I’d been in California for much longer than I’d anticipated. I longed to go home, but God was leading me to do something first about a work-related injustice. The health plan for the law firm where I worked was underpaying benefits, and employees and their families were being hurt.
After five months of writing and research, I submitted a documented report to the managing partner, along with a letter asking the firm to investigate and to answer certain benefit questions. One question related to my son Jesse’s benefits. His insurance had been canceled when he turned 19, and the health plan said he didn’t qualify for continuation coverage. I thought he did.
And so began an 18-month conflict that I hoped naively would be resolved in a few months.
The general counsel asked me to work with the firm’s representative at the health plan, so I sent my questions to her. She wrote a lengthy reply—to questions I hadn’t asked. I wrote back with the same questions, and a different person replied without answering. This discouraging pattern was repeated for months, with occasional victories when I received checks for “recalculated” claims.
One day, poring over documents, I made an exciting discovery. Jesse’s insurance should not have been canceled! He was eligible as a disabled dependent! I asked the health plan to reinstate his insurance, and they refused for reasons that didn’t apply.
I turned to the general counsel for help, and he arranged a settlement conference.
It’s scary to be in a conflict with the most powerful people in a large law firm; to sit alone across the table from the general counsel, two other attorneys, and the H.R. Director, all of them telling you that you’re wrong. It’s hard to keep trusting that you’re on the right path when frowning authorities insist that you’re not. I lost confidence and left the meeting crushed.
Driving home, I cried out to God in confusion and anger. God’s comforting Presence restored my trust and gave me courage to try again.
I made a counteroffer and waited. When the response came weeks later, the offer had not changed.
Jesse was hospitalized with a dangerous infection, and I was led to go on a hunger strike for insurance.
For eight days, I went to work, picketed outside at lunchtime, and returned to my desk, cold and hungry but not alone. Friends in Portland were praying for Jesse and me, and God sent others—a consumer advocate, a TV station that ran our story, and women who walked with me as I picketed.
The general counsel offered to cover Jesse’s immediate medical expenses if I would stop picketing, and I happily agreed. His next offer was tempting—$120,000—but Jesse needed insurance, so I declined.
Communication became increasingly adversarial. I was anxious and distracted at work, often on conference calls with the consumer advocate, the general counsel or other attorneys. My boss decided to replace me, and I was transferred to another desk.
And suddenly, incredibly, it was over. The general counsel called me and said, “We’re reinstating Jesse’s insurance. His past medical bills will be paid, and he’ll be covered as your dependent going forward.” I started crying, and he said, “It’s been a long, hard road.”
[See related story, The Gift of Knowing, on the Reflections Page.]