Thursday, November 07, 2013

My sad experiences so far with the KY healthcare exchange.

Does it really have to be this hard?

Adventures with some back ground information

In October, I went online and filled out the application, since I and my two remaining kids at home do not have health insurance through my employer and I was curious what it would cost. I am not in any way interested in handing over my hard earned money to some for-profit insurance executive who is just going to use it to buy another yacht instead of providing me healthcare. After all, every last bit of that “profit” reported by insurance companies was money paid by people for healthcare that didn’t get spent on their healthcare. That should be obvious.

I left the system then without buying any insurance, because the least expensive plan I was offered was more than 25% of my take-home pay, which is ridiculous and certainly not “affordable.”

So when I quit my job recently (a long story – long and short of it I was being asked to do things that are illegal, like file false tax forms for clients), I wondered if this would change the application status in any way. Perhaps I would be offered a more reasonable plan. So I went online, but I could not figure out how to change the info on the app. So I decided to try the “get help” button.

First off, in order to get help, you have to login. Then, in order to activate the online help option, the “customer” is required to give a detailed explanation of the issue at hand, which I did in the fields provided. After doing so, this is the result:

Take 1

jessica : Hi, my name is jessica. How may I help you?

Me: Did you read the information I just entered?

jessica: I'm sorry I didn't receive anything.

Me: So...what was the point of typing this stuff in? Here, let me cut and paste it for you to this box.

Me: I now am no longer employed. I need to change my application to remove the w-2 income listed as it will not be part of my 2014 income. I do not plan to seek another job.

jessica: Ok, you should login SSP and make necessary adjustments

Through the SSP, the individual or employee can update the demographic information that is on the application. New information can be added by selecting the life event which caused the changes to the information. The information can be updated without a life event if the change does not require a life event to change.
Steps to make changes:
After providing all of the required information on the application data collection screens, the user is shown a summary of their application information on the Application Summary screen.
At this point, the user can go back into any section of the application by clicking the “Edit” link next to that item and modifying the applicable screens.
"Report a Change in circumstance” initiates the process for the user to report any change in family circumstances that may impact their coverage eligibility.
The Settings tab allows the user to manage information related to his/her account. Using the “Edit” links on this page, the user can:
1. update his/her password through Kentucky Online Gateway;
modify their mailing address; and
change contact information through the functionality available on this page.
This page also displays links for the user to report a change and change/reset their password.
[Clearly a canned, cut and paste response]

Me: What does SSP mean?

jessica: Self Service Portal

Me: Obviously I am already logged in or I wouldn't be chatting with you. I didn't see anywhere to change the application.
jessica: What's your case #?

Me: ###########

Me: Clicking on the "applications" tab only shows me an uneditable PDF of what was already submitted. Where is the place to edit?

Me: Also, I don't recall that the application ask anywhere what we are already paying for my husband's health insurance through his job. If the amount we're supposed to have to pay every month for insurance is capped at some percent, how do you know if that percent has already been reached if you didn't ask about the existing premiums?

Me: I meant to say: I don’t recall that the application asked anywhere what we were already paying...

jessica: I don't believe it does ask. It just advises you of insurance options.

jessica: In Overview to make changes, you click into Settings

Me: So how can it possibly calculate what assistance you should receive? If we're already paying more than our mortgage payment for his insurance, that should be a factor in deciding help for me and the kids, I would think. Otherwise this whole thing is a joke.

[I go back to the “overview” tab and look over the options again.]
Me: So, basically it doesn't matter that we're paying more than our mortgage for insurance that only covers him? The rest of us are not eligible for any help, even though we don’t make anywhere near 94000?

[Our actually annual income is very well south of that, even when I was employed 32 hrs a week lately.]
Me: What makes you think his insurance has anything to do with me or the kids? We're not covered by it.

jessica: The assistance is based on household income and family size. For example; household size of 4 max income to receive assistance is $94,000+. Also if you pay more than 10% of income for an employer based insurance, you can opt out and purchase private insurance that at a lower cost.

Me: I don't pay anything for employer based insurance, because I'm not employed. He is required to carry their plan. The XXXXXXX Company is "self-insured" and all employees have to participate. We cannot "go with a private insurer." He has no options.

Me: That leaves the rest of us with no affordable insurance.

jessica: Ok, I didn't know. So what exactly can I help you with? Were you able to edit your app?

