Royally Scammed by Progressive Insurance Snapshot

March 26, 2014

By Karen

Lesson: Scratch the surface of any insurance company and you’ll find a thief whose raison d’être is to take your money and provide as little as possible — or, optimally, nothing — in return.

Shopping for a better deal on car insurance, I foolishly ordered Progressive Insurance’s Snapshot monitoring device and chauffeured it around for 30 days to see if I could earn a discount, which Progressive claims could be as much as 30%.

First, let me set the scene: I’m one step above little old lady who only drives to church on Sundays. I work at home, with no rush-hour commutes. I drive 3-4 times a week on errands on suburban roads, 99% during the day, and mostly within a 10-mile radius. I’ve put 80,000 miles on my car in 14 years (that’s 5,714 miles/year).

I figured I’d be a shoo-in for big savings. Here’s how Progressive explains it:

This video is untrue because Progressive also monitors acceleration (and turns — keep reading), and gives no feedback on time of day.

My driving during this time has been uneventful, yet Progressive projected me as behaving badly per 100 miles from the outset, a lead foot who stomps the brake every 7 miles. When I actually traveled 100 miles, the braking was lower, yet still considered “opportunity” for improvement (i.e., if you ever have to stop, you’re driving poorly):

Progressive-brakes

Progressive averaged my infrequent trips to 6.5 miles per day — placing me on the road and vulnerable to accidents — 7 days a week. In truth, it’s less than half that.

Progressive-mileage

And here’s the unexplained “rapid acceleration” graph…

Progressive-Acceleration

Knowing how I drove, it would seem that what Progressive’s underwriters consider “hard” braking and “rapid” acceleration are what the rest of us call “driving.”

As for turning, the Snapshot occasionally beeped like a panicked backseat driver when I was making perfectly reasonable 90-degree turns.

The 30 days were up today, and Progressive offered me 6% savings.

Progressive

But they still wanted to know more, like my marital status, level of education, home ownership, and Social Security number (which I withheld).

The result was that I qualified for NO DISCOUNT. ZERO.

Progressive-NoSavings

I never got a premium figure, so I’ll never know how Progressive stacks up to my current insurer. But Progressive can take their Snapshot device and…

CAUTION: If your driving ever involves making the car move, your chances of getting a discount from Progressive are probably slim to none, so keep them out of your business. Otherwise, for the rest of your freaking life you’re going to see Flo’s garish face popping up in ads on nearly every screen on the Net.

Progressive-Ad

And I’d be willing to bet Progressive will ultimately profit from my gullibility by selling the tidy trove of personal information they’ve collected.

All I can say is, shame on me.


If You Like Your Worthless Health Insurance, You Can Keep It

March 5, 2014

By Karen

Obama’s doing such a good job himself of walking back the requirements of his Affordable Care Act, Republicans don’t need to waste any more time trying to repeal it.

Now Obama’s letting people continue to keep policies that don’t meet minimum ACA coverage requirements — possibly for as long as 3 more years. Why? To make it appear he wasn’t lying when he stupidly said, “If you like the insurance you have, you can keep it.”

Here’s the problem with that: Those policies are cheap because they were sold to people who either 1) Think they’ll never get sick, or 2) Didn’t understand how little insurance they were buying.

I’m talking about those hapless schmucks we see on the news occasionally after something catastrophic happens to them and they find themselves bankrupted by medical bills because their el cheapo insurance won’t pay their claims.

Insurers make damn sure their policy documents are so voluminous and opaquely worded that the average consumer needs a Ph.D. in insurance jargon and unlimited time and patience to wade through all the conditions and exclusions.

That’s precisely why insurers need to be kicked out of the healthcare equation in favor of a simpler system. But I digress…

Letting people keep garbage health insurance does them no favors. It just keeps shoveling ill-gotten gains into insurers’ pockets. Between high deductibles and copays and avoidance of the “no-cost” preventive care mandated by the ACA, these premiums must be mostly gravy for insurers because little gets paid out in claims.

On a personal note, Anthem showed me a wisp of mercy to keep me out of the exchange on my March renewal, raising my premium from $392 a month to $413.75, a modest 5.5% increase. But since 2011, they’ve raised my premium 66%.

My policy has a $2,250 deductible, but meets ACA requirements (which Anthem has used to justify hitting me with 15% and 20% yearly hikes since the ACA first passed donkey’s years ago).

