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Health insurance is like some medieval horror, says law professor Jacqueline Fox.
But, funny thing: She also says insurance fights are easy. For her. She’s been helping people win them for 30 years.
Starting with her mom, when insurance wanted to cancel life-saving cancer surgery.
Jacqueline, then a young associate at a big firm, called the insurance company right away, saying: “I am OUT THE DOOR to sue you over this.”
They caved. And because Jacqueline had left her office door open, her assistant heard the whole thing. Pretty soon, Jacqueline had a line of support staff from that law firm, who needed help with their insurance problems.
Jacqueline found helping them easy.
It probably helped that her legal work involved crafting complex financial instruments, like mortgage-backed securities. She looked at health-insurance policies as just another contract.
Then she went back to school, studying legal history, especially the “enclosures” movement that started in medieval England. We’re talking hundreds of years of displacement, starvation, and exploitation.
“And as I was studying it,” she says, “I was like, ‘This looks like health insurance. This looks exactly like health insurance.’”
In theory, English peasants had a legal recourse. But no way to pursue it.
Jacqueline’s conclusion: “Process without meaningful access to process is no process at all.”
She opened a solo legal practice, to help people get that access—to get what their insurance policies said they were entitled to.
After a while, she got interested in policy—solving more than one person’s problem at a time—and for the last 16 years she’s been a law professor at the University of South Carolina.
But her phone still rings. Last year, Jacqueline talked someone through an appeal while she was in the grocery store. It worked too.
“I know what contracts look like, without even thinking about it,” she says. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, so it’s not like a brag. It’s like, duh. It’s like a plumber knowing what a pipe looks like.”
Jacqueline has a lot to teach us. And class is in session.
Here’s a transcript of the episode.
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