The Washington Times-Herald

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December 13, 2011

Seniors shown no respect by insurance companies

Johnstown — Anyone who has helped a senior citizen navigate the murky waters of corporate or government programs can tell you it’s a confusing and frustrating process.

Yes, and also for the seniors.

I recently helped an individual traverse the maze of Medicare open enrollment, and found myself flip-flopping between agitation and outright infuriation.

In the months leading up to the Dec. 7 deadline for making prescription drug changes, the person received a boatload of solicitation mailings – all disguised as last-chance ultimatums.

You will lose your coverage if you don’t join us, they insinuated.

Your current insurer is ripping you off, they alleged, but we will be your savior.

They offered: Here’s an easy-to-use payment book. Just sign the attached form and send it back and you’ll be all set.

Little in the way of actual information that could help someone decide what’s best

– in terms of services and costs – for him or her.

Ironically, all the attention seemed to evaporate when we started contacting agencies and asking actual questions.

Several hours on the phone meant an agonizing journey through an electronic labyrinth of digital voice messages (“Habla Español?”) and commands (“Please press 4 if you would like to be inadvertently disconnected so you can start all over again.”).

At one point, we spoke with a long string of people in succession, all of whom:

n Put us on hold for an exasperating period of time made worse by incessant, mind-numbing chamber music playing louder than an Aerosmith concert;

n Asked us the same sequence of questions

– “What is your group number?”; “What is your policy number?”; “What is your date of birth?”; “Which is your favorite Beatle?” ...

n Decided that they were not – “And I am so sorry.” – the person we actually needed to speak with, and ...

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