Man charged for cancelled insurance

May 25, 2009 7:12:30 PM PDT
Health insurance is expensive enough but what if you pay and still aren't covered at all? 7 on your Side's Michael Finney says it can and has happened.

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Many people dread going to the dentist. But, for one Bay Area man, a recent visit was especially painful and it was not because of the dental drilling. It was his dental insurance.

Glenn Bell had two good dental plans. One through his wife's job and another through a Delta Dental plan he bought a year and a half ago through his own job.

"I figured, well with Delta Dental and paying that much money, I probably have great dental insurance," he said.

Out of habit, Bell was using his wife's insurance. But at his last dentist appointment he found out his Delta plan would cover more of the cost, so he used it. That is when he found out the truth.

"I had no benefits and was unaware that I had no benefits," he recalled.

It turned out that Delta had cancelled his insurance way back in April 2008, yet Delta had been taking his money, $156 per month, the whole time, in premiums that came directly out of his paycheck.

A Delta official told him, "I can confirm that your benefits were terminated."

"Why didn't you pick up the phone and call me and let me know or write me a letter or say something?" Bell asked.

"Wellm you know, there's a lot of people in your group and we really don't have time to contact each and every individual," was the reply he got.

Bell had one more question.

"What have you been doing with the $156 that I've been paying you for the last 15 months?" he wanted to know.

"Well, you're going to have to contact someone else," was the response.

Bell demanded a full refund of all that money, about $1400 in all. He wrote letters and left messages but got no response. So, he told Delta he was headed over to its San Francisco headquarters to straighten things out.

"You no longer have Delta Dental benefits, so we don't have to discuss it with you," they told him. "So, you have a nice day and stay away from our building."

That felt about as nice as a root canal and Bell did not know where to turn.

"I've watched Michael Finney and I've seen what he can do. I just said, "Let me call 7 On Your Side."

So he did and 7 On Your Side contacted Delta and got answers quickly. Delta said Bell was dropped from the plan due to an error by an outside plan administrator. Delta said it should not have taken so long to research his problem. And, the company said it was "working with those individuals who contributed to making this an unsatisfactory experience for Mr. Bell."

"About 96 hours later I got a check in the mail for $1,404 and a letter of apology," said Bell.

Delta said mistakes like this are "a rare occurrence" in a company with 18 million customers. It said, "We know how frustrating it can be dealing with an insurance company, especially when one feels there is a lack of responsiveness. We are fully reviewing this particular case."

Iindeed, Bell got his full refund.

"I'm a happy camper. Yes, I'm totally pleased and satisfied," he told ABC7.

These days health plans often are administered by a third party. Mistakes are rare, but as this case shows they can happen. So it is always a good idea to check your eligibility status before you go for services.

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