Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Great Obamacare Circle Jerk

I tend to keep my private life, well, private. Mainly because I think there are more important things happening in the world which warrants more attention than me. However, did you ever have one of those days or weeks where something so absurd happen that you just simply had to say something, if, for no other reason, than for simple validation that you're not going crazy? Well, as you might have already gathered, an event like that just happened to me. I guess the best place to start is at the beginning since that's the only way to grasp the full absurdity of the situation
Let's go back to 2013. After 24 years, the company I worked for decided to lay off its senior legal department personnel, along with some of the senior clerical staff. Well, I was "the" senior legal manager for the company. I oversaw a multi-million dollar receivables portfolio; was involved in training; the company's overall top fee earner; and held an assistant vice president level position as a special projects coordinator for the company's president. Basically, I was in charge of improving efficiency, moral, and productivity. I worked with all the department heads, as well as with the head of the North America division and with senior individuals in the home office in Paris, France (we had been bought out about six years earlier by a French commercial insurance company).

As strange as it might sound, I was ok with it. Seriously. I knew it was time to leave. I was simply waiting for the most opportune moment. Well, obviously the moment chose me instead me choosing the moment. Shortly after leaving and settling into my new life, I applied through Kentucky's new insurance exchange, Kynect, which was created as part of Obamacare. This was in August. However, it wasn't until February 2014 that we were actually able to be coverage. Despite all the positive media hype, we encountered one problem after another. Even the people who took over our application encountered repeated problems which seemed to result from issues involving programming (lots of "work throughs" and "wrap arounds"), not to mention a lack of adequate personnel---especially programmers---being available. As an aside, despite claims to the contrary from the Governor's office, Kynect was fraught with problems involving a lot people than just us.

Nevertheless, come February 2014, some six months after originally applying, my wife and I finally received coverage. Because we were already in the system, we were given our choice of start dates---January, February, or March. We though the easiest avenue (to avoid further confusion) would be March. So when the documentation was submitted by Kynect to the insurance company, someone at Kynect though we really meant to say was April, not March, and so they changed the start date without alerting us. Well, that delayed things yet again, but at this point we were used to it. After that, everything seemed to settle down. We were happy with our coverage since we could keep all of our doctors and had no problems getting any prescriptions filled. Well, you know what they say about getting to comfortable right? That's usually when the rug gets pulled out from under you.

Near the end of December, I started getting notices from Kynect about our insurance being switched. I made several calls to Kynect and to the insurance provider and was told to just ignore the letters; they were likely sent out by mistake. Yeah, right. As it turned out, Kynect opted to switch our coverage without consulting us. So, after we somewhat embarrassingly found out that we no longer had the coverage we thought did (or with who we thought), I phone Kynect to ask what happened and why it happen. I was rather nonchalantly told that our coverage had been changed and, no, apparently we couldn't really do anything about it. It was suggested, however, that I might want to speak with a customer service representative in Community Based Services. Boy, did I ever!

Well, the individual I spoke with at Community Based Services was polite enough, but, alas, said I couldn't do anything. I had to take what they offered or get coverage on the open market. Some choice. However, on the upside (from their perspective), I was eligible to pick between three different but essentially same type of policies. It was suggested that I make a list of all our doctors and prescriptions and call back to go over which of the policies includes our doctors. Sounded fair enough, so I make a list of all our doctors along with any prescriptions and called back. Although I had to speak with a different individual, the notes were clear enough for them.

We determined that most of our doctors were supposedly available under one particular policy, although my primary doctor was still a
question. Not to worry I was told. Even if he wasn't covered, I could still pay cash for the office visits and they would cover any procedures or tests. Again, I was reminded that I had the option of declining coverage and purchasing a policy on the open market (which would run about $2000.00 a month). Being newly retired, I thought the better part of valor would be to accept the policy being assigned. Besides, I though, I could always pay for my visit if I had to right?

Fast forward to mid-March this year and my first visit since our policy change (for my annual physical and update on prescriptions). As it turned out, my primary doctor doesn't participate with this insurer. So, I offered to pay cash for the visit. It turns out that I'm not allowed to pay by cash or credit card or anything else under this policy type (it would be considered "fraud"). So, I left without seeing my primary doctor of 33 years. Frustrated, I called Kynect as soon as I got home. Once again, there was nothing they could do, and so I was transferred to another department where I was told unsympathetically to simply "switch doctors". I explained that my primary doctor was a specialist; the only type of his kind in the area, and besides, I had a 33 year relationship with the guy! They offered to find me a substitute, but they'll likely want to do their own testing despite any medical summary they receive. This will only further delay my medical care. That's not going to work I said.

So, I was again transferred to yet another department where I explained the whole situation once more. This time I was told that I
could file a "continuing physician care request", but it would take seven to ten days to get a response. Well, here we are 15 days into this and they can't seem to track anyone down who can make a decision. Meanwhile, I tried to have some prescriptions refilled. Turns out that this policy also doesn't include all medications! They will only approve certain medicines. What isn't approved has to be both "justified" by the issuing physician and there has to be an generic (what happens if there's no generic? Some types of medicines aren't approved for generic yet). And so here I wait. I can't see the doctor of my choice---my primary doctor of 33 years---and I may possibly have to see a non-specialist and start from scratch unless my request can be tracked down and approved. I can't get my long standing prescriptions refilled since I no longer have a primary doctor, who, if I did, would still have to contact the insurance company and "justified" his recommendations, and still there's no guarantee they'll approve the non-generic medication.

I'm remind of an old saying which says that if you can't be a good example, at least be a good object lesson. So, if you anyone tells you that Obama's Affordable Care Act---Obamacare---allows you to keep your own doctors, or go to whatever clinic or hospital you want, or that you can get your prescriptions filled without any problems, just remember my story.

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