January 23, 2009

Thriving Health Insurance

Since returning to the US in May I have become more fully aware of the search for health insurance - affordable or otherwise. For the past 15 years I've always been covered by an employer or spouse's coverage. This is the first time since I first moved to California in 1992 that I've had to pursue coverage on my own.

Yes, in the UK there was socialized medicine, which thankfully I never needed to use. But it was there if I did need it. For the past nine months I've purchased short term plans and was on an employer policy for a whole month (sarcastic, wow). Now, I am afraid to admit, I've been without insurance since January 1, 2009. However, this is not by choice. I'm just waiting, waiting, waiting, for the California COBRA (coverage when you loose it from your employer) quote from Kaiser Parmanente. Their big ad campaign is called Thrive! Yeah, I'd like some of that. As I wait I am actually thankful for every day that passes that I do not get sick or injured.

It is a dance I'm playing as I wait for this quote that is now three weeks late. Do I wait to see what outrageous sum they are going to charge me for the equivalent of the coverage I had with my former employer or do I apply for a new policy? I took the leap and applied and today was the deadline. Getting through to Kaiser caused me a total meltdown. This afternoon I went to the local Kaiser office, just a few blocks from my house and across the street from my favorite Alameda Yoga Station. I was told by my friendly Kaiser sales representative that I could use their fax machine to send in my application. If only the man behind the front desk had been willing to make it happen. He wasn't. He barked at me. He barked at everyone so it wasn't personal. But it felt personal. I immediately called the Kaiser help line and started crying. Build up of frustration exploding. The nice woman on the other end helped me figure out a solution for getting my application in on time. I imagine that in the past three weeks I've talked to nearly all of their thousands of employees and the majority are very nice. However, a few are super not-cool. But they do have a fantastic complaint filing system that I've used.

As for processing my application it will take five to six weeks and during that period I still have no coverage. I think I may purchase another short term plan since I do ride my bike for my main form of transportation. Plus, every ache and pain has me worried about it being something bigger than just a cramp. This will give me the peace of mind I need for now.

I know that I'm not alone in this pursuit of coverage. The five to six week wait is because Kaiser is inundated with applications. At least I am one of the lucky folks who can afford health insurance. The policy I have applied for is the bare minimum but I am healthy so it should do the trick. If I wanted anything close to excellent insurance it would cost me nearly the same as my monthly rent. Thrive for a price.