Man Gets $10,000 Back From Insurance Company Thanks To Metafilter

We readily admit that there are places on the Internet other than Consumerist where one can harness the Internet hive mind to solve consumer issues. Ask Metafilter user Jason sought help when his former insurance company wouldn’t stop auto-billing him, and emerged victorious, collecting the $10,000 he was wrongly charged…plus interest!

Read his tale of eventual victory and learn!

Jason and his family were customers of Bluechoice Carefirst health insurance when they lived in Maryland, paying $1,000 per month in premiums. After moving to California, the family was eligible for cheaper insurance, so Jason canceled the policy. Carefirst apparently didn’t believe him, and kept billing his credit card for ten months. A chargeback failed when the credit card company sided with Carefirst, and so Jason turned to the Internet.

Finally, desperate and seriously not knowing what in the world I could do (and literally more than $10,000 in hole to this whole debacle at this point) I posted a plea for advice on the excellent site Ask Metafilter. Users told me that every state had an Insurance Commissioner and Insurance Adminstration, whose job is to prevent exactly these kinds of abuses.

I contacted the Maryland Insurance Adminstration.

Enter Tara Wilkerson, the first real person who would talk about this situation and try to get to the bottom of it. And she was not happy with what she found. Bluechoice had purged all the phone calls, but did have records of me calling to cancel. However, they said they never received the letters, so they couldn’t cancel. They said the first time they had verifiable communication from me was May of 2008, and they would refund my premiums between then and October of 2008 ñ soÖ 5 months.

The commission sent me a letter telling me this was my settlement, but that I could protest it and request a formal hearing if I didn’t think it was fair. I was tempted to take what money I had coming to me and be happy.

But then it was weird ñ Carefirst told Tara that they had already sent me the refund, and in fact they did not. I had to contact her and tell her I never got any check. This made her very angry ñ because she had to go back and ask them what was going on and they said they were “in the process of sending the check,” and they were sorry if she misunderstood them previously.

Very shady.

I decided, I’m going to push this more. I called Tara and said I wanted the hearing. I reminded her that they had admitted that they had verifiable communication as of May 2008 requesting cancellation and they continued to bill me another $5k from that point. I told her that this was them admitting that they were untrustworthy.

She agreed. And said she hadn’t thought of it in that way, but they were basically admitting to taking $5000 after they knew I was out of state and wanted to cancel.

Today I got a letter: “Our investigation revealed that CareFirst BlueChoice Inc. has violated Maryland insurance law in the handling of your account. Therefore, this Administration has ordered the company to return to you, premiums paid from September 1, 2007 with interest in the amount of 6% per year within thirty days.”

I win! And I never even had to attend a hearing.

Turns out that the date of my cancellation didn’t really even matter. Their investigation found that CareFirst’s own rules state that once I was no longer a Maryland resident I was no longer covered by definition.

Busted, CareFirst. Busted.

Well done! It’s nice to see both a useful government regulatory agency and a happy ending.

How Bluechoice Carefirst scammed me, and how I beat them [Chasing Mist]
I really need to solve this [Ask Metafilter] (Thanks, Emma!)