Rube Goldberg Manages Healthcare

Rube Goldberg would be proud. My journey through the officially mandated revision to my health care plan led me on a far adventure with grand vistas and worrisome territories. I was sure that I’d be shunted aside on detours, but by the end I ended up almost where I started, but not quite. Ah, so the system is designed like much of life, Much Ado About Nothing – almost.

I listen to the media less every year because each year they seem to move further from personal practicality to mimic the ideological generalities fed them by pundits and publicists. My descriptions of the minutiae of things like applying for healthcare are my contribution to reality checks. The reality behind the headlines is rarely as simple as the public debate suggests.

Last week I chronicled my hope and then dismay with ACA, the Affordable Care Act. I have the good fortune to be in a state that had a working site. The site suggested (no promises) that I’d either qualify for the state’s version of Medicaid or get a $300 rebate towards health insurance. Both sounded good because my existing provider was about to raise my rate more than 30%. By the end of the process, my new rate was 60% higher with no hint of a rebate. It felt like a bait-and-switch.

There is good news to report. After weeks of trying to get through on the phone line, and attempts via email, I finally resorted to complaining publicly. Thank you Twitter. After a few tweets that I directed at the wrong source (evidently @WAhealth is not for WAshington but for Western Australia – try @WAPlanFinder instead) I finally got a response, as well as chorus of others who were similarly disaffected. I was instructed to go back online and check out the support links on the main site. Yes, I’d done that before. That’s where I got the phone number and the email address. (By the way, apologizing for the inconvenience trivializes the fact that my health insurance was going to be my second largest monthly bill; and I wasn’t paying the largest, which was my mortgage. That’s not just an inconvenience.) I was to look for Navigators and Brokers.

Dutifully, I log in, click the link, answer the question, and find that there’s no one listed for my zip code. I know this is wrong because friends have told me about someone up by the grocery store, but not someone online, along a bus line, or necessarily open when I’m not working. (Granted my common 12 hour work days would be tough to work around.) Frustration!

Undutifully, I pick up the phone to vent at their apologetic message – and a person answers. Shocked. Shocked I was to actually talk to someone. There was a strong chance that I dialed the wrong number. Gasp. I actually got through. Teresa kindly takes my information and graciously puts me on hold. After the first few minutes I was glad that two of my Christmas presents to myself were a new headset and battery for the phone. This might take a while. I couldn’t start dinner and didn’t want to be caught in the bathroom, so I wandered around the house doing small chores. After a hungry hour I realized that I might be on hold and that they may have all gone home for the night. The battery and my patience wouldn’t last until morning.

And then the muzak and recorded apologies stopped. At 86 minutes into the call – a voice. Robert introduced himself; and in a friendly, professional, and non-judgmental manner tried to understand my situation. Ah, it’s simple.

During the previous weeks, I’d chronicled my trials via Facebook and such. Equal numbers of people were on either side of my situation: “It’s easy, what’s wrong with Tom” versus “It’s messed up, and there are lots of us in similar situations.” I had a mix of humility and companionship.

Robert asked me one question. I answered truthfully. He pointed out that it was possible to be too correct with some of the answers. The intent of the question could be different than the specific wording, or at least that’s how I interpreted his explanation. If I’d been more cavalier in my responses I probably would’ve been finished in that first session. For 24 minutes I accepted every bit of help he offered. By the time we were done my insurance was re-established with a $230 rebate (instead of the $300 rebate I expected).

Do the math, 110 minutes spent once saved me $230 every month, almost.

Hello Rube Goldberg. my premium started at a bit over $300, I thought it was going to go down to less than $200, was forced to make a payment that was almost $600, and ended up back to only $10 over my original premium. Hours of effort, through multiple avenues, and hours not spent working for clients, and I end up back almost where I started + $10. A lot of flurry for almost no difference. (Though the coverage can’t be the same. Can it?)

Last week I described how my health care costs affected my mortgage and foreclosure prospects, and how that all necessitated my business, which I have yet to pay 2013 taxes on (due 1/31 and waiting for funds from December). Each has a process. Each is complicated. Each is necessary. Therefore, each must be addressed. And I keep in mind that, after all of the work, it is probable that I’ll have health care, regain control of my house, continue my business, pay my taxes – and may be back where I started + $10. Rube Goldberg would be proud.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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