Twitter Solved My Health Insurance Woes When Common Sense Got in My Way

The switch from private insurance to Medicare was a struggle — especially considering my need for cancer care — that was not solved by numerous phone calls, but by Twitter instead.

The power of social media and its role regarding health insurance has blown my mind.

What emails and countless hours on the phone with multiple people could not accomplish has been fixed by Twitter. One tweet calling out Covered California and Blue Shield of California about a problem with the termination date of my policy and my issue has been resolved.

On Sept. 1, my health insurance officially changed to Medicare from Covered California Blue Shield, my state’s marketplace insurance. I have been stressing over this switch for a few months now and I have done everything in my power to ensure a smooth transition: making sure I have enough of my Lynparza (olaparib) on hand until I can get a refill, canceling the old plan and updating my new insurance information.

Alas, nothing is ever simple when it comes to health care and insurance. More specifically, nothing about living with metastatic breast cancer for over eight years has been simple.

My first mistake was waiting until the day my new Medicare policy took effect to call and cancel my old policy. Apparently, my commonsense approach in waiting until the new coverage began to cancel my previous policy is not how it’s done. Silly me. But in my mind, I can’t risk any lapse in coverage when living with cancer.

I started with a call to Blue Shield to cancel the policy only to be told I needed to cancel through the marketplace. So my next call was to Covered California. The person who I spoke with at Covered California informed me I was supposed to give them two weeks’ notice prior to canceling; I had waited too long and now they couldn’t terminate my plan until Sept. 30.

That seemed fine until I received a bill from Blue Shield two weeks later for a past-due premium for the month of September. I don’t need this Blue Shield policy anymore. I have Medicare now. I can’t have both policies simultaneously.

This is what I was trying to avoid. I had hoped one plan would end and the other would begin with no lapses, no overlapping, no income tax issues regarding subsidies, but it just was not to be. The termination date could not be changed because I called too late. Apparently, I was supposed to know this, but my common sense got in the way.

With this past-due bill in hand, I got on the phone and again called Covered California, who couldn’t help me. I then called Blue Shield, who couldn’t help me. Next, I called the insurance commissioner, who couldn’t help me, but kindly referred me to the Department of Managed Healthcare. The Department of Managed Healthcare suggested I file a complaint, which I did.

The message I received back from them was encrypted so I couldn’t open it, which wasn’t helpful. I filed a grievance with Blue Shield. Then I contacted my insurance agent and even he couldn’t help me.

In my frustration I sent out one tweet on Twitter. One tiny tweet, not even using all 280 allotted characters. The tweet said, “I hate health insurance billing issues. I’m talking to you @CoveredCA @BlueShieldCA That’s the tweet.”

I immediately received a response tweeted back from each entity telling me to send a direct message for further assistance. After all the phone calls, complaints and grievances filed I assumed they wouldn't be able to help me either.

After stewing over this for a day, I decided I had nothing to lose but more time at this point. I wasn't getting anywhere with my endless phone calls, with longer than average wait times, listening to the “soothing” hold music. I sent a direct message to Covered California, once again explaining my situation. Their automatic response appeared boilerplate, almost as if it came from a bot.

I messaged back with, “This is not helpful.” To my surprise they asked for my name, birth date and phone number and replied they would escalate my case to their resolution team.

Within five hours of the direct message, I received a phone call from Covered California. They were able to change my termination date to Aug. 31.

I should have started with social media instead of all those hours wasted on the phone. There I go, trying to use my common sense again.

We live in a virtual world these days. I will never again underestimate the power of social media and the one tweet that can possibly fix something no live customer service phone representative could.

I reported back to my insurance agent that my issue had been fixed. When he asked my secret, I happily replied, “Twitter.” So thank you, Twitter. It means the virtual world to this cancer patient to have this resolved.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.