Fighting for Her Life: How One Woman Got Help Taking on Her Health Insurance

Patricia Holland sits on the front porch of her home in St. Joseph, Missouri, with grandson Decklen Ferguson,
Patricia Holland sits on the front porch of her home in St. Joseph, Missouri, with grandson Decklen Ferguson, 10 months. Katie Currid for The Penny Hoarder


Patricia Holland is dealing with two huge problems: her health and her health insurance.

Luckily, she has someone in her corner to help her out. She’s never met this person in the flesh, but she and her “health-care concierge” trade emails nearly every day.

That’s how Holland is getting help for what’s troubling her.

Her health: She’s diabetic and worries about losing a foot. She has high cholesterol, low blood pressure, and blood clots in her veins. She’s suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic pain, sleep apnea and hypothyroidism.

I can barely walk,” the 51-year-old Missouri grandmother said.

Her health insurance: She’s prescribed a dozen medications, and she says she’s having trouble getting them. She’s been tussling with her insurance company over prescription coverage approvals, co-pays and dosages. She’s financially stressed and on a fixed income.

“If I don’t take my meds, it will eventually kill me,” Holland said.

Her insurance issues are a lot to keep track of, and it’s been exhausting. She was ready to give up. Desperate for help, she recalled hearing about a free service that assists people like her.

She figured it was worth a shot. With nothing to lose, she reached out to Joany, a technology company that can help patients deal with their medical bills. She’d found the company through a paid survey the company runs. (The survey takes 10 minutes and pays $25.)

“I said, ‘You know what? What’s it going to hurt me to try?’”

A Hugely Complicated Task

different prescription medications on table
Holland suffers from a variety of different illnesses and struggled to juggle the many different prescriptions. Katie Currid for The Penny Hoarder

Navigating your way through the world of health care and health insurance is a hugely complicated task. Why not enlist a little help?

Joany helps people find and compare health plans, and seek out doctors.

Its health-care concierge service can also help you understand bills, and detect billing errors, overcharges and other inaccuracies.

The service is free to you, because Joany gets paid through your health insurance plan.

In Holland’s case, Joany is helping her get the most out of her existing insurance plan when it comes to all the prescriptions she needs.

“For me, it was a plea for help,” said Holland, who lives in St. Joseph, Missouri. “I was just like, ‘Help me, please.’”

‘I Trust Her That Much’

Patricia Holland sits on the front porch of her home in St. Joseph, Missour
Holland found the concierge service Joany to be essential to maintaining her health so she could focus on enjoying her five grandchildren. Katie Currid for The Penny Hoarder

Reaching out to Joany was how she met Alycia, her health-care concierge. Alycia is assigned to her case.

“I am so grateful for her,” Holland said. “She’s helping me get through this. Sometimes it’s just to encourage me to keep fighting.”

But Alycia does way more than encourage. With Holland’s blessing, she deals directly with the insurance company on Holland’s behalf — troubleshooting problems with co-pays that are too high, or medications that need to be pre-authorized, or appeal letters to fight denials of coverage.

“She’s called them sometimes every day,” Holland said. “She searches through their own policies and asks why they’re not following them. She has done everything for me.”

The two keep each other in the loop. Since the first time they talked on the phone in early February 2018, they’ve been in close communication.

“We’ve had 50 or 60 back-and-forth emails,” Holland said. “Sometimes every day, sometimes a couple of times a day.”

If not for Alycia, it would all be too much for Holland. Her legs are swelling up because of her diabetes. She can’t bend her feet enough to walk down the stairs in her house.

Not only that, but she and her husband are raising two grandchildren, ages 3 and 7.

She’s so relieved she reached out to Joany for help navigating her medical bills.

“At times you want to give up,” she said. “But I’m not going to.”

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He has a lot of experience with medical bills, and wishes he didn’t.

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