I haven’t done 2013 taxes yet, so I don’t know if I can qualify for a subsidized policy on Healthcare.gov. But even if I do, I’m afraid to take advantage of any savings and lose the dubious security of my current policy.

At the lengths he’s taking to protect insurer profits at the cost of people getting better access to medical care, Obama seems poised to pull the rug out from under himself and gut the ACA. That means insurers will once again have free rein to continue raping and pillaging the American healthcare system.

I hate the policy I have, but Obama’s made me afraid not to keep it.


GOP Says: If You Hate the Job You Have, You Should Keep It

February 10, 2014

By Karen

If you wake up every morning wishing you’d died in your sleep because you dread facing another day at your job — but you drag yourself to it anyway because you need the health insurance — Republicans think that’s exactly how you should live.

That’s the message the GOP is crowing loud and clear in their deliberate misreading from the CBO report that the Affordable Care Act will cut 2.5 million jobs over 10 years. They’re slavering at the prospect of employers tossing several million more workers into the gutter.

They’re thrilled to claim that Obamacare will trample the little guy, yet hypocritical enough to label it a bad thing, as if their own raison d’être isn’t to destroy the 99% in the name of further enriching the 1%.

Unfortunately, what’s they’re saying is all lies.

The CBO report actually says…

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor.

People will cut back on hours, retire early, or start their own businesses because THEY DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT LOSING THEIR HEALTH INSURANCE.

Lack of portability is one of the most corrosive aspects of our healthcare system. Just for insurance benefits, companies have people on the payroll just going through the motions of jobs they hate. Have you ever gotten no help whatsoever from a so-called “customer service” rep? Yeah, that’s who I’m talking about.

Those miserable souls who are nothing more than deadwood on the payroll, contributors to workplace dysfunction, can now move on and be happy.

This one bona fide silver lining in the Obamacare mess has the GOP wallowing in a La-La Land fantasy of the death of the American workplace as we know it.

Just read John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Orrin Hatch all being quoted by Fox News. You can almost feel them drooling.

The bottom line is that employers never should have put themselves in control of anybody’s health insurance in the first place. Being employed and getting medical care should be mutually exclusive.

But hindsight is 20/20.

For all its many flaws, the ACA is taking the country in the right direction in breaking the link between healthcare and employment — for those who can get decent policies for a reasonable price on the exchanges.


Happy Freaking New Year, Obama

December 31, 2013

By Karen

I may have voted for him twice, and his family recently sent me a lovely Christmas card, but I have come to loathe President Obama. Since I got onto Healthcare.gov to check out the possibilities for insurance, I’ve been unable to bring myself to look at or listen to that man.

And just when I thought he couldn’t get any worse, he jabbed a thumb in our eye by “buying” some token bronze policy for himself.

Let’s be clear: Obama didn’t personally deal with Healthcare.gov. He had people for that. And they claim he personally picked the plan, and intends to pay for it himself.

How ducky. His lousy little policy will never be tested because he’s got government medical care.

Meanwhile, I await word on how high my current Anthem policy (which is grandfathered, so “I can keep it” even though I’ve never liked it) will go when it renews March 1.

Everything I see on Healthcare.gov is even worse — higher premiums, higher deductibles, no dental — as incredible as that may seem, if you’ve soaked in any of Obama’s lies about how great the plans are.

To compare apples to apples: My current policy is $392 a month, with a $2,250 deductible and dental.

On the site, Anthem offers a silver HMO with a $2,250 deductible and NO dental for $534.

That’s why I’m sweating.

And now the Obama folks are crowing because more than a million people think they managed to overcome all website-inflicted obstacles and buy insurance.

Many of them are THRILLED they got premium subsidies. These trusting souls haven’t had insurance in YEARS, and have no idea what’s coming when the other shoe drops.

And it will.

Just wait until they finally see a doctor and the bills start rolling in because they’re on the hook to cover a $6,300 annual deductible before insurance pays a penny. That’s the cheapest ($342/month) bronze Virginia plan.

Obama graciously gave insurers nearly 4 years to plot how to thwart the ACA’s intent, and they’ll use sky-high deductibles to deny claims willy-nilly on all those “affordable” plans.

We’ll soon see people with shiny new Obamacare crying the blues because Obama & Sebelius utterly FAILED to inform them that Job One is for us to keep insurers profitable, while insurers take as much of our money as they can and provide NOTHING in return.

