Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Affordable Care Act – Easy, Affordable Healthcare that is Difficult and Expensive, Part Three

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”   – Douglas Adams

Last week, we ended with Step Five of the epic adventure which is today’s health care system.  Today, we pick up where we left off.

Step Six – Call Back and Wait Some More
I waited a few days and called back.  This time, I was actually able to get past the used-insurance sales team and talk to someone whose job was to actually help me get through the state’s health care system so I could get onto the private provider’s policy.  This lady was fantastic.  She took the information her company needed and then called the state and waited on hold with me until we could talk to someone there.  We were informed that the application was “pending” and there was nothing we could do except wait and call back the next day.  I started this process at 9:30AM and we finished the phone call around 4:00PM.

Step Seven – Repeat Step Six
This time, it only took about six hours to find out that there was a problem with my application.  Again, the insurance company representative (different person) stayed on the phone the whole time.  For some reason, the state was not releasing our application and it had been kicked up to a different department (for whom there is no contact information and to whom one cannot be transferred) for further review.  The person from the state told me the way to resolve this was to call the county health department.

Step Eight – Discover Your Children Married Each Other
Before I say anything else, the lady at the county was wonderful  I called her at 4:30PM on a Friday and she called me back that same evening at 6:30PM.  Her first question, of course, was, “Why would they have you call me?  It’s their problem.”  But, she logged onto her system and started reviewing the application.  There were, in fact, a few problems:

  1. My first name was misspelled
  2. My fiancée’s last name was misspelled
  3. My company’s name was misspelled
  4. My daughter’s birthday was wrong
  5. My future step-son’s last name was misspelled
  6. My income was wrong
  7. My daughter and future step-son were married… to each other

I’m not making that up.  They had my 16 year old daughter listed as married to my 16 year old future step-son.  For some reason, that took us out of the “normal family” category.

The next Monday, I called the insurance company to let them know the problem and we called the state.  When we got them on the line, I asked about that field on the application:

Me:  “Do you see on the application where it shows my daughter and step-son are married to each other?”
Rep:  “Yes.”
Me:  “Where the hell do you think we live?  Alabama*?”
Rep:  “Sir, you called the marketplace in Colorado, not Alabama.”
Me;  “Yes, I know that.”
Rep:  “So, you say there’s a problem with the information on your application?”

You know how you wish I were done with this story?  Believe me… so do I.

*I used Alabama because I have a friend who is a HUGE Tide fan.  Gig ’em, Truck!

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The Affordable Care Act – Easy, Affordable Healthcare that is Difficult and Expensive, Part Two

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”   – Douglas Adams

As I recounted last week, my journey into getting health insurance began easily enough and we left off with Step Two of the process – that feeling of mild euphoria one gets when one believes an affordable plan with good coverage has been found.  Fortunately, such silliness is short-lived, as we discover beginning with Step Three.

Step Three – Speak to the Provider’s Outsourced Sales Force from “Crazy Dave’s Discount Mattress Emporium”
I sent an email to the provider asking for more info and got a response back fairly quickly.  The sales rep called me and we discussed different plans.  When one thinks, “insurance agent”, the image that comes to mind is a guy in a dark suit with glasses.  This guy made me think of the guy on late night TV commercials who’s got “Deals so good, we’re just giving them away!”.  Seriously… he called me, “Bro”.

Step Four – (Finally) Speak to a Disgruntled Government Employee
Finally, Crazy Dave and I settled on something I could live with and that’s when I was told, “Okay.  So, now that we’ve got this process started, go ahead and apply with your state’s marketplace so your coverage can be denied.”

Really.

So, I called the number he gave me.  Each time I called, I had to sit through about three minutes of “To find the information you’re not looking for, please go to our website and… blah, blah, blah” speeches.  Finally, I was told “Our system is currently at maximum capacity.  Please call back later.”  And then it hung up on me.

I called again and listened to the three minutes of useless information, went through the 327 options in the menu and was transferred to a real live person who sat silently (I could hear the background noise, though) until I said, “Hello?” and then hung up on me.