Me: I'm trying. I don't know what it is doing. I am hitting "next" a lot.
[The app does not allow you to just change one section. You have to click through the whole thing.]

Me: Now it is to the signature page.
Me: It says it is processing.

Me: Now it says that I and my son Will are not "verified." What does that mean? His information didn't even change.

Me: OK, now it's saying me and my 2 sons need to verify we are citizens. That's ridiculous. I was born here in the US and so were all my kids.

Me: In fact, all four of my kids were born here in [this city, Ky].

jessica: I think you should allow app to process fully. Maybe if you log out and then login. I also believe you need one on one verbal response regarding your app. I don't have the specifics that you require to respond to your statements. So, you should contact customer service @ 855-459-6328

Me: You are not customer service?

jessica: No

Me: Well, thank you for your time. It's a shame this thing is such a joke.

jessica: I just think there is a lot we don't fully understand everything yet. But thank you for contacting Kynect and have a good day.

So, after chatting with Jessica, I go to the applications tab and look at what is there. Now there are two apps – but both have the same date/time stamp, and scrolling through them both shows no changes were recorded in my app.

Take 2

karen : Hi, my name is karen. How may I help you?

Me: I was just in a chat a few minutes ago to get help changing my application since I lost my job. However, the changes that I made did not "save." When I go to the applications tab there are two apps showing - both have the original date in October and neither of them is different.

karen: have you tried to log out and log back in again and make the changes

Me: Why?

karen: so you can see the difference, and it will save

Me: I'm unclear how the date stamp and information on the second app is going to magically change.

karen: what you can call the customer service number which is 855-459-6328

Me: So, I'll be back in a few minutes. Having spent most of my career working with computers, I am pretty sure this will make no difference. A date-time stamp does not change due to logging in or out. Either the file updated or it didn't.

karen: ok

Take 3

karen : Hi, my name is karen. How may I help you?

Me: Me again. And, of course, there are still two apps showing with the SAME date time stamp and NO CHANGES to the second doc. What a surprise.
karen: did you call the customer service number?
Me: No, I'm talking to you.

karen: i cant explain why the time stamp didn't change , which is why im advising you to call them

Me: Well, I can explain it for you. The date-time stamp didn’t change because your program did not record the changes I made to the app. It just made a second copy of the old app.

Me: How is calling customer service going to fix that?

karen: i am not tech support, is there anything else i can help you with today ?

Me: How many times, exactly, will re-entering the same information over and over take to work?

karen: you never know unless you call , i can t fix it here or change it for you.

At which point I terminated the chat box. Obviously these people are pretty useless. Time to try the customer service line, I guess.

Take 4

I was (eventually) informed by the woman on the other end of the line that I could not make changes to my application because I had not yet submitted proof that my kids and I are citizens – even thought that “proof” had not been requested UNTIL I tried to change the application. Go figure.

She also had no explanation as to why, though they use our IRS information to verify our income, somehow this didn’t count as verifying our citizenship status, since it should be fairly obvious that our SS numbers and other identifying information are on the 1040 that they download. She said they were going to need documents uploaded, faxed or mailed in. I asked what was preventing anyone from just photo-shopping a birth certificate. She claimed it would be “verified,” and when they were “verified” then changes could be made to the app. I pointed out that the only way to “verify” the birth certificates was to login to the state office of vital statistics – and why didn’t they just do that in the first place? I can do it at home. They can do it, too. Every state has their birth records online now. She had no explanation.

So I have scanned our birth certificates and uploaded it. Since my birth certificate obviously does not match my current name, I put in the “comments” section: You do know I wasn’t born married, right? At this point I’m a little uncertain about that. I asked her how long this “verification” would take. She had no idea.

