Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Climbing Mount Bureaucracy

Photo of Lhotse from Wikipedia.com
Mount Bureaucracy towered over my life at the end of October in the form of a thick, heavy packet from my county.  Inside, the county had sent me notification that I was now enrolled in Medical Assistance and I needed to confirm the plan and clinic that I wanted.  What?!  I have been covered by private insurance since January 1, 2014, medical insurance that I enrolled in through Minnesota's ACA online marketplace, MNSure. My income this year has been too high to make me eligible for Medical Assistance.

The next day, I received documents entitled "Health Care Notice" from MNSure in the mail.  One requested more information, but the area specifying what information was requested was blank. The second informed me that I was eligible for Medical Assistance. I called the MNSure help line to find out what was going on.

And so began my climb up Mount Bureaucracy.

I suppose this would not be an urgent problem if I didn't need to complete a new application to buy medical insurance at MNSure.  The deadline for January 1, 2015 effective date is December 15.  If I cannot make that deadline, I will be stuck paying the monthly premium for my current insurance, medical insurance that I want to drop. The monthly premium has increased $470 for a total of $770.  Considering that MNSure's mistake has created this situation, I think MNSure should pay that premium for me.

But I've jumped ahead of myself.

When I called MNSure at the end of October, they acknowledged that it was a mistake, that I was not eligible for Medical Assistance, and I should disregard the notices. The problem, which became evident early in November, was that I'd been enrolled in Medical Assistance by MNSure.  This problem sent me to the county MNSure help line, accessed by calling the county help line number.  My first call there brought another "please disregard" response and an acknowledgement of the mistake.

But this issue could not be disregarded.  I was on Medical Assistance.  Because of this, I could not complete a new application at MNSure.  This meant that I could not buy new medical insurance coverage for 2015.

The next time I called the county MNSure help line, the rep told me that in order to cancel Medical Assistance, they needed to send the state a request.  I asked that this be done.  I don't know if it was.  I know only that when I called the state, they had no record of it being sent or received.  I called the county MNSure help line again.  This time, the rep sent the cancellation request while I was on the line and explained that they'd receive a tracking number.  That was on November 26.

During the following days, I spoke with my insurance agent about the situation, I called the state health services help line, I tried to complete the application at MNSure (still could not), and I finally sent MNSure an appeals letter.  In other words, to fight my frustrating sense of powerlessness in the face of Mount Bureaucracy, I did everything I could think of to get that mountain to move.

"If you can't start a new application...."

Today, I called the county MNSure help line again after I once again could not complete an application at the MNSure website.  The rep told me they have a tracking number, so the state was in the process of doing the cancellation.  He told me it usually took two weeks.  It will be two weeks tomorrow.  The rep believed the cancellation would be done by Friday, and I should call back then.

This really doesn't help me, however, make that December 15 deadline which governs two things: completing the enrollment into new medical insurance and cancelling my current coverage. Sure, I have Saturday and Sunday, but my current insurance company's offices will be closed for the weekend.  I must work on Monday, so I will not be able to take care of personal business at work, and I won't any time to deal with this issue until after business hours.

Last year, I was truly excited for the implementation of the ACA, and for the opportunity to buy medical insurance through MNSure.  It has been far more affordable than if I'd stayed with the state's high risk pool insurance.  While I was disappointed that my current insurance would not participate in MNSure this year, thus ending my premium subsidy in 2015, I was certain I'd be able to find good insurance again at MNSure. What has occurred since October 30 with MNSure has upset and angered me, especially that they enrolled me in Medical Assistance without so much as a phone call to me.

Which brings me to MNSure's responsibility in this debacle.  I did not request to be enrolled in Medical Assistance.  It came out of the blue.  MNSure enrolled me without any contact with me. As a result, I could not enroll in new medical insurance during the month, November 15 -- December 15, allowed to enroll for coverage to be effective on January 1, 2015.  Because of that, I will be stuck with my current insurance for the month of January 2015 and will be billed for the monthly premium.  I think MNSure is responsible for paying that premium because of their mistake enrolling me in Medical Assistance which prevented me from enrolling in new private insurance before the deadline.

This situation is worthy of an award for absurdity....

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