Bill collectors lurked even amid parents’ grief

Christa Mazur’s problems with her family’s health insurance company started only a few days after her infant daughter died.

Sophia was born last year with severe medical problems in a northern Indiana hospital and had to be airlifted to a Chicago hospital for emergency treatment. She died about a month later.

Soon afterward, bill collectors called Mazur of Merrillville, Ind., and wanted the doctors’ fees paid.

Before the baby’s birth, Christa Mazur and her husband, Michael, purchased a health plan from Time Insurance Co. of Milwaukee. The plan did not cover the Chicago hospital, but the Mazurs contended Time should pay more because the policy allowed extra payments for emergency situations.

Christa Mazur said she wrote the insurer, but got nowhere. Finally, she filed a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance.

“It has been nearly six months since the death of our daughter, and I still cannot get the insurance company to straighten out the situation from when she was alive,” Christa Mazur wrote in a September 2005 complaint.

Within weeks, Time paid an additional $8,000 and attributed the delay to the time needed to get more information from doctors.

Time declined to comment on the complaint to The Kansas City Star. However, company spokesman Rob Guilbert did say that “we are always looking to improve and we are committed to our customers and to providing the best service possible.”

The Star’s analysis of national complaint data showed that Time had the worst consumer grievance rating among the 20 largest providers of individual health insurance. Time also had the worst ranking in Missouri and the third worst in Kansas among the 20 largest health providers.

Guilbert said that the company has improved its customer service and that complaints against the company have declined in Kansas and Missouri in recent years.

National complaints against Time also dropped 25 percent from 2003 to 2005.

Even though it’s been a year since her dispute with Time, Mazur’s anger returns when she recalls the insurance struggle.

“We’d lost our only child,” Mazur said. “You’re trying to tell people we’ll work with you to pay the bills. They’re threatening you with collection, and the insurance company is ignoring you.”