San Diego

NBC 7 Responds Gets a $36,000 Fix for one Santee Master Mechanic

Santee man waited 5 years to get a reimbursement from his health insurance provider

Santee’s Guenther Hanschke has spent most of his life fixing automobile engines. But while on a trip to Germany in 2013, Hanschke was faced with a problem he couldn’t fix.

“I had respiratory problems and I talked a friend of mine,” said Hanschke. “My friend said, ‘Why don’t you go to a doctor?’”

Hanschke did just that. He said the doctor told him his heart was failing.

“He looked at me and he said, ‘All the people I’ve seen in my life that looked like you they were dead people,” Hanschke told NBC 7 Responds. “He said, ‘You stay here, you are not leaving this hospital.”

Hanschke checked himself into hospital for emergency heart surgery. He called his daughter Elke in San Diego to notify his health insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross, and make sure the operation would be covered since it was out of the country.

Elke Hanschke did just that.

“I was in touch with them constantly,” said Elke Hanschke. “There was no indication, no question of whether they would pay it or not, it was going to be covered.”

Elke flew to Germany to be with her dad for the operation.

Doctors performed quintuple bypass surgery to unlog his arteries. The operation was a success. After weeks of recovering, Hanschke returned to Santee. Not long after his return he got a surprise letter in the mail.

“Three months later I get a letter from the hospital saying when do you want to pay your bill,” said Hanschke.

Hanschke said he spent weeks on the phone with Anthem, faxing them his medical bills but nothing happened.

He called Anthem again.

“The insurance company told me one time, they said, it’s very easy you just don’t go back there and you don’t have to pay,” said Hanschke. “But the hospital, the doctors saved my life. I couldn’t do that.”

Hanschke said he dipped into his savings and borrowed money from friends.

“I had to pay those people because they saved my life.”

Hanschke said he paid the bill in 2014. Since that time, he has contacted Anthem numerous times in hopes of getting reimbursed. His daugher Elke alson contacted Anthem.

“There was never a no, we are not paying, it was just that we were being put off,” said Elke Hanschke.

In April 2019, Elke and her dad got an idea to contact NBC 7 Responds for help.

“We’ve seen you on television and saw how you helped people,” Hanschke told NBC 7. “We thought is this just Hollywood? Is it just a show? Can Consumer Bob help us?”

Hanschke contacted NBC 7 Responds. We contacted Anthem. A day later Anthem reached out to Hanschke as well as NBC 7 Responds.

“Within days of sending an email to the news, my dad got a phone call. I had received a phone call,” said Elke Hanschke.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Anthem told NBC 7 Responds that the company “strives to provide consumers with access to high-quality, affordable healthcare services wherever and whenever they need it. We are pleased Mr. Hanschke received the care he needed while traveling abroad. Given his treatment occurred overseas, we understand there was some confusion on the submission of these claims. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. Since Mr. Hanschke first filed his claim, we have identified improvements to the worldwide coverage benefit to prevent situations like this as well as make the experience simpler for the consumer.”

Guenther Hanschke said he is thankful for the help fixing what he considered was an irreparable problem.

“Without Consumer Bob, it just would not have been possible,” siad Hanschke. “Consumer Bob and NBC 7 Responds really helped us. I get tears in my eyes, actually somebody helped me.”

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