Monday, July 25, 2011

Insurance woes

This is a long one, but I felt I should tell you as I didn't want you to think it was all sunshine and butterflies when you move back to the US. 

This is me getting health insurance in Ireland:

Ring Ring....
Me: Hi, I'd like to get health insurance. I've looked online at your different plans and this is the plan I would like to get.
Them: Grand sure! We can have it start immediately. The cost is 75 euro per month. We'll send out all your policy info.
Me: Great! Have a nice day!

The process of getting insurance in the US totally sucks.

We don't have jobs, so we have to apply for health insurance on our own. I tried one of the larger companies here in Maryland, but was denied because of my BMI. I wonder if you would be denied if your BMI was too low. Hmmm.... Anyway, they suggested I apply for this federal high risk pool since I was denied for medical reasons. Ironically, the coverage managed by this same large MD company and is actually better and cheaper than what I was denied. One stipulation is that you can not have had insurance in the past 6 months. I called the help line and they very friendly man (seriously friendly) reassured me that all they care about is US healthcare. Off goes the application (with an explanation of my Irish healthcare) and I get a letter last week that the reason I was denied was because I had healthcare in the past 6 months. So I call AGAIN and they assure me that it's only US healthcare that counts. I explain my situation and she asks if I could fax that explanation to them. I could start a whole separate rant about how the US is the only country in the world that still uses fax machines, but I'll spare you. I asked if I could email it. No. So now I have to be inconvenienced to hunt down a freaking fax machine to tell them something that was already written on my original application. Not to mention our brand new printer is a piece of junk, so I'll have to hand write it. I'm pretty excited about this situation.

On to the homeowners insurance....

I never got homeowners in Ireland, but I'm fairly certain it would gone pretty much the same as the health insurance.

Prior to moving to the UK I used a large insurance company that starts with an 'A' and ends with 'state'. I was really happy with them. Unfortunately, they didn't provide insurance for rental properties, so I had to switch to another company. The coverage wasn't as good and the price was the same, but it was fine for a rental. After we moved back into the house I contact my previous company as I was anxious to get more decent coverage on the house again. The woman that I dealt with was an absolute star. Everything was done over email (she didn't ask me to fax anything), it was totally easy peasy. One day a guy comes by and says he wants to take pictures of the house for our application. Great! Nothing has changed on the exterior since the last time I was covered, so no problem. About a week after that we get a very nasty letter from the risk department telling us that they're cancelling our policy based on our dishonesty with the condition of the house. They never would have covered us if they knew we were such high risk.

They cancelled us because of this:

This is a soffit on the back of the house. Apparently it could fall off and injure someone. Okay, fair enough.

And this:

What is it, you ask? See how the front stoop only has one railing on it? Yeah. That's why.

This is the one that really ticked me off.

There was no mention in the letter that we had the chance to fix things before they decided to cancel us. So, I emailed my contact person and she said that we do have the chance to fix things, and she agreed the soffit in the back was a bit ridiculous (I had said that it's about $20 to fix it), but that they couldn't be lenient on the railing thing. You may notice in the above picture that my neighbor only has one (not pictured) railing. My neighbor on the other side - one railing. Every house on my block - one railing. 90% of houses in Baltimore city - one railing (I know this because I can't stop looking at railings now). I was furious. How do they get any new business in the city?? Yes, I asked her that and she didn't answer me. The cancellation letter only suggested we trying getting insurance from the company I used when the house was a rental. This is the company that people use when they don't qualify with anyone else, so you can imagine what their rates would be for a comparable policy to the one getting cancelled. Um, no. People in this town are getting their one-railing houses insured by someone and I'm going to find them. What do I do? I go to their major competitor, State F-. I was terrified that we were going to be penalized since the other company was cancelling us, but they put my fears to rest on that. They were sending someone out to take pictures for our application, so Wes had his first DIY project:

(His second one should probably be cleaning the siding!Yikes!)

As I predicted the total project was about $13 and we're the proud new owners of some tin snips! I've been reassured that the railing isn't a problem and he said, that's why you pay for insurance, right? RIGHT!!! And my favorite part was that they gave us a reusable bag for the grocery store and this: 

You had me at chocolate fudge brownies....

Seriously though, I actually lost sleep over this situation and more worryingly, I probably sprouted a few new gray hairs. Why? Because that letter from their risk department made it sound like I was this horrible, deceptive person. Everything was fine in 2006, how did I know this now was grounds for cancellation?? Why would I think the stoop would be a problem when that's how the entire city has been designed? My stoop has been like that since at least the 1950s! My parents have faithfully used this company for many years and I was their customer for over 10 (started with auto and then homeowners). Is there no customer loyalty??

Bottom line is they wronged me and if anyone asks me for a suggestion for insurance I will definitely point them in a different direction. I don't feel totally okay about calling them out on this blog, but if you can't work out the company from my very non-cryptic clues, then send me an email and I'll be happy to tell you who it is.

Once I find that stupid fax machine, this should hopefully be the end of our insurance woes for a little while. Thankfully I have a hair appointment on Thursday to cover up all my new gray hairs!


  1. We went through this (the health insurance) when we returned to the US from the UK. Have you looked into using a broker? It is free for you, they do a lot of the work and find the best plan for you. May be worth looking into! Good luck!

  2. I'm glad State F was there for you guys! What a good neighbor. :)

  3. Aww, I just love the insurance industry here too. It's lovely. if you need a pdf writer. Sorted.

  4. Geez Louise!! What a convoluted bunch of crap. So happy you've sorted through it all - sounds terrible. Thanks for paving the way for us ;-)

  5. I don't get the BMI thing - if that is your only "problem" [as you aren't overweight, which you don't appear to be] you are lucky that is the only thing they denied you on. What I mean is, that is fixable [stupid to have to do, but still fixable]. Imagine if you had asthma or a congenital heart condition - you would have no hope of ever being approved.

    State F- cancelled us when we couldn't afford a deck on the back of our two story home. The sliding glass door that would've gone out to the supposed deck was screwed shut but we didn't have the money for a $5,000 deck. When I found out what they did to policy holders in the wake of Hurricane Katrina I decided to NEVER do business with them again. I wish you luck if someone falls on your stairs. They don't strike me as a company that will pay.

  6. Ugh...great! I think at this point we'll stick with them but these are good points to take into account if we move. Like my husband said, they're pretty much all crap in some way! Thanks for the input!

  7. Email it to me and I'll fax it for you from my fancy new home office! ;)

  8. AS someone who has worked in two different parts of the insurance industry in the US I can assure not only does it suck, but it is intentionally evil.

    Go tell someone who thinks it's ace here how much individual cover is for health insurance. They will refuse to believe you. Because there is NO WAY it can cost that much. Because then it would bear no relation to cost of goods. Which would make it CRIMINAL. Bah.

    We also had the, "oh you need railings" from our homeowners people. And a closed door over the basement steps. And we too wandered up and down the street and noticed not one single other person had these things.

    I enjoy this country. But the insurance side of things is something that makes me say rude words very loudly. Because from start to finish it is clear that it's rigged to rip you off.


  9. Just an FYI....If you have a scanner you can scan your documents ,save them as a PDF file and then email them instead of faxing. I never fax anything. :)

  10. Yes, but she only gave me a fax number. She wouldn't give me an email address, so that wasn't an option. Otherwise I would have just emailed the letter.