Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ain't No Such Thing as Private Insurance Any Longer - Part 2

Well, I didn't expect a Part 2 to my Ain't No Such Thing as Private Insurance Any Longer post, but here I am.

I was told by the GOHEALTH agent that by 15 business days, I should be getting my health care insurance policy and first premium from UnitedHealthCare. That's this week. But nada, nothing.  So I called GOHEALTH to speak to my "agent".  After a number of transfers, I was connected directly to a Customer Service Rep at GOHEALTH since I had already "selected" a policy. I could no longer speak to my "agent" directly. The Rep told me that I should be hearing from United and to call them.

Ok, fine, that makes sense. I had their phone number. Calling it on Thursday this week, was redirected from "policy status" department to "billing" department since they take care of ALL Health Care MarketPlace applications. Go figure. Check.

At UnitedHealthCare billing, I spoke to Jared who checked my information to see if UHC had received my "application" from the MarketPlace, but no, I wasn't in any UHC systems, yet. Jared was concerned that I hadn't heard anything in more than 15 days and assured me he would 1) contact their "operations" department, the only UHC people who can and do interact with the MarketPlace, and 2) he would call me back with status on Friday (next day) at noon. He even said I could call back and request him personally in case I didn't hear from him. Wow, I'm impressed with the assertiveness shown here by Jared.  

So I waited until 2PM on Friday and no call from Jared. Fine, I'll call him back at the UHC phone number and menu through to the "billing" department.  Reaching them, I talk to a nice lady I'll call "Linda" as I could barely understand her over the poor telecom system they use at UHC.  I asked for Jared and she said that there was no "Jared" in her area/building/department, and that I likely got switched to a different call center. Great. I have to explain EVERYTHING all over again.

But Linda seemed more equipped to check their "files" for my application. She just had to download and uncompress a number 500MB spreadsheet files. they receive from the MarketPlace.  Yikes. This took 20 minutes, all the while she is talking under her breadth and humming tunes into the telecom mike. Sheesh.

I stuck with this while she checked all the files and my application never showed up. She was as frustrated as I was by this point and transferred me to "Joe" who works in her "escalation" group. 

I RE-EXPLAINED everything to Joe and he did a similar search of the files from the MarketPlace, and I wasn't surprised when he told me that he too could not locate my application. But this time, Joe seemed to be familiar with this outlier process and suggested I wait until July 22 which is 30 days from my original application just to give the MarketPlace more time to deliver my application to UHC. He said he would call me back on July 22 regardless of the outcome and we would go from there.

I asked him if I could just sign up with him right there, but he said no, until he receives my information from the MarketPlace, he could not sign me up. Once they have it, he could do everything, then: activate me, take my payment, provide ID cards, etc.

So I asked him further, that if he was waiting for information from the MarketPlace, perhaps shouldn't I call them to find out the status from their end. He assured me that it was my right to do so, but he didn't want me to waste my time, etc., and that I should let the process proceed as designed.

Hmmm. So Joe was going to call me back in the future, hoping that something will magically happen in the meanwhile. I wasn't very confident. I asked him for a contact number, but he said he couldn't give me a direct line into his area as he is not an end customer support person. He would give me his email address, which he did. I could email him to check status, etc., before he calls me back. So that's how I left it with Joe.

Next stop, the Health Care MarketPlace hot line. Yes, friends, this is the dreaded OBAMACARE, Black Hole of Calcutta, exchange. I wanted to avoid this entirely by using private resource to sign up with a private insurance company, but alas, that is no longer possible. Private healthcare is ObamaCare. End of story.

So here goes. I call the number and step through some simple voice based phone menus, and no, NO HABLA ESPANOL, so no prima dos, I am quickly connected with Valarie. 

Valarie speaks beautiful English on a super clear (like HDTV) audio line. She asks me a few questions and takes my HCMP Application ID number, which GOHEALTH had given me on June 22, and also which a confirmation form letter from the government HCMP I had received last week provided.

Within 30 seconds, Valarie confirms my application to the MP was received on 6/22. She says she also sees the plans I was eligible for with UHC, even identifying the exact plan I wanted to apply for. BUT NO! No healthcare insurance plan application was submitted. GOHEALTH had NOT submitted anything on my behalf that day, contrary to what I was told by the original agent. I did not have any information in the system being sent to UHC. Nothing. Nada. Waiting until 7/22 would not have fixed anything.

