HEALTHCARE.GOV WORKS!… Warning: May Cause Ruminations on Mortality

by Kevin

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at  healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

When I succeeded in securing health insurance on line at healthcare.gov, the thought fluttered through my mind that now, with REAL health insurance, I would live forever in good health.

Virtually all the news commentators throughout the known media universe have been screaming for months about how the Affordable Care Act enrollment website, healthcare.gov, has not been working perfectly. As a 64-year-old man with an analog brain, who NEVER manages to get electronic technology to work the first time, I was not surprised or alarmed that the website wasn’t working well in October.

Even though I am one of the millions of Americans whose health insurance companies deliberately downgraded our insurance to junk status so that it would be cancelled for not meeting ACA standards (scroll down several posts to read the whole story,) I figured I had until January 1 to secure REAL insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and if the website did not work for me, then enrollment by phone or an actual person-to-person interview would certainly do the trick. What was all the fuss about anyway? Smells like sour grapes to me.

The administration said that most of the website glitches would be resolved by the end of November, so I waited until the day before Thanksgiving to make my first attempt at starting to secure REAL health insurance on line. After only three hours I had managed to create my profile and my account, provide my financial information, and study the details of some of my early leading candidates for health insurance. No problems whatsoever. I was impressed. And, by the way, if an old technophobe like me can do this without any difficulty, then the website is extremely user friendly, and most people will succeed in a fraction of the time I invested.

The day after Thanksgiving, while others were shoving and punching each other to gain an advantage in the Black Friday super-consumer frenzy, I quietly resumed my online health insurance quest and was once again very pleased with the experience. I spent a grand total of about seven hours on healthcare.gov, mainly reading about the scores of possible insurance programs I could consider. During that time I probably logged on and off about seven times without any difficulty.

Between sessions I made two calls to the Affordable Care Act phone line: 1 800-318-2596, to ask some basic questions. They were very helpful. I also called several insurance providers to clarify their options and make sure my local doctor and hospitals accepted their coverage. I ended up getting in my car and driving to my doctor’s office to talk face-to-face with his receptionist. I really like Dr. Carl Brango, and I wanted to be extra sure that the plans I was considering were okay with him.

I was sorry to see that dental and eye care insurance did not seem to be offered by any of the plans, but finally, I made my choice, triple checked it, and clicked on “ENROLL.” A message immediately flashed on my screen – something like, “Are you aware that you are eligible to select very similar group plans that are more affordable?” Well… no… I had missed that part of the information, because I had just assumed that the more expensive policies would be more comprehensive. Not so. I voided my first choice and did more research, discovering a very similar plan for $110 less per month than the one I had originally selected, offered by the very same company! But the best news of all is that after many years of paying over $550 per month for fake health insurance that could be cancelled or changed at the whim of the insurance company, as it was recently, I will now have much better health insurance for half that price.

Icing on the cake: After I made my final health insurance selection, healthcare.gov delighted me with an option to buy affordable dental insurance as well. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t been to a dentist in years, despite some pretty serious dental problems. Now for less than $23/ month, I will be able to see a dentist as often as I wish.

I clicked “CONFIRM” to activate all my choices and received congratulations from healthcare.gov, telling me that I had successfully enrolled in health insurance and dental insurance that would begin January first. Ironically, on January 15th I will begin researching my healthcare options all over again, because I will be eligible for Medicare starting March first, since I will turn 65 in March, and they recommend beginning the process of applying, choosing a plan and securing supplemental insurance, six weeks before the program starts.

I don’t mind. I am just so relieved to have REAL health insurance after decades of paying high prices for fake insurance in the individual market. I will no longer have to lie about my family health history or hide my own pre-existing conditions from my health insurance provider. I won’t have to go to free clinics or university health studies or pay for secret medical services out of my own pocket to prevent my health insurance provider from finding out about a condition and potentially canceling or changing my policy. I will have REAL health insurance that I can use without fear of cancellation or policy change for two months through the Affordable Care Act. Thank you President Obama! And then I will be covered by Medicare for the rest of my life. Thank you President Johnson!

When the congratulatory statement from healthcare.gov appeared on my screen, I was elated, and for just a brief instant I felt the invincibility of youth again. I sensed just a hint of a taste from the Fountain of Youth. The thought fluttered through my mind that now with REAL health insurance I would live forever in good health. After all… that is certainly what REAL health insurance would do for us, right? It would insure that we’d live from now on in a state of perfect health. Alas, the fantasy lasted only an instant before reality closed in around me again – mortality.

