The Bupa Blooper. In years to come, that is how I shall refer to what happened when I inadvertently cancelled my health insurance policy, with what certain people seemed to think were hilarious consequences. It all began when my policy came up for renewal and I tried to change my direct debit mandate so that the monthly payments were taken from a different account. I know, that way madness lies. Never, ever change your direct debit for anything unless you are prepared to send the whole thing to hell in a handcart.
But they gave me the impression that changing my bank details would be perfectly straightforward. They sent me a form, I filled it in, posted it back in the pre-paid envelope, and waited a few weeks before cancelling the old direct debit, which I assumed was now defunct. I see now that to take such a trusting course of action was purest madness.
Three months later, I was going through my accounts when I realised that no money had been transferred to Bupa since the renewal date. I rang them in a state of apoplexy: ‘What on earth has happened to my policy since the payments stopped?’
‘What policy?’ said the deadpan Bupa operative.
‘My health policy. The one I’ve had for ten years.’
‘That policy has lapsed.’
It turns out that if you suddenly cancel your direct debit instruction, Bupa cancels your health policy without ringing to check there hasn’t been some mistake. Of course they don’t call to talk you round. Why should they ponder the reasons for you suddenly leaving them days after painstakingly negotiating your renewal? They can’t be expected to wonder whether they or the Royal Mail might have lost the blasted envelope with your new direct debit instruction inside.
After a lot of screaming, I was told to hold the line. When the man came back, he said: ‘We can restart the policy.’
‘Oh, thank god.’
‘We need to take back-payments.’
‘Take them! Take them!’
‘And we need to ask you some questions.’
‘Ask away. Ask anything.’
‘Miss Kite, since the policy lapsed…’
‘Not lapsed. Don’t say lapsed. We’re putting it right, aren’t we? No need to use the L-word.’
‘Since the direct debit payments ceased…’
‘…have you been to see your GP for anything?’
‘Erm, oo, let me see. Well now, I did pop in to see him the other week but it turned out to be nothing. Silly me. I’m paranoid. That’s why I have health insurance.’
‘Miss Kite,’ he said, suspiciously, ‘we are going to need to know exactly what you went to your GP about.’
‘Oh, I don’t think there’s any need for that. It was nothing. Actually, I don’t even know how to explain it.’
I still don’t. All I can say is that sometimes a female hypochondriac goes to the doctor for some jolly embarrassing things. To spare my blushes now, let’s just imagine that I went to the doctor because I thought I had a problem with my foot. ‘But the doctor,’ I explained to Bupa, ‘assured me that I did not have a problem at all and was perfectly fine in all ways.’
‘Please hold the line. I’m going to have to speak to our risk assessors.’
He was gone ages and when he came back he said: ‘I’m afraid we are going to have to place an exclusion on your policy. From now on you are excluded for all conditions related to the problem with your foot.’
Naturally, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I did both.
‘Please calm down. We may review the exclusion in a year’s time.’
But I was hysterical. ‘I know your game,’ I ranted. ‘Everything I get wrong with me from now on, you’re going to say it started in my foot. But my foot’s fine, I tell you! My foot has never been better!’
He started to make squeaking sounds. He couldn’t help it, of course. But I wasn’t going to let him off the hook. ‘I can tell you’re laughing,’ I said.
‘I’m not laughing.’ Squeak.
‘I’m not laughing.’ Squeak.
‘I don’t know how you sleep at night. I hope my foot haunts your dreams.’ In the end, he all but begged me to let him get off the phone.
I spent the next few days barricaded in the house, convinced that if I went outside my uninsured foot would meet with a freak accident, hurling me on the mercy of my local NHS hospital where I would languish untreated on a trolley until my foot fell off entirely. Then, I pulled myself together, rang back and spoke to a very nice lady who agreed it was perfectly silly to exclude my foot for a condition I had imagined. So she lifted the exclusion immediately. Thank you, Blupa.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 12 January 2013