Buh-Bye, Sebelius

April 11, 2014

By Karen

Sometimes wishes do come true. Kathleen Sebelius, who personified ineptness in implementing the Affordable Care Act, is out. Obama actually had the nerve to lament that he’ll miss her “advice.”

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Sebelius a “forceful, effective, and essential” secretary.

Have they both been in a coma?

It’s regrettable that Sebelius was allowed to resign rather than get the boot to the backside she so richly deserved. But Obama seems eager to forget that on her watch, Healthcare.gov not only ran over budget by hundreds of millions of dollars, but the result was such a pathetic mess that it almost sank the whole initiative, it brought disgrace on the White House, and gave Republicans reason to dance with delight.

But, whatever. Good riddance. She’s gone.

Then Obama immediately taps Sylvia Burwell, his budget person, to replace Sebelius, calling her a “proven manager,” whatever the hell that means.

Burwell’s background shows no indication she’ll have any more ability than Sebelius to deal with what’s looming next for Obamacare — that people are going to find out they’re paying for insurance AND a lot of the medical bills they thought it would cover, and that it’s probably going to cost them a lot more next year.

According to the AP, when she wasn’t a budget bureaucrat, Burwell “served as president of Wal-Mart’s charitable arm and led the global development program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.”

She may know something about nonprofits and worldwide health issues, but that doesn’t sound like squat when it comes to outsmarting greedy American insurance companies, which is what the administration has so far failed to do, except for eliminating lifetime caps and pre-existing condition exclusions.

I’d be willing to bet Burwell won’t have a good grasp on how the IT infrastructure that supports Healthcare.gov is supposed to work, either.

Like most CEOs, Obama’s probably thinks the agency’s head honcho doesn’t need to know the nitty-gritty. Like Sebelius, she’ll rely on “people” to handle the details.

Because that worked so well before.

Obama seems to be hanging his hat on the fact Burwell’s unanimous Senate approval for her current job now qualifies her to take on ANY position he cares to toss her in to.

And once again, he shows us he STILL doesn’t get the seriousness of this situation and the lives it has the power to ruin — financially and medically.

The hasty appointing of Burwell to steer us through the looming insurance quagmire Obama’s created reminds me of his feckless selection of big campaign donors to be ambassadors to countries they’ve never visited and know nothing about.

The insurance companies must be thrilled with this development.


ACA’s Unintended Consequence for Individuals

April 7, 2014

By Karen

Remember that Anthem individual health insurance policy I was afraid to give up for Obamacare? Good thing I kept it, because I couldn’t buy anything like it today.

The ACA doesn’t prohibit insurers from selling individual policies year-round, but its coverage requirements are causing insurers to stop selling ANY policies outside the government’s “open enrollment” window, which is closed from March 31 – November 15.

Because they are now prohibited from excluding pre-existing conditions, insurers fear that uninsured people who get sick will buy a policy to pay claims through the crisis, then drop it once they recover.

In essence, if an insurer can’t sell you a policy that won’t pay a penny on whatever you need the policy for, it doesn’t want you as a customer.

You may still be able to find a temporary policy that excludes pre-existing conditions, but under the ACA, you’d still be considered “uninsured” and subject to paying the tax penalty. So you’re screwed on all fronts.

From my perspective as a person self-employed for 12 years, if I were to lose my current insurance for any reason, the only way I could get new coverage would be to throw in the towel and go work for a company that offers health benefits.

And I’m pushing 60 in a job market that’s still tight as a tick (no matter what rosy stats DC spews about “job recovery”), so rotsa ruck with that.

This is yet ANOTHER reason why giving insurance companies an integral role in reforming healthcare was a colossal blunder — and the law has only made their behavior worse.

Now, people who could afford to pay a fortune for individual insurance outside the exchange can’t even buy it.

That’s why Obama’s screwball insurance mandate needs to be replaced by a single-payer system that covers everybody, every day.


Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” Moment

April 2, 2014

By Karen

After how it haunted George W. Bush, you’d think President Obama would be wary of claiming a premature victory, but no. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

In spite of myriad obstacles his breathtakingly incompetent administration created (WHY, after the website debacle, does Kathleen Sebelius still have a job?), 7.1 million Americans managed to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

If nothing else, their patience speaks volumes about the dire state of medical care in this country.

And Obama and Biden are gloating. Watch them, if you haven’t just eaten.

Anecdotal evidence is that, in some states, people are getting much-needed medical care with government-subsidized health insurance, and that’s fantastic. But for those of us in states where Republicans worked overtime to sink this law, and who earn just enough to qualify as middle class, there’s no joy in Mudville.

My premiums have gone up, my deductible is still high, and my coverage is no better, except I think the lifetime cap may be gone. But who cares? If I ever get sick enough to test that, I’ll be half-dead anyway.

It’s a matter of time before the horror stories start — and some already have — from people who discover they’ve been duped. They can’t keep their doctor because their policy’s super-narrow network excludes him.

They can’t get medications they need because the policy excludes them.

And they can’t get leading-edge treatments at the facility that offers them because it’s out of network.

Obama gave insurers 4 years to exploit every loophole to their advantage, and they did.

And it’s only a matter of time before we start reading that insurer profits are breaking all previous records. They’ve just been handed 7.1 million more victims customers and a steady stream of government subsidies.

Watching Obama crow about insurance is stomach-turning. He’s thrown us all under the bus to enrich insurers who were already raking in billions in profit that doesn’t buy a penny’s worth of medical care, and he’s delighted.

I can’t tell you how much I hate siding with Republicans on this, but Obama’s “mission” on healthcare is hardly “accomplished,” and he’s going to find out soon enough — unfortunately, at our, and probably the Democrats’, expense.

Universal healthcare, with its economies of scale, is the ONLY way to ensure that the max of what we invest in healthcare actually buys medical care. The system (it’s called Medicare) is already in place. Just expand it to let the rest of us in. If all the premiums we’re squandering on sustaining insurance companies were channeled into it, it would thrive. Exclusions and network constraints would disappear. Employers could end the expense and hassle of insuring workers. Workers wouldn’t be stuck in jobs they hate because of health insurance.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders agrees that access to medical care should be a right of all Americans, and he’s introduced the American Health Security Act of 2013 to get us there, which the Affordable Care Act never will.

It deserves a serious look.


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.


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