Florida residents struggle with insurance woes

- Federal lawmakers are responding to growing complaints about rising costs and access to health care. As the U.S. House and U.S. Senate debate the options and plans, patients in Florida are sharing problems they have encountered that politicians are trying to address.

Many of the problems relate to glitches customers have encountered with health polices they were required to purchase under the Affordable Care Act. 

Janice Dubbin purchased a health policy through the federal exchange. In February, she hit her head and spent days in the hospital. Then she found out her health insurance had been canceled without her knowledge. She said the bills added up to $40,000, until she got her insurance reinstated and the problem eventually fixed. 

"This was an absolute fight. It was a nightmare," she said.

In May, other customers like Mark Lopresti got slammed by a billing glitch. His insurer ran his payment, then mistakenly ran it again more than 70 times.

"I received a low account balance alert from my bank," he said. "It was thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars overdrawn-- tens of thousands overdrawn."

His insurer, Florida Blue, apologized, said it would refund overpayments and reimburse for any overdrawn bank accounts.

But Tod Bakefield told us he was not reimbursed until we relayed his issues directly to Florida Blue.  His problems started when he developed a kidney stone and the hospital his uncle rushed him to would not accept his insurance. He said that plunged him into nearly $10,000 in debt.

Then he struggled to find a physician who would treat him, even when he worked off of a list of doctors who supposedly accept his insurance. He said the first six physicians on the list told him they no longer accept it.

He finally found a doctor who would take his coverage, but then he got a job with health benefits. He said he canceled his policy through the federal exchange (as he was directed by the provider). But weeks after Healthcare.Gov supposedly canceled his policy, the insurer took more than $400 out of his account.

"That led to six bounced check charges totaling $344 which I did not have," said Tod. "I called Florida Blue. They said they didn't receive any cancelation notice… that I needed to call the marketplace to get that taken care of."

Then he said the marketplace directed him to call Florida Blue. He said the marketplace and Florida Blue finally agreed he had canceled the policy, but it didn't take because of a glitch. They reimbursed him for the payment, but not the bounced check fees.

"They told me I should have had money in there to cover it, that it wasn't their problem," he said. "The average person doesn't make that kind of money to cover a glitch in their system. I went hungry and my credit got ruined"

A Florida Blue spokeswoman could not address specifics of Tod's case due to privacy concerns, but added her team was able to make contact with him and has been working with him. She also said the company is working to resolve a processing error the last weekend of April. She said the company has been working with customers one-by-one to refund overpayments and any bank fees.

Tod Bakefield later confirmed he was reimbursed for overdraft fees and money that should not have been extracted from his account after we asked Florida Blue to look into his problems.  

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