November 13th, 2009
11:08 AM ET

Dear President Obama #298: My life in open enrollment purgatory

Reporter's Note: President Obama is off on another trip, and once again I am hoping for a postcard. After all, I write him every single day. You would think…oh well…

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

So I spent part of my day grinding through that unique circle of hell called my annual insurance review, or Open Enrollment, as the company memos euphemistically call it. It’s a good thing I’m not in charge, because I’d slap a new title on it to more properly foreshadow the misery you should expect; something like “Days of Rage” or “The Insurance Inquisition” or “Lunch with Karl Rove.” Remember that Elvis Costello line? It went something like, “They took me in the office and they told me very cleverly, the way that I could benefit from death and disability.” That’s pretty much how I feel.

Don’t get me wrong. My experiences with insurance companies, by and large, have been OK. Not great. Not like a shrimp po-boy. But OK, nonetheless. I’ve heard the horror stories of how insurance companies sometimes treat people, but I’ve been fortunate and have never had a big league problem with one of them.

No, my complaint is about the sheer complexity of it all. I’ve grown very frustrated in recent years that insurance companies, banks, grocery stores, accounting departments, credit card companies, and on and on and on have developed “customer” services that I don’t think really have anything to do with helping customers. To the contrary, I think they work up these fancy-pants websites to get us to do all their work for them. They tell us it’s to give us “options,” and “freedom,” and “choices,” but mainly it seems like a way for them to save money on hiring people who might actually help explain their services.

Sure, websites work well (sometimes great) as long as everything you are dealing with fits into the “normal” box. But try to find an answer to an unusual question and you may as well start rubbing old bottles and hoping for a genie. And don’t even get me started on phone trees…

I also get pretty hacked off over companies trying to dress up bad news as something else. My insurance now includes something called “co-insurance.” What that means is I have to pay more. But rather than just say, “Hey sport, better pull out your wallet and grit your teeth,” they try to imply that somehow I’m becoming an insurance executive.

What fun! It hurts enough to pay the bill, don’t treat me like I’m five.

Anyway, that was my day. I understand your staff is going through a little shakeup, huh? Give me a call if you need advice on whom to fire next; I have some thoughts. Ha! Just kidding. Your enemies would say you were adding to the unemployment problem anyway.

Hey look, I started and ended that paragraph with the same word!

Well, anyway…



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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Kells1001

    It's all about money, therefore a paradox to believe that I will ultimately profit from the demise or misfortune of another. I don't think this is what Benjamin Franklin had in mind, but he didn't apparently perceive the power of greed and protectionism of large corporations and large insurance companies. There is an answer through Public and Private corporation but ultimately those at the top of both venues win while everyone else becomes a victim. There was a day when corporations could provide health care with no deductibles. Those days are gone and now the day has come where all citizens are paying massively for health care and high deductible insurance policies that they can't afford to use. When they finally do pay after an operation characterized by massive overages in costs they seldom pay enough and people lose it all anyway. Welcome to the New America.

    It would be cheaper and more efficient to consider outsourcing Health Care to some other country that keeps costs down, provides low cost prescriptions and preventive health care services. We have given all the solutions over to billionaires and their cadre of supporters.

    November 13, 2009 at 12:47 pm |
  2. Tim Gibson

    The problem with insurance companies is the open range they are allowed to feed on. All if fine as long as they receive funds, but when it is payout time the games begin for many.

    I had this problem only once, yet consulted with an attorney who provided instruction to a written letter and once I did this the battle ended, after 11 months I might add.

    While we all hard that insurace giant AIG was just to big to fail, the real problem was ignorned just as it was with the Fort Hood shooter. AIG is to big for its pants and needs to be taken in a notch or two, not bailed out and allowed to expand. Failure is failure and our insurace industry is in failure mode and no amount of failed government run programs will change that.

    November 13, 2009 at 12:41 pm |
  3. Boomer in Mo

    Glad you've not had any real problems with insurance. Get ready. You will, particularly if you develop a chronic problem. I've been mad for three years since our former insurance company tried to get out of paying for my husband's new pacemaker by saying it was elective surgery. They finally agreed to pay after I nagged a couple of poor insurance company clerks for an hour on the phone, demanding over and over that they tell me how to live without my heart beating because I obviously had been wasting a lot of energy for the past 60 years. I'm pretty sure insurance computers flash "mean, crazy woman" anytime I have to call.

    November 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  4. Conserve' for USA

    Tom what makes the difference if it's the government making the rules or the insurance company? There will be rules to follow in a government ran health care program just like there is in Medicare and Medicaid. Do you think their advisary board is going to be any different than the insurances?

    November 13, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  5. Lori


    November 13, 2009 at 9:21 am |
  6. melinda in cotulla, tx

    Funny, crazy!

    November 13, 2009 at 9:03 am |
  7. Toot Trainbridge

    Money and greed is the cause of it all.

    November 13, 2009 at 8:32 am |