Originally created 07/11/00

Agent honored for essay



Insurance agents support their clients in times of crisis, and one local agent is being honored for his efforts.

Tommy Norris, a local insurance broker, won one of five national awards from the Life Insurance Foundation for Education for an essay he wrote about a client.

He will be featured in a special section of Newsweek in September along with his clients, Jerry and Christia Ashmore and their daughter Alicia.

Mr. Norris recounted the story of the Ashmore family and Alicia's illness in his essay.

Ashmore Concrete Contractors in Evans had joined a group health insurance plan through Mr. Norris in 1997, and three months later, 9-year-old Alicia was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.

Mr. and Mrs. Ashmore, who have three other children and a business to run, began to receive bills for Alicia's treatment that should have been paid by the HMO.

Mr. Norris said the parents needed to have their attention on Alicia and not the incorrect claims.

"The claims were miscoded, and they received dozens of bills that they shouldn't have been billed for," Mr. Norris said.

He said his assistant, Sherry Palmese, spent the next several months sorting through the bills and correcting the problem.

"She did a tremendous job staying on top of it," Mr. Norris said.

Last year, Mr. Norris submitted his essay about the Ashmores in the competition. He expected to win, but he didn't, so he tried again this year.

"They allow you to send in the same story two years. I almost didn't send it in again," he said.

But by the end of June, Mr. Norris was contacted by LIFE and informed that his essay had won for the health insurance category.

Both the Norris and Ashmore families are invited to attend the banquet in September in Orlando, Fla., where Mr. Norris will be honored.

"The whole purpose is to give recognition to the insurance industry for making a difference in the lives of people during tragedy," Mr. Norris said.

He said the Ashmores were a special case because their claim involved a child.

"I have dealt with group health insurance claims, but nothing of this magnitude," Mr. Norris said.

Three years later, Alicia is in remission and doing well. Mr. Ashmore said she has an MRI every six months, and in May, everything was clear.

"We're thankful we had Tommy Norris to help us through that time," Mr. Ashmore said.

Reach Jennifer Bishop at (706) 823-3217.