Dorothy Miller — Pittsburgh, California

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Dorothy Miller was not happy when she was downsized in 2000, but at least, she figured, her health care was taken care of in her retirement years. The company she had worked for, Industrial Indemnity Comopany, had arranged coverage for veteran employees before it was taken over by Fremont General.

Dorothy figured wrong, as she was to find out last year. Fremont General put the company into bankruptcy and in so doing evaporated health benefits for Dorothy and many others. Now she is not covered at all.

Dorothy, a corporate records manager, had worked for Industrial Indemnity Company for 34 years and she was 59. That combination added up to more than 75, which was the magic number that made employees eligible for the benefits. Dorothy’s coverage was through Kaiser, and her premiums were low and rising annually. The plan didn’t include dental or vision, but she had no complaints.

When Fremont General chose bankruptcy for Industrial Indemnity, Dorothy was flabbergasted. "There was anger," she says, "and surprise, because I wasn’t expecting it."

"I thought Fremont General bought Industrial Indemnity’s obligations," including the obligation to continue her coverage. She made some inquiries and learned that apparently, laws that would protect her and others in her position do not apply to Fremont General, although she is not clear about why. "There’s a legal loophole in there someplace."

Dorothy got the notice about her coverage from the insurance conservator in October. The conservator tried to persuade the company to continue the coverage that Industrial Indemnity Company had provided, even under its new name of Fremont Industrial Company, but to no avail.

"What really ticks me off," Dorothy says, "is that Fremont General stock has really been going up," from $2 to $16 or $18 in a couple of years.

She and a friend from Industrial Indemnity who also lost her coverage are exploring legal options. And she wonders why nobody seems to be doing anything about health care and health insurance. "I know I’m not the only one. I read the papers every days, and there’s always a story. But nobody seems to talk about it" at a governmental level.

Dorothy, a divorcee with two grown children, is taking care of her granddaughter full time. She is on a fixed income and cannot expect help from her grown children. She now has become one of millions of Americans who cannot afford health insurance.

So Dorothy Miller is doing "what an insurer does, taking a risk," and going without.

"I’m in better shape than a lot of people, so I’m taking the risk that nothing will happen to me before I reach 65 and am eligible for Medicare."

"I’m betting my life every day for three years."

Consumer Watchdog
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