsylvania refused to compensate me for the medical bills for a member of my family who was insured under my policy with that company. This went on for a year and my visit to the Insurance Department of the State of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia was a waste of time.
I finally called the insurance company and told the agent I had been talking to for more than a year that I was meeting with a friend of mine, a business columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who was going to write an article about this situation. Within two days I received a check for all of the medical bills I had fought over for more than a year.
Unfortunately, not everyone has a Joe Griffies or a business columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer to turn to — and the insurance companies continue to get away with cheating clients at every opportunity. I verified this with an insurance adjuster in Florida, who boasted that his salary and bonuses were based on the extent to which he was able to lessen or deny claims to older people who were insured with his company. Although he is a lawyer, he said he was earning more as an insurance adjuster than he would have earned as an attorney.
For an inside look at the health insurance industry in this country, and its impact on every one of us, I suggest you read "Deadly Spin," written by Wendell Potter. He spent 19 years years with one of the nation's largest insurance companies, CIGNA, and was the head of that company's corporate communications department when he left in 2008. His experiences there, and the reasons why he left, are the substance of his book — and it is a must read for every American.
Beau Weisman, Editor