An excellent (albeit annoying) video called cureALL recently came out to explain the reality of health insurance to young people — as Obama should have done, if he were honest. It concludes by advocating single payer as the ultimate solution, through the bill HR 676, which I was pushing back in 2008.

I hope young people get the message and let insurers and Obama swing in the breeze by refusing to play the game. I hope they can finally make Congress get serious about HR 676.

At this point, it’s our only hope.


ACA Probably Not Affordable – But Who Knows?

October 24, 2013

By Karen

I’ve been writing about the ongoing agony of being individually insured by Anthem for years now, so I should follow up with my 2 cents on the debacle called the Affordable Care Act.

I’m not surprised that we couldn’t get a working website after 4 years. Government bureaucrats are good at discussing problems, never solving them.

Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, is among those who turned his back on any responsibility to help citizens get health insurance in favor of the federal exchange.

I first tried to log on to healthcare.gov Oct. 4 and couldn’t get in. I tried again Oct. 23 and it seemed to work better. I didn’t have to create an account to browse the plans — for all the good that did.

Apparently, the quoted premiums are garbage unless you’re exactly 20 or 50, so I accomplished nothing but to upset myself.

Currently, my Anthem policy has an 80/20 split, a $2,500 annual deductible, and includes dental. I pay $392 a month.

Anthem has been cheerily reminding me that I’m “grandfathered” in and can keep this plan. Since it’s outside the exchange, I suspect that means Anthem can continue to stick it to me good with rate hikes, so they don’t want me defecting to the exchange.

I learned that my 80/20 plan is considered “gold” on the exchange. A silver 70/30 plan without dental runs a 50-year-old roughly what I pay now. So, at 59, I assume my coverage will be considerably higher.

I suspect I’m royally screwed no matter what, but I’ll get my insurance agent to confirm that later in November. Hopefully, by then there will be accurate pricing available SOMEWHERE.

It’s exactly as I’ve predicted. With insurance company profits still a factor, and Republicans offering NO alternative but to go backward, it’s going to take more employers dropping health insurance as a benefit, and more Americans going broke trying to pay for insurance before we get serious about single-payer.

Amazing, I find myself agreeing with Ken “Cuckoo” Cuccinelli, our Republican attorney general who wants McDonnell’s job as governor this year. We both think Kathleen Sebelius needs to go.

Her utter inability on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Oct. 7 to make a clear, compelling case for the ACA, or to give the slightest reassurance it’s going to get better, was shocking.

Lady, you’ve had FOUR YEARS!!

Where was she while the cost of that catastrophic mess of a website TRIPLED and went into the pockets of Canadian software developers? How many hundreds of millions must be squandered to get it right now?

Obama should kick asses and hand out pink slips. Everyone responsible for this disaster deserves to lose their cushy government healthcare and end up on the exchange they couldn’t set up.


Once Again, Eric Cantor Disgraces Virginia

July 13, 2012

By Karen

Rep. Eric Cantor proudly led this week’s Republican charge — for the freaking 33rd time — to repeal Obama’s Affordable Care Act. I’m ashamed to say my Virginia taxes pay this rat-bastard’s salary while he and his cronies waste time on the clock making “symbolic” gestures.

I’ve got a “symbolic gesture” for Cantor.

Cantor’s bill passed in the House 244-185 so it can go to the Senate and get stomped to death — again.

Cantor keeps babbling about “patient-centered care,” yet never explains HOW he’d get there because he knows there’s only one way left — and he can’t say it.

But I’d like to see one politician from either party stand up and admit, “The ACA isn’t really about healthcare. It’s mostly about insurance.”

Anybody who’s ever wrestled their insurer over coverage knows —having insurance in no way ensures getting healthcare. And it virtually guarantees you will NOT get “affordable” healthcare.

Republicans, with their pathological refusal to face facts, keep calling the ACA a “government takeover.” Yet people won’t be fighting the government over medical bills. They’ll be fighting WellPoint, Aetna, Humana, Cigna, Unitedhealth…

With the ACA, Obama either screwed us royally, or he sees it long term as the best hope to ultimately achieve single-payer — Medicare for all.

Insurers will be giddy with power once they have 30 million new customers to screw and kill, and they’ll be cooking the books like mad to skirt the “85% must go toward healthcare” provision to keep profits growing.

