UPDATE: Problem solved! Phew. We’re waiting in anticipation on a possible job offer from Gemini Falls. I think I’ve been much more stressed out. Everybody wish us luck!

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For those of you that have never had to use COBRA, it’s a pretty good thing. Basically, the government told employers that they cannot tax-deduct health insurance unless they supply a plan that allows 18 months of coverage after a person loses their job (for any reason except malfeasance). So employers in turn lean on insurance companies and insurance companies reluctantly comply.

The problem with this sort of government-enforced transaction is that if a company does not want to do business, they can be pretty resourceful about finding ways not to. They delay sending out the paperwork by a month or more, hoping that you’ll make other arrangements. You get 60 days to sign up and if you miss that deadline then they absolutely, positively will not continue your coverage. All claims until the paperwork goes through are denied and you’ll have to recoup the money later. Then, when everything gets settled, you have 30 days to back pay everything you owe, so you have to have three months’ worth of premiums on hand. If you weren’t saving for that like you should have been, tough luck.

I knew all this when I signed up for COBRA, so I expedited things by signing up on their website. I didn’t want there to be any chance of my check “getting lost in the mail”. I also made darn sure that I paid all of my premiums over a month in advance so that they couldn’t make any claims about when the check did or did not arrive. But apparently, even doing everything right is not necessarily enough.

We’ve been simultaneously lucky and unlucky here in the Truman household. Rather, our luck has managed to mitigate the damage of our extraordinary unluck. Although I don’t know if you can call it unluck if it’s dependent on the bad-faith actions of others. In this case, the culprits are former employers and insurance companies.

We came back home from our Great North by Northwest Jobs tour a little bit earlier than expected. It actually wasn’t a welcome development because we were hoping to swing back by Gemini Falls and sign some papers. But home we came and it was a darn good thing we did. In the main was a letter from the health insurance administrator informing her that her COBRA enrollment period had lapsed and she is not only uninsured, but has been uninsured for the all-important 60+ days.

This was crazy because we knew for a fact that she sent in the money. We also know that the mail was taken that day because another letter sent that day was received a couple weeks prior. So she called her health insurance administrator* (HHIA) and they said that they had in fact received the check but that ARRA** had been denied so they sent it back with a letter explaining that she needed to write another check (for more money).

So suddenly her insurance went up from $200 a month to $600 a month because the federal government wasn’t going to kick in. Why wasn’t the federal government going to kick in? Because her former employer declared her termination “voluntary”. Given that she was on a one-year contract just like I was and that (immediate) renewal of said contract was not an option, that just didn’t seem right to us. Either her employers were being jackholes or my employers were being unexpectedly generous. I’m disinclined to believe the latter. But whatever.

We had 14 days from the date of the letter to get them the contract and full amount of the policy back to them. This was on a Friday. Day 14 was Monday. We could fax them the signed contract, but not the money. Further, that Monday we were going to be driving back to Gemini Falls for a second interview. Long story short, their corporate headquarters was in Zaulem and I woke up at an ungawdly hour of the morning to go out there and hand-deliver the check. It turned out that the 14 days was 14 days inclusive and ran out on that Sunday. Fortunately, they’d put a flag on the account and so they were going to give us an extra couple of days. That was the only good turn we got from just about everyone we’ve dealt with.

About the same time that we got the letter from HHIA, I got a letter from my New Health Insurance Administrator (NewHIA) saying that FIREA, my former employer, had signed a contract with them and that they would be taking over starting on 12/1. They also sent me an Open Enrollment letter to. Notably, it would be cheaper for her on my insurance than it was on hers***.

It was cheaper with or without ARRA assistance and the wording was vague as to whether or not I could get ARRA assistance even though it had been denied for her. My guess is that we cannot. But even then it’s cheaper and I feel better paying one health insurance administrator rather than two. But I thought I would call NewHIA and see if ARRA might be covered and what the bill would be.

That was when the anvil fell. NewHIA informed me that my policy had been canceled. I had to sign up within 60 days of eligibility and I became eligible at the beginning of August. I should have received a letter. But the only two letters I had from NewHIA were the one informing me that they were taking over (and that I had a bill to pay before 12/1) and another about Open Enrollment. Long story short, as far as they knew, I’d never signed up with OldHIA. Except that I had and I was actually a month ahead on my dues because I paid a couple months ahead. A whole lot of good that did me.

NewHIA told me to contact OldHIA and have them forward my information. OldHIA said that they really couldn’t do that, but at the end of my policy they could send proof that I had been insured. That was not acceptable because that would create a gawdforsaken gap that could give NewHIA cover to cut my COBRA coverage completely (again). I asked them if they could send me a copy of the document. She put me on hold, came back, and said she could. But it would take two weeks. In two weeks, my coverage lapses.

I called NewHIA again and got a very unhelpful woman who said that there was nothing she could do without something from OldHIA proving that I had been insured. She suggested I call FIREA. So I called FIREA and they said that they would look into it. Perhaps she was just a good actress, but I got the feeling from her that she actually will.

So that’s where things stand right now. I actually run a not-insignificant risk of having my insurance cut off due to no fault of my own. I signed up within 14 of the 60 days alotted to me to sign up for COBRA. I have not only paid every bill on time but I am actually a month ahead. But none of that matters because NewHIA and OldHIA can’t talk to one another and I’m relying on FIREA, a company that has not been a friend to me and that could care less if my insurance is cut off. NewHIA will not accept an enrollment form or a check as long as my account is listed as “canceled”. Further, I’m going to be out of town for the remainder of the month starting on Friday and I won’t be back until after the lapse date, so I can’t have anything mailed to me. I’m not sure that matter because everything seems to take 5-10 business days to get mailed anyway.

And even if this does straighten out, there is virtually no way that I can get Clancy on my plan. That’s due on Friday and they’ve made it clear that there are absolutely no exceptions. The likelihood that this will all be straightened out Friday is pretty small. If ARRA doesn’t cover it, and I don’t believe it does, it may not be worth the effort anyway.

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* – Health insurance administrators appear to be all the rage. Basically, instead of dealing with your employer or the insurance company for your health insurance, you deal through a third party that coordinates it all. Somehow, this adding of another layer of organization is supposed to save people money. Maybe by creating miscommunications like this.

** – ARRA is the part of Obama’s stimulus wherein the government helps unemployed people by paying 65% of their insurance cost.

*** – This is sort of topical. Republicans are trying to allow for insurance companies to “shop across state lines”. As it happens, I am insured by Blue Talon of Estacado, the same insurance company that I had when I was in Estacado. Since my employer is based out of Estacado, they can get away with that I guess. I doubt it’s a coincidence that insurance in less-regulated Estacado is cheaper than insurance in more-regulated Cascadia. I’m probably not as protected, though.


Category: Hospital, Market

About the Author

Will Truman (trumwill) is a southern transplant in the mountain east with an IT background who bides his time taking care of their daughter while his wife brings home the bacon. You will probably be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.

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