Uncovered California

Tim Knight from Slope of Hope's picture

I've shared my gripes about Covered California before, such as here and here. I've got more to add.

I'm self-employed, so I get insurance through the so-called Covered California system of health insurance. California is one of the many states that decided, in its infinite wisdom, to not hang off the federal government's healthcare.gov site, but instead spend $100 million of its own to re-invent the wheel.

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So instead of one wholly integrated federal health care system, we have something like 30 disparate systems, all of them expensive, and none of them perfect. Indeed, "not perfect" is an absurd understatement, roughly equal to Oprah being "not petite." Allow me to offer my own personal example.

When I initially signed up for the service in December, I decided to be cheap and buy the Bronze level of service, since my medical needs are approximately zero. The signup went decently well (although it was clear the web site was sorta kinda broken), and I was on my way. Healthnet was the private insurance carrier that provided my lame-ass Bronze coverage, and that was that.

A couple of weeks later, I decided Bronze was a pretty pathetic level, and that Silver would be a more appropriate product for me. Now, in a just and sane universe, I would have signed on to the web site, clicked the Upgrade button, agreed to the higher premium, and we would all go on with our lives. Ho ho ho! Nope. Not even close.

I debated whether or not to share with you all I went through to execute this ostensibly simple procedure, but honestly, even with the most riveting writing, I would lose all of you along the way. There were many steps, many phone conversations, and many dozens of hours expended on this ridiculous act. There were false starts, dead ends, and wrong turns. If there is a Hell, they surely will model it on my experience upgrading from Bronze to Silver.

But that was weeks ago. I'm not going to go back down that path, because, at long last, I finally got the upgrade done, and I was on my way. So what am I griping about now?

It's good that you ask, because I just happen to be typing right now, and I'd be glad to respond.

On Friday, my doctor's office contacted me to tell me they weren't getting paid, because my insurance had been cancelled. Umm..........what? Given what screw-ups both Covered California and Healthnet are, I wasn't shocked, but after spending so much time and energy finally getting upgraded, it made me sick to think I'd have to venture back into The Land That Competency Forgot to deal with this.

But, sure enough, I logged onto Healthnet and was greeting with the following:

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For my convenience. For. My. Convenience. You douchenozzles! The last thing you care about in the world is my convenience!

So then I called them, and I felt kind of honored, in a way, because as luck would have it, I managed to reach the winner of the World's Most Dim-Witted Person contest to help me. What a treat! So after speaking with her at great length (because, let's face it, my time has no value), it was determined that..........my premiums were promptly paid, yes. I hadn't done anything wrong, yes. But, according to Ms. Dim, Covered California had cancelled the policy on April 3 for no reason, and that Covered California was in the process of fixing this, and it would be all just dandy in a week or ten days.

See, the beauty of the State and a Private Company partnering like this is they can always blame0421-dumbdumber one another. There's nothing easier than extending one's index finger Over There to indicate whose fault it is. I've noticed they do this a lot. And so they did it a again.

Although I could have just left it at that, I'm not naive enough to think that everything was going to work itself out, so I called Covered California (which is akin to the proverbial jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire, because let's remember, at least Healthnet is a private company). So, after a lot of waiting, I reached a human at CoveredCA and told her the situation.'

She carefully examined my records and said, nope, they didn't cancel me, and there was nothing untoward about my account at all. She had no idea what Healthnet was talking about.

Well, OK, fine. But while I had her on the phone, I explained to her that I'd like to be able to log in to my own CoveredCA account from time to time, and my username and password weren't working.

She explained to me that the username/password I had wouldn't work, but that I should create a new account, just like I did the first time, and enter a special Case Number when prompted in order to "link" to my information. OK, fine. So she told me the access code, letter by letting, emphasizing which letters were uppercase and which were lowercase. I carefully repeated it back to make sure I had it right, because getting a human on the phone is time-consuming enough.

Later on, I went to the web site, and I dutifully started to create a new account. I saw the field she mentioned, which gave me a sense of relief, because that's where I was supposed to enter my code:

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I carefully entered the code and clicked the Submit button. It waited a moment, and then up came a dialog box saying that the code wasn't valid. Although I knew I entered the code carefully, I tried once again, this time, triple-checking each letter. I clicked Submit. Same deal. I tried a third time. No change.

Thus, I called them yet again. After a long while, I got another human, and I explained the situation. She said to me, and I'm not making this up: "Oh, yes, that's the correct Access Code. But those don't actually work."

It soon became evident that the entire Access Code schtick was just a sorry waste of time. It didn't work at all. And when I expressed astonishment that their $100 million site had this error, she laughed, "Oh, that's nothing! That's one of the small problems! You wouldn't believe how many glitches there are."

NEWS FLASH: I had thrown out the figure "$100 million" a couple of times, I realize. This was just a dumb guess. I took the time to actually find out what it cost, and I'm sorry I didn't do better research for my readers. Turns out the costs were $489 million. Sorry 'bout dat.

In any case, I am a healthy, relatively young person, and the preceding has been a taste of my experience. I can't imagine what someone with real health needs would go through. But I'll close by saying this: I realize I piss and moan and bitch about people who work for Goldman Sachs, or JP Morgan, or wherever else. But you know what...........they're supposed to make lots of money, and it just so happens they're very good at it. Getting hired at a place like Goldman Sachs is a very big deal, and although these people are no saints............they are good at what they do. They have to be, because private enterprise doesn't tolerate otherwise.

When you're dealing with state bureaucrats, however, it's an entirely different universe. You are dealing with some of the dumbest folks on the planet, fiercely protected by entrenched unions, and utterly devoid of incentive to do anything but punch a clock and get through their day.

The old saw, cited for years to avoid national health, about government-based health care having "the efficiency of the post office and the sensitivity of the IRS" was far too optimistic. I'm here to tell you.............it sucks out loud. So, for your own sake, don't ever get sick.