Unfortunately, it’s us little guys who will be driven into bankruptcy and/or die while insurers squeeze every last nickel from the system in ways that would make the Mafia blush.

Finally, insurers will ruin enough lives so Americans of all parties will scream with one voice to end the corruption, forcing Congress to DO something for a change.

And the solution will be Medicare for all because it’s the only option left. And it WORKS in every industrialized society where people aren’t as stupid as we are, resulting in longer life spans and reduced infant mortality for less cost.

Republicans go about healthcare reform like a bunch of pathetic Civil War re-enactors, thinking if they keep refighting the same old battle, they’ll change the winner. They insist the U.S. has “the best healthcare system in the world” like the myopic souls who believed “one Southern gentleman can lick 10 Yankees.”

Representatives of both parties must first wean themselves from insurers whose billions in profits don’t go to healthcare — but help to buy off politicians. (Check out Cantor’s record on that.)

As long as Washington is on the take (while enjoying dandy healthcare benefits at our expense), we’ll never see meaningful reform.


Got Anthem’s Annual Screw Job

February 3, 2012

By Karen

While Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act waits for a Supreme Court ruling, Virginia’s largest health insurer, Anthem, continues to merrily bilk its customers to maximize profits.

Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, is fine with that. He wants the General Assembly to do NOTHING to plan the state health insurance exchange that must be operational by January 1, 2014, so small business and individuals (like me) will have a prayer of finding the “protection and affordability” the new law requires.

Instead the Assembly is busy repealing the law that limits personal gun sales to one a month, because insane college kids and criminals everywhere are feeling the pinch of not enough weapons. More murders, more medical spending.

The Assembly also intends to FORCE women seeking abortions to first have an ultrasound, hoping to guilt them into giving birth. Not to mention adding to the cost of the procedure.

So yesterday I got Anthem’s annual notice of my new individual health insurance renewal rate. It’s going up $58 a month — 20%.

In 2011, it went up $25, or 9.6%.

Nearly 30% in TWO YEARS. Can you think of anything else, besides CEO salaries, that has risen that much? Me, either.

Anthem included a cryptic, sinister warning against making any attempt to cut the cost — like decreasing benefits or raising the deductible (again) — which would void “grandfathered” status if health reform ever really happens.

Naturally, Anthem didn’t state if my policy would be grandfathered, nor what benefits might be affected, but just implied that reform might cause me to lose something wonderful about my current stinking, inadequate coverage.

Being self-employed, I have an individual policy. I feel sure Anthem is striking back because I exceeded my $2,250 deductible last year with my breast cancer false alarm and they actually had to pay some claims.

It’s perfectly legal in the individual market for insurers to nail customers to the wall one at a time for daring to get needed healthcare.

And since I now have non-cancer in my medical record, I’m trapped with Anthem until SOMETHING changes with heathcare.

And the way it’s looking, it’s only going to get worse.


The High Cost of NOT Having Cancer

September 8, 2011

By Karen

I’ve been waiting for the bills (11) to trickle in after my breast cancer brush in June so I could wrap my head around how totally out of control our healthcare system is, and how Obama, in fixating on insurance, completely missed the target.

If you’re just tuning in, as the result of a fishy mammogram, I ended up having a benign lump the size of a pencil eraser removed from my right breast.

I was just able to sum up the whole situation in one sentence, but thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, it actually took a month and 5 visits.

Total cost if I had no health insurance…

$23,629

(Not including the original routine mammogram, which was $345.)

But I do have insurance. After I paid my $2,250 deductible (+ $284 in monthly premium), Anthem paid exactly $2,945.

I owed an additional $513 because Anthem has me on an 80/20 split.

Here’s the kicker: Anthem “disallowed” $17,921 — 76% — of the $23,629, so the total owed was only $5,708.

But if I were uninsured, I’d be on the hook to pay the whole $23,629.

Question 1: If the medical system can continue to function collecting only 24% of their charges, WHY are they trying to rob the uninsured?

Question 2: Why must insured and uninsured alike undergo and pay for physician CYA, providing THEM defense against a malpractice suit? Did I really NEED 2 additional rounds of mammograms and 2 ultrasounds, not to mention that stereotactic outrage where they drilled in and ripped out a half-ass piece of the lump for “testing?”

