By Miriam Griffin
Families with loved ones facing life-changing medical events are confronted with not only the stress of their relative’s prognosis and care, but also an often daunting mix of medical bills, health insurance questions and an array of tests, appointments and specialists. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota’s Member Advocacy Program is helping families navigate this difficult time, providing a personal touch and a dedicated specialist to help them sort through everything and answer their questions. As a member advocate, that’s my job. I help families understand their medical bills and insurance benefits, contact providers to resolve billing problems and make sure claims are processed correctly.
This is how I got to know Ben Johnson and his family. Ben was in a motorcycle accident that left him a paraplegic. When I started working on Ben’s case, I had to call Ben’s father, Nathan, to let him know about a claims processing issue. A number of checks had been mistakenly issued in Nathan’s name instead of being sent to Ben’s medical provider. I had to call Nathan and ask him to send a number of large checks back so we could reprocess the claims correctly, and pay the provider. This can be a tricky conversation if members have already deposited the money, or worse yet, spent it. When I explained the situation to Nathan, he calmly responded, “I’m sorry Miriam, but I’ve already used that money to buy my family a vacation.” I’m pretty sure my heart stopped for a few seconds. I shut my eyes and cringed. A few seconds later, Nathan started laughing and said, “I’m just kidding, I still have the checks on my desk.” I almost fell out of my chair! Nathan and I had a good laugh about that.
I have had many conversations with Ben and his parents, Nathan and Mary, while working on their case. I have formed a bond with many families like the Johnsons while helping them through complex and stressful medical situations. The program not only allows us the opportunity to work directly with members and help them through difficult times, it also helps us to better coordinate their care and identify ways to improve how we do business and communicate with members.
I imagine that Ben’s accident has dramatically changed life for the Johnson family. But through it all, they have remained upbeat and positive. When I think about some of the challenges in my life, I remember families like the Johnsons and what they go through on a daily basis. Almost instantly, the challenges in my life seem pretty manageable. As for Nathan, I still talk to him from time to time. I’ve forgiven him for giving me a slight heart attack.