Jim Ziegler, 47, turns to the Department of Labor after spending weeks trying to find out why his previous employer activated a health insurance plan after he left the company.
Not having medical insurance can be tough. But having two policies is no picnic, either.
That’s what Jim Ziegler, 47, of Bellevue, found out this summer when he discovered a mystery policy in his name that jeopardizes his real insurance coverage, financial security and even potential employment.
Ziegler has made countless attempts by phone, mail and on social media to get in contact with home-improvement giant Lowe’s, which shows him as covered under its insurance plan. Now, he’s counting on the Department of Labor to help.
“I want to send a message that I’m really trying to do right and I hope the folks at Lowe’s can see that and just help me out,” he said. “That’s all I’m asking — for them to try and resolve this and make me whole again.”
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Ziegler worked at Nordstrom through July 2015, and bought a Cobra policy through Aetna until the end of January 2017.
After he left Nordstrom, he worked briefly until January as a vendor account manager at Allied Trade Group (ATG), which was bought by Lowe’s in 2011.
It wasn’t until July 2016, though, that he realized he had insurance problems.
Following an appointment at Swedish Medical Center, he learned that he not only had the Aetna Cobra plan he was paying for, but he also had a phantom second policy with his name and Social Security number.
The second policy was a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, provided by Lowe’s.
Ziegler said he was baffled because during his ATG exit interview, the company’s human- resources director assured him that he never had health insurance through either ATG or Lowe’s, and would not in the future.
Ziegler began looking into where the other plan came from. First, he said he reached out to ATG’s human- resources director by phone and mailed a letter on July 20, but did not receive a response.
In the meantime, Aetna discovered the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan and reversed its payments as far back as January, when the phantom plan went into effect. That Lowe’s policy ended up footing the bill, and sent Ziegler an explanation of benefits and a breakdown of the portion he owed.
He said he called Blue Cross Blue Shield and was told he showed up as an active covered employee about a month after he left ATG.
Ziegler worries that the incorrect active status Lowe’s has on file can impede his ability to find new employment, as a background check would indicate a time commitment he’s not making.
He again tried unsuccessfully to reach ATG’s human-resources department and Michelle Newbery, the company’s president and Lowe’s vice president.
So he turned to the Department of Labor, hoping it might protect him in the event that he gets asked to cover the charges the invalid insurance has already paid.
That seemed to work, and he heard from ATG in an Aug. 4 email after someone from the Department of Labor contacted them.
Newbery, reached by The Seattle Times this week, said ATG’s “HR team is helping him with that issue,” then declined to comment further.
“If I’m an active employee, am I enrolled in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, am I enrolled in any other type of insurance? Legal benefits? I want to know where my Social Security number was used, what accounts were established, the status of those accounts, and I’d also be curious to know if anyone accessed those accounts,” Ziegler said.
He said he’s put countless hours into solving the issue.
It’s too early to tell what kind of impact this will have on Ziegler’s credit, and he said it’s yet another concern. He hopes that the Department of Labor can get the answers and results he’s been fighting for.
“I want people to know that I’m not kidding around waiting for this to be fixed,” he said. “I’ve done my due diligence to try to get it resolved, but I’m not going to sit on my couch and sulk.”