On Wednesday, I did a short blog about a congressional hearing in which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mentioned something many Americans go through: rationing out their healthcare and doctor’s visits because they’re on shitty insurance plans with high deductibles or exorbitant copays or just overall terrible coverage.
In the course of the blog, I mentioned that I was on one of those shitty insurance plans (I’m a contractor at G/O Media, so I purchase my own health insurance.) Specifically, I’m on an Oscar insurance’s “catastrophic” plan, their cheapest level of coverage, which gives me a token amount of healthcare in exchange for a dirt-cheap monthly premium and an extremely high deductible. I didn’t reach out to Oscar’s press team for comment because the blog really wasn’t about them—they’re just one of dozens of companies who use cheap catastrophic plans to entice lower-income customers while offering them almost nothing in the way of actual coverage.
But today, I got a call from Oscar—not from their press office, but from a supervisor with their “concierge team” who wanted to “check in” and make sure I didn’t “have any questions” about my plan or my coverage. I won’t name the concierge, because they were clearly just doing their job, but the call itself was very strange to me as both a journalist and customer.
After giving the concierge my date of birth and address to verify my account info, they explained that yes, I was on the “least expensive” plan, which meant a higher deductible and max out of pocket limit, but that I still had three free primary care visits a year. I said I was aware, and asked if I had misrepresented any of these details in my story. They said no. I asked how they’d found the story, and they said it had been “passed down” to them.
“It’s our number one priority that when we see anything that prompts outreach, to make sure our members are taken care of,” the concierge told me.
I get why a check-in call could make sense—I was explicitly claiming that I wanted to see a doctor but was put off from doing so because my health insurance sucked. The concierge, unfortunately, wasn’t offering me a better health insurance policy. They were asking me if I understood my current one, which I’m pretty sure I do, because I had just written about it accurately. The whole interaction was a weird enough clash of personal and professional interests that my editor, hearing the conversation from a couple desks away, asked me to blog it.
It’s hard to put my thumb on why this feels so dystopian to me. It could be that it’s a stark reminder that this company has all of my info and knows where I live and work. It could be that it’s unclear what the company gains from this kind of aggressive outreach/ customer service. Is this blog good PR for them? It was also jarring to get a call from my insurance’s concierge team, ostensibly in charge of coordinating my healthcare, only to have the conversation shift to my work. Is the best way to get a human being on the line at Oscar to blog about them? God forbid, are they reading my tweets?
I reached out to Oscar’s press office to ask why I got the call now, and what their company policy is for monitoring publications by their customers. I also asked why I received a call from a concierge, as opposed to a member of the press office. I’ll update this post if I hear back.
If you’ve ever received an unsolicited call from your insurance company following publishing something to a website, blog, or social media, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a spokesperson for Oscar insurance, please feel free to give me a call at the phone number you already have.