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Nesting: My Pregnancy and Health Insurance Headaches

This is the second blog entry in the Nesting series.

Forget morning sickness and hemorrhoids. What really drives pregnant women insane is managing all of their medical bills and coordinating them with their health insurance.

The first time I was pregnant, I was unprepared for what I'll call the "health care hassle factor". I felt like I was holding down a part-time job just trying to keep all the paperwork straight. The trickiest part was dealing with all of the hospital bills since many of the tests and procedures were billed through different offices. On a couple of occasions my payments got credited to the wrong department and it took me weeks and countless phone calls to remedy the situation.

Now nearly eight months into my second pregnancy, I long for such simple problems. This time around my health insurance issues are even more complicated because I've had to switch insurers three times since conceiving. As you might imagine, this has led to countless billing errors and increased out-of-pocket expenses. (Three insurance plans equals three deductibles!) The process of switching insurers and trying to rein in our costs got so complicated that up until today we ran the risk of having no coverage at all for the birth of our child.

My problems first began when my husband's employer decided to switch from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to UnitedHealthcare in May. By this point in my pregnancy all of my health care providers (including the hospital and various labs) had my Horizon information in their computer systems. Despite being told I was now covered by UnitedHealthcare, my bills continued to go to Horizon. As you might imagine, the claims got denied and I'm still in the process of trying to get them forwarded to UnitedHealthcare. (I was informed today that I only have 60 days left to sort out this mess or UnitedHealthcare won't cover the bills. Meanwhile, I still haven't received all the bills that need to get forwarded to the insurer. I've only seen the denied claims from Horizon.)

Then, my husband decided to switch jobs and the real nightmare began. We now had to decide between keeping UnitedHealthcare through COBRA or joining the new company's health plan Health Net. The trouble was we couldn't compare our costs until we found out what our premium would be under COBRA. For some unknown reason, it took weeks to get us this information. By the time we finally received it, we were left with just two weeks to opt into the new employer's plan.

After reviewing our options, it became clear that the premiums under COBRA -- which were around $1,000 a month -- were simply too expensive for us. So we've now decided to go with the new employer's plan. But once we started the process of signing up for Health Net we found out we needed a "certificate of insurance" from both UnitedHealthcare and Horizon. If we didn't get them by July 30, we risked having no insurance at all.

We managed to get the first certificate of insurance from UnitedHealthcare in about a day. But then we initially ran into some trouble getting one from Horizon. It turns out that it normally takes 30 days to get one of these letters from the company. What I learned today is that you can get one faster if you elevate your case beyond a service representative and explain why your situation is urgent. Once I did that, Horizon couldn't have been more helpful. The certificate of insurance was faxed this afternoon. (Thank you, Horizon!)

While I'd like to think that all of my health insurance problems are now behind me, I know that they're just beginning.  Once I get my new insurance card I'll have to inform my providers of another change. I fear three plans in one pregnancy is too much for the billing departments and a pregnant, hormonal woman to handle.

More Nesting stories:

Nesting: 10 Tasks for Second Time Parents

Beautiful Belly image by dizznbonn, CC 2.0.

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