An old monk once told me, “The body has to find some excuse to go.” And besides, the science of medicine may be doing some wonderful things, but it is still in its infancy. Too often today’s cures are as lethal as our diseases. Sadly, health insurance does not insure our health yet. But at least it may finally begin to insure that we can all get the basic healthcare we deserve as a human right, when we are physically ill or injured. This tremendous benefit has been a long time coming. From my point of view it was well worth the short wait while a few website bugs were resolved. Check it out… healthcare.gov works!

 

OBAMA CARES ENOUGH TO FIGHT FOR “OBAMACARE”

by Kevin
 
President Obama’s strategy behind his news conference yesterday, Nov 14, 2013, was brilliant. The untold story of this botched “Obamacare” role-out is the opportunistic actions of the health insurance companies who created the cancelled policies part of the problem. They lunged at the opportunity to purge undesirables from their client ranks by simply rewriting their policies to levels below Affordable Care Act compliance, so that those policies had to be cancelled.  This is exactly what they did to me and many others. I think I will frame my cancellation letter as proof that we in the individual market have never had real insurance, because our health insurance companies could change or cancel our policies any time they wanted to. That’s not insurance… it’s a scam!
 
Mr. Obama is smart enough to know that he could not just directly expose the health insurance industry as the culprits behind this part of the ACA role-out debacle without creating a booming outcry about sour grapes and buck-passing. So, instead, he very wisely took all the blame on himself, appearing and sounding more contrite than any other president in my lifetime, even though almost every single one of them had many more reasons for sincere contrition than the current president.

President Obama’s self-effacing and self-sacrificing platform of humble contrition allowed him to say that if the insurance companies wanted to reinstate us — the 2 or 3% of self-insured Americans whose policies they have cancelled — and if the state healthcare commissioners will approve it, then he is all for it. In one deft move Mr. Obama shifted the blame for these cancellations from himself back to their rightful source, the insurance providers, and he did so without appearing to try to pass the buck or deny his responsibility for this mess.
 
Of course the health insurance industry began screaming bloody murder within minutes of the president’s statements. They thought they had gamed the system to get rid of old farts like me, who are bad risks, without taking a public relations hit. Now the onus is back on them, where it has always belonged, and they don’t like it. They thought they had found a free windfall, but now they are whining that they may need to raise everyone’s rates if they have to keep people like me on their roles, again trying to blame the president for their own greed.
 
Well, I have good news for them. I have no intention whatsoever of remaining a client of Blue Cross, who sent this old fart a cancellation letter. I will plunge into the ACA open market and find a new provider, even if I have to pay more. Why? Well, first and foremost, because I want real insurance that cannot be cancelled or changed at the profit-mongering whim of an insurance company. If I were to remain with the grandfathered fake insurance policy, I would not have the ACA protections. I would still be in the old healthcare system, which was a lie. I would have to hide any serious conditions from them for fear of cancellation.
 
I am healthy now, but for 17 years I struggled with chronic Hepatitis B, and I hid it from my health insurance companies in the independent market, because I didn’t want to be cancelled and denied insurance, which is exactly what would have happened if I had let them know of my condition. Instead I paid for healthcare out of my own pocket on top of my health insurance premiums, and I sought the secret services of free clinics and university medical studies. I know many independent contractors who can tell this same story. That wasn’t insurance. I wasn’t really insured. It was a lie.
 
And besides, now that these virtuous and altruistic health insurance companies (sarcasm) have downgraded policies for old farts like me, it would be dangerous to keep them, because they wouldn’t provide sufficient coverage in the event of hospitalization. We need real insurance and they aren’t providing it now, even though I am paying $7,000 per year for it and I am in good health approaching age 65.

In fact, health insurance companies have never provided real insurance to the American public as a whole, while they were denying people coverage for pre-existing conditions, charging women more for the same coverage, cancelling policies when people became sick, and raising premiums 10 or 20% every year so that 40,000,000 Americans could not afford coverage. That was shameful! No civilized society behaves that way.
 
The only sin President Obama has committed in regard to this healthcare debacle was deciding not to direct the role-out of the ACA website personally. He thought he should delegate that responsibility to Internet experts, because he had a few other things to do — chief among them, making sure that real healthcare insurance for all Americans survived its journey through the legislative swamp of Capitol Hill. But no good deed goes unpunished, they say, and President Obama is living proof of that axiom.
 
I predict, however, that a year or two from now, only the most hardened right-wing ideologues will want to return to the days when nobody had real health insurance and the whole system was a lie. The Affordable Care Act will become as cherished and untouchable as Social Security and Medicare, because it will provide a pathway to health and higher quality longevity for scores of millions of middle and lower class Americans who would not otherwise be able to provide it for themselves.