The third call was the charm as after the three minute infomercial and menu maze, I was put on hold for a brief hour and a half before a real live person answered and began taking all of my information.  This process took about an hour and seemed to be pretty straightforward.  Sure enough, I was denied coverage and was able to go back to the insurance company and give them the good news.

Now, I was really at the point where I could get my coverage!

Step Five – Start Over… Then Don’t
I called Crazy Dave back to give him the good news and ended up speaking to Crazy Daphne (his business partner).  This is when I was cheerfully informed that they had no idea who I was and had no record of our previous conversation.  So, she offered to take me through the steps again to find the right plan for me.  I explained I had already selected a plan.  She couldn’t find my plan and didn’t know that they even had that plan.  I asked to speak to a supervisor who apparently had just walked in from lunch (in Bangalore) and had never been to the U.S before and wasn’t sure what insurance was.  Finally, they found a record of my call and told me that all I could do was wait for a few days and then call back.  Fortunately, this only took three hours.

The saga continues…

The Affordable Care Act – Easy, Affordable Healthcare that is Difficult and Expensive, Part One

“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”   – Douglas Adams

This past November 15th, open enrollment for health insurance began and runs through February 15th.  I finally decided to go through this process to start the new year with good coverage and started shopping around for plans.

Now, before I go any further, I need to let you know that everything I’m about to tell you is absolutely true.  You just can’t make this stuff up.

Shopping for Health Insurance, or “I guess we’ll eat Top Ramen from now on”
I haven’t had health insurance in a while.  I had to cancel the policy because I just couldn’t afford it any longer due to some rough times.  When I started looking around this time, I had an idea of what to expect.  Of course, I was wrong.  Wronger than wrong.  Probably the wrongest I’ve ever been in my entire life, other than when I said, “What the hell… she’s a bitch, but I’ll marry her anyway” back in 1994.

As it turns out, for the low, low price of a bajillion dollars per month, you can insure a family of four with deductibles as low as $100,000 per person.  I’m exaggerating, of course, but I just couldn’t believe how plans and pricing have changed.  The coverage is horribad and the pricing is outrageous.

Regardless, I need health insurance (especially since it’s ILLEGAL to not have it now – thank you, Comrade Obama), so I started the enrollment process.

Step One – Retrieve Inaccurate Information from a Provider’s Web Site
As with most research we do now, it all begins with a prayer to St. Google asking for guidance.  I clicked on the first result that came up and started looking at plans.  I found a few that looked good, but were extremely expensive.  I found a few more than were pretty crappy, but were only very expensive.  Then, I found the plans which were the worst possible, but were merely expensive.  And then I found the magic button that said “Subsidy Eligibility Calculator”.

Tax Credits to the Rescue!
Granted, I haven’t read the entire Affordable Care Act (I’m not sure anyone else has, either), but I guess the bottom line for me is that I can receive a subsidy to the monthly premium via a tax credit.  I’m not sure yet how this is going to work, and from what I can tell, I’m not allowed to know how it’s going to work until after I sign up for a plan.  This makes perfect sense… I mean, no one was allowed to read the bill until after it was passed, so why would this be different?

Step Two – Bask in the Sweet, Sweet Delusion of Affordable Care
I was surprised and pleased to find that I qualified for a pretty substantial subsidy to help offset my premium.  This actually brought down the monthly premium to an amount I could live with and I was getting really good coverage, too.  I was very, very happy… until it dawned on me.  With the subsidy, I was paying about what I paid a few years ago for the coverage I had a few years ago.  Basically, it seems like insurance prices have been inflated so the government can step in and pay for the price increase.  In reality, none of it mattered because I ended up not getting the amount I was “eligible” for.

So far, so good.  I’ve only spent a couple of hours doing research and finding the plan I want… the rest should be easy!

Or, not.  Tune in next week when we learn why I used the excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the quote for these posts!