As soon as they saw that white spot on my mammogram, they hustled me off to a surgeon while everybody said it was nothing. They knew where this was going — or they SHOULD have, since this is their “profession.” Why not just knock me out, do the fucking lumpectomy, and be done with it? It would have knocked $4,532 in preliminary bullshit off the bill.

Instead of playing cute with insurance companies and whistling when hospitals are trying to stick every patient with the full cost of running the place for every moment the patient is in the building, our brilliant lawmakers should be legislating that everybody involved with healthcare GET REAL about costs and stop the gouging.

In the meantime, we schmucks who need the services will continue getting screwed, if not by the insurance companies, then by the medical providers themselves.

PS: And does Bon Secours really need to send a letter before every invoice, telling patients a bill is coming? Is this not silly and wasteful on every level? To top it off, in addition to collecting only 24% of their original billing, they offered me a 10% discount for paying my portion within 30 days (which, of course, I accepted).

And yet they manage to stay in business.

Could you live on less than 24% of what you earn unless your paycheck was obscenely inflated in the first place?


Next Stop: Breast Biopsyville

June 15, 2011

By Karen

This morning, I showed up early at St. Francis Hospital for my second mammogram in a week, and they were still talking as if the ultrasound was optional.

(I’m naming some names now to provide customer service feedback in case they ever Google themselves.)

After my last post and testimonials from a few women who have had iffy mammograms, I felt pretty sure a biopsy was in the cards.

When I questioned the necessity of the re-mammo, I was shown last week’s x-ray compared to last year’s. As it turns out, the white spot I noticed on the screen last week was at least a year old (but had earned the “all’s well” letter previously).

It looked to me like the lower left corner of the spot had shifted a bit. You know, the way a suspicious mole might — if it’s cancerous.

So, I let them mash and zap my right breast twice more, a little harder this time, and I was told to sit and wait for the results.

But instead of getting results, I was taken to the ultrasound room with no explanation. I could only assume the mammogram hadn’t been good.

Ultrasound is painless, but when the tech was finished, she laid a dry washcloth on my breast while I was still lying on the table and told me to wait like that for the doctor, in case he wanted to “watch her” scan some more.

So that’s how I received the next news: Flat on my back in front of a strange man with a face rag partially covering my naked, slimy boob.

He had an accent like Eric Ripert. He couldn’t say for certain what the spot was — “80%” sure it’s nothing — but it needs a biopsy to be certain. A “stereotactic” biopsy, he specified.

When they start throwing words like “stereotactic” around in conversation, you really feel as if they’re stuffing you like a dumb piece of meat down the rabbit hole.

The ultrasound tech was a nice young woman and acknowledged the scariness of it all when we were alone again. She gave me contact information for the Virginia Breast Center and said she’d notify my gynecologist. First good news I’d heard all morning — my primary care doctor and his minion who kicks patients to the curb seem to be out of the loop so I can deal with that situation later.

My biopsy is June 21. I think it’s going to be plain vanilla, on the advice of the Breast Center person I spoke to, a 10-year cancer survivor who has done and seen it all. She told me a stereotactic procedure would be much worse and possibly require stitches.

Here’s hoping I land in the 80% category and it really is nothing.


Abnormal Mammogram

June 13, 2011

By Karen

It’s going to be one of those weeks. I’m preoccupied with cat-sitting a neighbor’s long-haired freak who roams the neighborhood and refuses to comprehend how a litterbox is used so I can keep him safely indoors on my watch.

And then this morning, I had a contentious conversation with my primary care physician’s assistant where she told me to find another doctor. I’ve been seeing this doctor since 2000.  My offense was that I questioned why a recent routine visit they initiated to get my cholesterol prescription refill was coded as “medical care” that my insurance wouldn’t cover, instead of as a “wellness visit” that would be covered. My out-of-pocket was slightly over $200. I’m sorry, but I consider a doctor’s summons when I’m not sick so he can bless my continued use of a medication he prescribed to keep me healthy a “wellness visit.” So shoot me.

While I was still trying to calm down, the hospital where I had a mammogram last week called. The right breast looks suspicious, so it needs to be smashed and x-rayed again — with a possible ultrasound chaser. God only knows what all this is going to cost.

I instinctively feel like I’m OK, but I’m still a little freaked out. This has never happened before.

But I’m not completely surprised. When I was getting the mammogram, the breast was up on a screen and I saw a white spot right in the middle that didn’t look like it should be there.

My follow-up is in 2 days.

OK, readers. Have you ever been through this?


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