The time you spend waiting for the insurance company to answer your call can be incredibly frustrating. Here are several activities you can do while waiting for "the next available representative" to assist you:
1) Practice the ancient art of origami. (Nothing says "I'm having oodles of fun now!" more than a room filled with paper cranes!)
2) Change the litter box (provided you have a cat).
3) Sing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" and see how many bottles you can get through until the insurance representative answers your call.
4) Organize your sock drawer by color and style.
5) Teach yourself the "Sexy Electric Slide" and perform it in front of loved ones and family pets.
6) Think of the love ballad you hate the most, and sing it at the top of your lungs.
7) Perform Act 1, Scene 1 of Othello, preferably with an overly emotive, feigned English accent.
8) Roast a turkey.
9) Become a master of Advanced Thumb Twiddling. (Yes, there is such a thing.)
10) Learn to scream at the phone in a manner that will not do long term harm your vocal chords.
If you plan on inserting other activities into the mix, it is strongly suggested that you avoid fire baton twirling, knife juggling, unsupervised tightrope walking or any other potentially life threatening event. Not only might you lose your coveted place in the telephone queue, but also you may create a host of new issues you'll need to discuss with your insurer.
Useful Tips to Make the Most of Your Health Insurance Call
1) Prepare a list of questions and issue(s) you need resolved prior to the call.
2) Have copies of any corresponding medical bills or insurer documentation as well as your health insurance ID card on hand.
3) Schedule enough time for the call, keeping in mind you could be on hold for several minutes or even an hour or more during peak times.
4) Call at the beginning of your insurers' hours of operation.
5) Avoid calling on Mondays if your insurance company's non-emergency customer service department is closed on weekends. Calling on a Tuesday morning rather than Monday can mean much shorter wait times because of lower call volume.
6) At the beginning of the call, ask for the name and employee number of the representative assisting you. (He/she may not provide it, but try to get it. They are less likely to hang up on you if you know their information.)
7) If you feel your representative is not being helpful or doesn't know how to resolve your issue, ask to speak with a supervisor.
8) Be as pleasant as humanly possible, no matter how difficult it may be. It is hard to put emotions aside when you are talking about your physical and fiscal health with a stranger on the phone, but the more calm you can remain the better the outcome.
9) Have a friend on hand for moral support. Ask a trusted friend to be there with you if you are dealing with a major issue, and hand him/her the phone to help if you feel you're getting frustrated.
Keep in mind that you pay your insurance company, and you should expect them to honor the benefits of your policy. It is the insurance representative's job to assist you. The more you engage your insurer about every aspect of your care, the more likely you are to get the care you deserve for a fair price.
Sarah O'Leary is a consumer healthcare expert and founder of Exhale Healthcare Advocates (exhalehealth.com)