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LIVE LOCAL, LIVE SMALL: The ongoing ordeal with BCBSNC

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Theft and insurance goes hand in hand with BCBSNC.

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“Is it time for Hilda to have a bath?” Jock asked hopefully. I nodded and confirmed both she and Horace were scheduled to go to Von Barkee’s on Friday.

TRY AGAIN: Gwenyfar Rowler is one of thousands of North Carolinians who’ve had to deal with BSBSNC enrollment issues. NCDI website image.

TRY AGAIN: Gwenyfar Rowler is one of thousands of North Carolinians who’ve had to deal with BSBSNC enrollment issues. NCDI website image.

“Not today?” he hinted. I shook my head and mumbled something about giving her leg a few extra days to heal.

“I mean, it has been four months since she had a bath—are you really going to notice three more days?” I asked.

Jock commented he was just happy there was a bath scheduled. He was, but Horace was definitely not.

For readers just joining us, Hilda—the furry love-light of a canine who has me completely wrapped around her paw—had a car accident just before Christmas. We rushed her to Eastern Carolina Veterinary Referral Animal Hospital, where in spite of my hysterics and poor decision-making skills, Dr. Ned Williams saved her life and her leg. I truly have no doubt that had we not wound up there, the best-case scenario would be her missing a leg right now. Best. Case. But the gods were on her side, and thanks to Dr. Williams and the staff, Hilda has her life and all four feet in working order. Sure, it took pins and metal rods holding her bone back together, which meant an open wound having to be fragilely cared for. Which also meant: She couldn’t be submerged in water. Thus, everyone is ready for her to have a bath. Except Horace, because that means he has to have one, too.

When we began the odyssey of Hilda’s leg, Jock and I were in the process of picking out health insurance plans. Hands down, Hilda’s medical care has been top notch—and we have definitely paid for it. There was no question about rearranging financial plans to make meeting her needs top priority. In the meantime, I have been caught in the insane cyclone of life with Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC. 

In the winter BCBSNC sent me a notice that, even though I had one doctor visit last year and one prescription for antibiotics filled, they were going to raise my monthly premiums by over $150. That is absurd, and there is no defensible reason for this. Quire frankly, I do not have an extra $2,000 a year hanging around to give to BCBS. So we started looking at different plans to change it to something that would cover hospitalization, which is the big fear.

After sorting through my parents’ medical bills from their illnesses last year, I now fully understand just how terrifying insurance billing situations can be. So we picked a plan and applied for it, received confirmation of it, and was told I would receive my first bill in January.

By the middle of January, I had not received any further communication from BCBSNC. I preemptively sent them a check and letter of explanation to make sure the policy premium was paid. The same again in February.  Finally, in March I got a bill—and of course it was incorrect in every way. After approximately 18 hours on the phone—most spent on hold, spread out over a week—I received confirmation (verbally) on my insurance policy. They said if I sent in the bill I received in the mail with a check, everything would move forward as it should. Clearly, I am not singled out for this experience if this is the front page of the NC Department of Insurance website:

“BCBSNC ENROLLMENT ISSUES: The Department of Insurance has been in close contact with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina since we learned of the problems it is having with processing enrollments and payments. Our highest priority is to ensure people who are in need of urgent medical services receive immediate attention from the company. We continue to monitor the progress they are making with their call volume and systems…”

Actually, on March 9, news reported the National Association of Insurance Commissioners had reopened 70 cases regarding BCBS enrollment and billing problems. On April 6 the Associated Press reported, “The chief operating officer of NC’s largest health insurer has quit, months after about 25,000 customers couldn’t enroll, were charged incorrect amounts for insurance, or couldn’t get cards to show they had coverage.”

While the BCBS tornado spun and daily life focused primarily on Hilda, Jock and I were aware of another medical concern: our doctor of choice was considering moving his office. For the last decade Doug Dixon has dispensed medical care from a restored house on Market Street with the help of his aide-de-camp, Sean, and his therapy dogs (first Jesse, now Willy). Thankfully, Dr. Doug decided to restore the house and not move the practice—because downtown needs a thoughtful, caring doctor. Last weekend I found myself painting trim in one his exam rooms with him. He kindly saw to an emergency on my part, and I was beside myself with gratitude to have someone take me seriously and put my health and safety first, which Dr. Dixon has done. Rather than force myself through a labyrinth of paperwork before I get 5 minutes with someone who doesn’t know my name, I chatted with Willy, got a look at all the beautiful upgrades he and the staff made to the building, and reminded myself again how much I like going there on rare occasions I admit I need help.

So imagine my shock—after having paid BCBS repeatedly for insurance they promised—to get a call the following day saying they weren’t paying for my visit. Apparently, they said I didn’t have a policy with them. I was apoplectic. Really? After almost $5,000 this year alone, I don’t have a policy? Let me translate that into English: Theft. That is called theft—taking money under false pretenses and not delivering the promised product.

Another four hours on the phone, and still I did not appear to have insurance from what I could tell. To be blunt, what angers me most is I have tried at every turn to pay for insurance and do all the adult things to make this happen. Yet, they act as if I am in the wrong. I am preparing myself to lose another entire business day to this fiasco. Though it is both comforting and terrifying to know I share the problem with several thousand fellow North Carolinians, I realize I am incredibly lucky because I have a relationship with a doctor who puts humanity and care first. Thank you, Dr. Dixon.

Perhaps one day BCBS can get it together, and we can say that everyone gets healthcare as good as Hilda.

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