Thanks Obama

Larry Trask / Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 @ 11:32 a.m. / Entertainment



Last year, I signed up for Obamacare, and was very happy to do so. I like the idea of being responsible for my own health insurance and I like de-coupling it from my job. I understand the historical reasons but it doesn't make sense to me in this day and age to tie health insurance to your employer. What if I get fired? What if I change jobs voluntarily? Let's just keep health insurance separate from my job and I'm good with that so thumbs up Obamacare as far as that's concerned.

And I have to say, my first year was on the whole a good experience. The deductible is significantly higher under Obamacare than it was under my employer-sponsored plan, so that's not awesome, but I'm a reasonably healthy person and the Obamacare monthly premium is slightly lower, so, you know, I can accept it.

But a year has transpired and now it's renewal time. I got a letter from my carrier (Anthem) telling me my premium is going up by $40/month so that's a big sigh but what are you gonna do? My premium also went up every year before I had Obamacare.

Here's where it gets interesting/confusing. When I went to CoveredCA.com, the state-run website you use to sign up for Obamacare in California, I was quoted a renewal premium that is $15 LESS per month than I'm paying now.  ROCK ON OBABMA!!!!  Right?  How stoked am I, so I signed up for that bad boy then and there.

I got a confirming email telling me I'm good to go and it all looked good until I got another letter from my carrier telling me (a) I need to prove I don't have employer-sponsored insurance (which I dealt with last year, but never mind that now) and (b) my premium is going up by $50 per month.


Since I had never received anything in writing from Covered CA (either paper or electronic) spelling out the exact terms of my plan, I wasn't 100% sure I didn't just hallucinate that $15 premium reduction I believed I'd seen.  After all, I drink a lot and take a lot of drugs so maybe I'M the one who's confused.

So I logged back in to Covered CA to make sure that I had, in fact, renewed my coverage and to see if I could verify the premium and other details.  That, however, proved to be more difficult than I had expected. There was nothing that I could find anywhere that gave me details about the plan that I'd signed up for.  I'm not an idiot (for the most part) and I've been using the Internet for, what, a few years now, so I felt like I should be able to find my plan.  

But no joy.  I had to turn to the "Get Help" menu where I was happy to discover an option to "chat" with a customer service agent.

This is where the fun begins. I'm setting out below the actual transcript of my chat with one "KentI", the helpful customer service agent at Covered CA.

 KentI : Hi, my name is KentI. How may I help you? 
 Larry Trask: I have a couple of questions. First, I can't read any of the messages in my "Secure Mailbox" because they all look like this:

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 KentI: Good Morning, Mr. Trask 
 Larry Trask: Second, I...good morning.  Second, I want to make sure that I'm renewed for next year.
 Larry Trask: When I signed up for a renewed plan, the price quoted on covered CA website is different than the price in a letter that my carrier sent me 
 KentI: Just a moment 
 Larry Trask: Third, I got a letter that says I'm only covered for 90 days because you can't verify that I'm not covered by my employer. How do I prove I'm not covered by my employer? 
 Larry Trask: Fourth, how can I see what my plan is? I'm trying to look at what I signed up for but I don't see anything on Covered CA that tells me that. 
 Larry Trask: Those are my four questions. 
 KentI: Do you have an un-enrollment letter from your employer? 
 Larry Trask: No, but I'm sure I can get one. I unenrolled last year when I signed up via Covered CA 
 KentI: I believe if your employer offers insurance, you need to go with that. 
 KentI: Does your employer currently offer health insurance? 
 Larry Trask: Well, look, that's not right and in any event, my employer stopped offering insurance. I've been insured via Covered CA for one year already. 
 Larry Trask: I'm just RENEWING my coverage. 
 Larry Trask: So let's focus on some of my other questions. I'll figure out the first one on my own. 
 KentI: Understand your employer does not offer Health Insurance. 
 KentI: The renewal button on the first or second page of your application/account is what you select to move into the renewal process. 
 Larry Trask: Well, here's the thing: I already renewed. I did this last week. I'm just trying to get to a screen that will show me the plan I selected. 
 Larry Trask: I want to do that because the price of the plan I selected on Covered CA is different than the price my carrier (Anthem) says I have to pay. 
 Larry Trask: So I don't need you to solve that problem. I'll do that on my own. 
 Larry Trask: Just tell me how I can look at the plan I selected last week. 
 KentI: Correct. 
 KentI: Should be toward the end of your application that you filled out. 
 Larry Trask: I want to cry now. 
 Larry Trask: You're making me cry. 
 KentI: The type of plan should be displayed along with the provider. 
 Larry Trask: How can I see the plan that I selected via the Covered CA website? 
 Larry Trask: It should be, yes. 
 Larry Trask: How do I see it? 
 Larry Trask: What button or menu option do I select to see it? 
 KentI: Just a moment 
 KentI: During the renewal process it should be displayed. If you can't see it, you will need to call in to 1-800-300-1506
 Larry Trask: HA! I found it! If someone in the future asks you this question, tell them they have to (1) go to "My Profile" and (2) select "Change Plans". Then you can see your existing plan.
 KentI: Due to operational needs we no longer have access to customer information in chat. Since we have no way to access your information, unfortunately we have no way to assist you in this matter. I apologize for the inconvenience, for assistance with this issue please call 800 -300-1506
 Larry Trask: I'm better at your job than you are! 
 Larry Trask: Telling people to call the 800 number is bad advice. The hold time is 2 hours and then when you get to the end of the two hours, they hang up on you. 
 KentI: You’re welcome! Thank you for contacting us today. If you need further assistance after this chat, please call 800-300-1506 or contact us via chat, Monday thru Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and Saturday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. For Medi-Cal questions please contact your county office. Have a great day! 
 Larry Trask: You should be thanking me. 
 Larry Trask: YOU'RE welcome KentI, you're welcome. 
 KentI: Were there any other general questions I may be able to help you with at this time? 
 Larry Trask: Do you have any other questions for me before we terminate this chat? 
 Larry Trask: I can help you with your questions regarding Covered CA. 
 Larry Trask: What can I do for you today? 
 KentI: Thank you for contacting us today. If you need further assistance after this chat, please call 800-300-1506 or contact us via chat, Monday thru Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm and Saturday 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. For Medi-Cal questions please contact your county office. Have a great day! 
 Larry Trask: You have a great day too and thank you for visiting Covered CA.