Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Ghostwriter



What do rock stars, great athletes, and your health insurance company have in common? Ghostwriters. We know, instinctively, that a paid professional collected the recollections of the guitar slinger or the Hall of Fame running back and crafted a readable book, but we expect our insurers to write their own client letters.

That all changed this past spring.

My June 27th post, And Now A Note From The Department of Gobbledygook, detailed the fear and confusion caused by a letter sent by the insurance companies this past June. The letter, sent to insureds with non-grandfathered pre-2014 policies, was not written by Medical Mutual or Anthem Blue Cross. It was authored by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The insurers were not allowed to edit the letter for clarity. They were not allowed to move a comma.

It turns out that the people who gave us the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) had other career goals. They wanted to be writers. A new government penned letter is on its way. And this one is no better than the last one.

The new letter, due out any day now, will be sent to people who purchased a policy on the Exchange. It will encourage you to revisit to update your info. It will not, however, tell you that your 2014 policy has been changed for 2015. No, the letter will state that your policy has been DISCONTINUED.

Any change - deductible, co-payment, maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP) – will generate this scary notification. I have not seen the letter, but if it is anything like June’s, a quick reading will give you the impression that you are being thrown out into the cold. You are not. You will have plenty of options.
  1. Do nothing. The insurer will move you to the 2015 policy closest to your current coverage.
  2. You can go back to the Exchange and look at your current insurer’s other offerings.
  3. You can go back to the Exchange and look at all of your choices.
  4. You can purchase an off-Exchange policy and skip the whole process. There is no tax credit subsidy with this option.
Please remember:
  • All 2014 and beyond policies will renew on January 1st no matter when you make your purchase. That even includes policies acquired in the last few weeks.
  • The 2015 rates for both renewals and new business have yet to be released. We might not see those numbers until after the election.
  • If you purchased a policy through, you must go back to the Exchange to make any change, even a change of address.
We are only a few weeks away from our second try at open enrollment. By default, this year will go more smoothly than last. Stay calm. Don’t get too aggravated by the ghostwritten letters or the system crashes. Like last year, we will persevere.

In the words of John Lennon, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.”


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Fight For Intellectual Honesty

There will be no phone calls and I am not expecting an email. I still, for no apparent reason, believe that our elected representatives will rise above the pettiness of partisan politics and do their jobs. It is, in part, what makes me a Democrat, this faith that our government of the people will always come through in the end. The end may be far, far away and we may be forced to take the long way to get there, but I believe, I honestly believe, that we, as a country, will always make it to the finish line.

Otherwise, if we are just another banana republic, I’m going to trade up to a place with better weather.

This blog has a long history of calling out members of both political parties. We have witnessed politicians attempt to occupy both sides of the debate even after they had made their choices. In 2009 and 2010 it was particularly easy to skewer Representatives Marcia Fudge and Dennis Kucinich and Senator Sherrod Brown. After all, the Democrats were the only ones doing anything. But then the 2010 elections shifted the balance of power. John Boehner has starred in many of these posts, first in highlighting the opportunities he had as he became the Speaker of the House and later as we dealt with the reality of him being the Speaker of the House. Paul Ryan, VP candidate and prince of unworkable budgets, has also appeared a time or two on these pages.

It is not enough to be for something or against something. That may be OK if we are just a bunch of guys discussing football over a couple of beers. But if you are in Congress it is your job to solve problems. And if you don’t like the current system, it is up to you to come up with an alternative.

I bumped into a representative from Congressman David Joyce’s office. I introduced myself as a health insurance agent and asked a simple question: “If the Republicans gain control of both the House and the Senate in November, will Congressman Joyce support the repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) when it comes up for a vote in January?” Without a moment’s hesitation she said “YES”. She answered so quickly, so unthinkingly, that I decided to ask the question again. The answer was still a resounding “YES”.

“OK”, I continued, “what do I tell my clients the next day”?

She promised to have someone from the Congressman’s legislative committee contact me. I made sure that she understood the question and provided her with a business card. And unless this blog is brought to their attention, there is virtually no chance that I will get a substantive answer to that question. That is a huge problem.

Please don’t be confused. The PPACA will not be repealed. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans would want that, especially the elected Republicans. As long as the PPACA remains the law of the land, the Republicans have an issue to inflame their base and fill their coffers. AND, they don’t have responsibility for anything. Repeal the law and the Republicans would own healthcare and 20% of the economy. It is a lose / lose proposition. The law won’t be repealed. The filibuster in the Senate will keep both parties safe. The President will never be force to veto a repeal.

Don’t believe me? I visited the websites of several members of the Ohio Republican Congressional Delegation. Their sections on healthcare were missing in details, or in the case of John Boehner, missing entirely. David Joyce, two years in Congress, is just happy to have voted for repeal. He likes tort reform, but what Republican doesn’t? Jim Renacci is an even bigger fan of tort reform, and thinks that the savings from frivolous law suits would fund most of the cost of improving our system. A couple of downstate Republicans, Mike Turner and Steve Stivers haven’t bothered to update their healthcare pages for 9 months or more. Don’t look for solutions on any of these pages. Don’t look for meaningful alternatives. It is easy to be against something. It is really hard to make something work.

I am not expecting a phone call from the Congressman’s office. Why should they call? Nothing they have to say would change anything. I’ve already cast my vote. And in the two years he has been in office, he has cast his votes to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The House will waste even more time in January and the Senate may be forced to waste time in April, while wars are waged in the Middle East and Ebola spreads unchecked.

The absence of intellectual honesty threatens the future of our country. I still believe that our elected officials will one day work together to solve our country’s problems. Of course, I could be just lying to myself



phone for sale