I was completely rattled by this time, but Valarie said she could just go ahead and submit my insurance application right then and there. I didn't have to provide any additional information. After doing so, she provided me a confirmation number, and said that within 7 days, UHC should have my information. She even suggested calling them on Wednesday next week to see if it were transferred by then.

So I'll ping Joe via email on Wednesday and ask him to check to see if everything is in from the MarketPlace. I'll keep pestering him for status.

I have to say I was disappointed with GOHEALTH and frustrated with UnitedHealthCare, but the Health Care MarketPlace seemed like a breeze. But then again, Murphy was a pessimist.  Until I have an invoice in my hand I won't call this done.

This is what happens when the Government creates a one-size fits all solution and firmly stands in the middle between the consumer (me) and the producer (UHC). We are at the mercy of the middle to get anything done.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Ain't No Such Thing as Private Insurance Any Longer

Well here I am, after almost 18 months of retirement at age 60, running out of COBRA health insurance coverage for my wife and I from my previous employer. So what to do?

I could pick up coverage for my wife and I from my retirement company (one who pays me a small pension) which is a good, solid UnitedHealthCare 80/20 plan for $1720 a month. Ouch. My COBRA coverage costs only $1030 a month, but we are only allowed 18 months. Damn.

That's a lot of bucks. So let me see what I can do in the "private" insurance arena.

First I examined plans on the HEALTHCARE.GOV site without creating a profile. I want to stay as far away from the Obamacare monstrosity as possible. I want nothing to do with them. I don't want any of my information contained within the website.

After having dozens and dozens of plans displayed, at various levels of premium/deductible/max out of pocket, I gave up, but did see that plans range from well below $1720/month to well above. So now I had a range.

My current plan is also with UnitedHealthCare and it covers all the doctors we currently use, so that's the place to start. I went to the UnitedHealth web site and poked the find me a plan button. That brought up a more generic "find a health care plan" website that asked for general information like name, age, state, and phone number. I filled it all in and waited.

Almost immediately I got a robot call to verify I had requested a health insurance quote and whether I was ready to speak to a broker right then and there!  I indicated this was legit request and no, call me back the next day.

Which they did. The same robot called me asking the same questions of being legit and wanting to talk to agent right away. I indicated yes on both questions and was switched over to a human.  A human "dispatcher" verified my info and switched me to an agent. The agent picked up and I couldn't understand a word she was saying. It was like "ack ack, yack" from the movie Mars Attacks!  I hung up and figured the cycle would start over.

Which it did. This time, however, I was connected to a licensed health care agent (she worked for the broker GO HEALTH). She asked about our doctors and medications and did a search and guess what, UnitedHealthCare was the only carrier who covered all our doctors, go figure. I wanted to buy UHC in the first place.

Anyway, she quoted 3 plans: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Seems all "private" health insurances are squeezed into these three categories. This basically means they cover 70%, 80%, and 90% of health care costs with the consumer covering the 30%, 20%, and 10% remaining. This is similar to the employer insurance I've had for years. Most of the time, they were 80/20 plan or "Gold" in this model.

Where they differ is in their deductibles (first dollars paid by consumer) and max-out-of-pocket (total dollars paid by consumer).

After a week of thinking about the options, I called my "agent" back and decided on the Silver plan as it was $1438 a month with a deductible and MOOP similar to my current COBRA coverage.

All along the way I kept asking the agent if this transaction was "private" and not "part of Obamacare", and whether my information was kept out of the HEALTHCARE.GOV website. I was assured, yes, indeed, this was private and dealing with GO HEALTH and UnitedHealthCare strictly.

Right. During the application process, the agent had to read three boilerplate statements that I had to agree to.  One was that in the event I needed to make changes in my policy (child born, family member death, loss of income, etc.), I needed to call a special number to affect the change. That number is 800-318-2596. This was neither GO HEALTH nor UnitedHealthCare. I googled the number and guess what? The number is for the HEALTHCARE.GOV Health Insurance Marketplace. The very place I didn't want any of my information.

What's that all about?

My "private" health insurance broker (GO HEALTH) signing me up for "private" health insurance carrier (UnitedHealthCare) is entangled with the damn government health insurance marketplace.

Why do I need to call them and not GO HEALTH or UnitedHealthCare?

I'm not happy, but this seems to be what's happened. All private health insurance is now entangled with ObamaCare. No such thing as private insurance.