AUSTIN EDITION Senator's aide offers help with insurance
By Jim Troyer
There's a quiver in his voice, and the man's hands tremble as he tells his story.
"This has been going on for more than three years now, and I'm ready to just quit," said the man in his late 20s, who requested not to be identified. He said he has been struggling to get insurance companies to pay his health insurance claims.
But Katie Sieben, an aide in Sen. Mark Dayton's office, pushed gently ahead, asking questions, gathering the information she will need to pick apart the elements of this particular tangle.
"Thank you for listening," the man said.
Like so many Minnesotans who have used DFL Sen. Mark Dayton's "Health Care Help Line," the man didn't come to complain about medical care. His medical condition is under the control of his doctors. The problem is with his insurance provider, he said.
Sieben was in Austin on Thursday to meet with hospital officials at Austin Medical Center and later talked to people in the conference room of the Senior Citizen Center.
"Sometimes people are just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of papers that pile up," Sieben said. "That is where our office can help."
Instead of calling the help line at 1-866-296-4319, people had the opportunity to talk with Sieben face to face, and the man readily signed the form she put in front of him.
"This allows our office to talk to the insurer on behalf of the individual," she said.
Now his problem is in the hands of a four-person team that has handled more than 400 such problems and recovered nearly $400,000 in insurance claims for Minnesotans, she said.
Ninety percent of the cases the team deals with revolve around clerical errors, Sieben said.
"We have an advantage because we are in a senator's office," she said.
"They have a lot more pull than I do," the man said.
Sieben said the team cannot help everyone, but its members try. Sometimes, even when it turns out people are not entitled to an insurance payment, they feel better because they understand what happened and why.
Cases in which people are entitled to payments and have tried everything in their power inspired Dayton to start the help line, Sieben said.
"The hospitals like it, too," she said. "They are waiting for payments from the insurance companies too."