Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hours of my life I will never get back

I yelled at someone from Blue Shield of California today, and I am unrepentant. This is unusual for me, not so much the yelling but the not feeling bad about it afterward. Don't get me wrong--I'm a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare or whatever you choose to call it. I'm even grateful for Covered California, my state's implementation of the program--it's been good timing, it being available at a time when my work related coverage is drawing to a close. More to the point, I am really happy that a lot of people who haven't been covered now can have coverage, whatever happens to me, so don't sign me up for the anti-healthcare team, please.

But Covered California's roll out has been vaunted as a success story, and I am here to tell you that this is not so. It has been torturous to get enrolled, not only for me but for pretty much everyone I know who has a story to tell. The communication with Covered California and the insurance company I picked has been onerous. It's been hard to get questions answered unless they were extremely simple questions that you could easily figure out for yourself. I had Cobra coverage from my previous place of work--expensive, but I was glad of the option. Switching over to the Covered California coverage was a huge puzzle, because I didn't know that the question "Have you been offered affordable coverage?" meant was it above a certain percentage of my income. I didn't know this, because they hadn't bothered to mentions this in the questionnaire you had to fill out. You would think that after a certain point they would have updated the webpage, because I certainly wasn't the only person to have problems with this question, but no.

It has been very hard to know what my status is. This is because they have yet to send me a card, but assume that I will somehow deduce that it's a done deal. At a certain point, I assumed that I would just have to stick with Cobra, because they were saying I hadn't qualified. But then it turned out that that was  figure of speech, because I was actually enrolled. They knew it, they just hadn't bothered to tell me.

I called them a couple of weeks ago and said, what's my status. And I had a nice young guy tell me to send a check to the City of Industry. Yeah. I had no envelope, I got the address only because I asked for it, and he told me I should backdate the check for the first of April because that was when my coverage officially started. I said, well, because I heard nothing till the seventh of April, I stayed with my old plan. Can I start it the first of May? There was a long pause. Then he said, well, that would involve opening and approving a new case. I said "Never mind." He told me to write about the circumstances "when things had settled down". I appreciated the sentiment, but I don't think it will work out.

The City of Industry--check destination

So I had no word in any way that my check had been received and that I had fulfilled whatever Dantesque requirements they had cooked up. Then a couple of days ago, I got a call that I should make sure and send my payment by April 25th. What payment that was, whether for the period I already thought I had paid for, or the next period, well, the recorded voice gave me no clue. I thought I'd better call, but I had to summon up the strength to do it. Don't forget that it's also been tax time, which has had its own torments.

I waited an hour on the phone today. That's not hyperbole. I learned how to play computer solitaire with one hand, which I guess is a good thing to know. There was some Hawaiian music which I remembered from my previous call. It wasn't bad, but marred by the constant interruptions by the same recorded voices telling me I could use the website. Believe me, I would have liked to use the website. But I couldn't use the website till I registered and I couldn't register till I got my Blue Shield card. I did learn from an automated voice that they had received my first check. Miraculous. But I thought I should probably stay on the line because the automated voice had told me that my next payment was due June 1st. That was a not so slight discrepancy from what the first automated voice had told me. This is how you descend the circles of hell.

Finally a woman came on the line. She was named Carla. I don't feel bad revealing that, because I imagine there is more than one Carla working in the vast web that is Covered California, and it has a nice John Le Carre subtext, which is probably why they named one of the spymaster baddies Carla on Burn Notice as well. Carla had that officialdom way of saying she wanted to be of service while secretly despising me for being obtuse. Once she looked at my account, she said, your check was received on the 15th. It's too soon for you to have gotten your card. The card that allows you to pay on the website, which your automated ally had robo-called me to do. She obviously thought I was a fool for not knowing that the next payment was for May, and that it was owed by May 1st. Careful readers may note here that this is the third date I got from Blue Shield for when my next payment was due.

Normally, I try not to be horrible to customer service reps. I've been on the other side of that equation, after all. But there is a time to refrain and a time to cast away refraining. I said, well, can you at least give me my member number so that I can pay my bill on line and not have to wait to talk to someone again?

"You'll have to wait for the card," she said.

Yeah--that was when I lost it.


  1. I understand!! Sigh... Sending you love and sympathy. I wish I could send you your insurance card!

  2. Thanks, Kathleen. The card will come eventually, and business as usual will resume here shortly.

  3. My woes sound rather tame today, in comparison to those of Oregon

  4. That is why I have called Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas "Moriarty" for twenty-five years. Insurance companies were like this long before the Affordable Care Act. Hang in there, and maybe have an adult beverage.

  5. Thanks, Nancy. I am going to keep Moriarty in my mind for future reference. Yeah, I wasn't a fan of insurance companies even when I was on a company health plan--it seemed like we had to change insurers every year because the premiums would shoot up. But I didn't have to interact with them so one on one before.

    I'm tempted to start another rant entitled "Why would anyone ride the bus?", having just missed an event because the bus simply never came, but I think it will probably be better for my blood pressure if I just put it behind me.

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