So this has been my experience to date with Kynect. It’s hard to imagine that other states are actually worse than Ky.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Just in case you don't know me personally, I should mention that I am a bad person.  I can hold a grudge for a long, long time.  I am happy to an unseemly degree when persons I do not like have bad events in their lives.  I am envious of people who ignore halacha but seem well-blessed anyway.  Since I started working 32 hours a week, my house is not very clean - even though I am wasting money on a cleaning service twice a month. My herbs are sadly neglected.  I cheat a lot on my gluten free diet, leaving me itchy and bloated and cranky often.  I seem to have inherited some of my grandmother's anxiety - I ruin my own day worrying about things.  And I react badly around tea-partiers spewing bull malarky in social situations.  I am often not very forgiving - sometimes I am downright judgmental, though the person in question may not know it.  I spend too much time being angry at the past and hardly any time having hope for the future.  I wonder just how sane I am sometimes, and the answer does not look good from my own POV.  I am sure my forebears are disappointed in me.  I am disappointed in myself.  And the myth of progress left us behind a long time ago.  Right now I am not sure if we can even tread water.  My faith is pretty frazzled.  Also, I am sure you have noticed my bad attitude.  It shows a bit on this blog, lol.

So for the first time in a while I am post-Yom Kippur without feeling particularly renewed or forgiven.  Usually I do.  This year, not so much. I guess I am feeling a bit of an existential crisis.  Just what is the point of all this?  Why pray unanswered prayers?  Is anything even changeable?

Everything seems to be out of reach.  Not "just" out of reach but *far* out of reach.  In fact, untouchable.

This is not what I'm supposed to be feeling during the High Holidays, supposedly.  So clearly I'm doing it wrong.  One more demerit.


Intermission:  my dh had made reservations for us this evening to hear a band that he likes at a small local venue.  I normally prefer acoustic live music but this is a Celtic folk music rock band wanna-be.  The sound was so loud in that small place that I did not enjoy the first set at all.  The sheer volume made the lyrics unintelligible and the reverberations of the electronics drowned out the folk instrument elements.  At the beginning of the second set, however, I discovered quite by accident that if I rested my chin on my hands and as non-chalantly as possible covered my ears with my fingers that the sound was much better.  It mitigated almost all of the reverberation and just enough of the volume to actually allow me to hear individual instruments - even some of the lyrics.  So ironically, I could hear better with my ears plugged.  I am sure there is some sort of profound philosophical notion in there somewhere.


But plugging my ears won't make what is already in my head go away.  What prompted these musings was a story I saw on Ynet Wednesday afternoon while I was still at work.  An angry estranged husband broke into his wife's home and forceably took his 2 children.  He drove them to the a tall building with an outside elevator up to the 11th floor.  He then proceeded to throw his kicking and screaming children off the roof, one at a time.  They landed with a splat on the ground below, dying instantly, Baruch Hashem, and then he jumped after them and also died.

Now, here in the states it is not exactly unheard of for a noncustodial parent to kill their kids.  But for some reason this story disturbed me profoundly right before Sukkot.  Here we tend to think of Israel as a better place, overall, to live - except for the whole wacko medieval rabbinate denying people freedom to marry and freedom of religious practice thing, of course.

But I wondered - did the mother pray?  Even if she did not, why did a supposedly fair, just and benevolent deity allow this to happen?  Several people reported hearing the children struggle - why did they not do something?  The mother had called the police, and this man was not unknown to them actually.  Granted we only know one side of the story.  But I cannot understand how murdering his own kids seemed like a good idea.

Did he pray?  If so, what did he pray?  Just where was God in all this?

I wondered if there was any situation where I would consider killing my kids.  A painful mortal illness?  Imminent starvation or death by thirst?  During the holocaust, did some people kill their kids to spare them?  To save them?

Was it fear that drove this man, or narcissistic hatred?

Does it make a difference?

Can tikkun olam do any thing to stop this kind of thing?  Or has society become too big, the economy too complex, the world stage controlled by those who simply do not care?

Can you imagine Mitch McConnell commenting on a story like this?

It is the fault of liberals, he would say.  And maybe it is.  How silly of us to give people the idea that there should be some fairness and equity in life.  Social Darwinism is the real order of the day - justice is for the rich (if you can call it that).  The rest of us are to blame for our own problems, right?.

Solutions are only beyond reach if you are lazy, they say.  They are only untouchable if you made them that way, they say.

But I do not believe that.

It is fairly ridiculous to imply those kids were at fault.  And like them, a lot of us were cast, in childhood, kicking and screaming or passively bewildered into situations not of our choosing, for which we had no recourse and no safety net.  No coping skills adequate to the task when confronted with problems far bigger and stronger than we were.  How many of us walked away unscathed?

I should cut myself some slack, stop worrying, stop being afraid, and just accept what happens.  The whole zen thing. Pray and have hope.

But I am still afraid of splatting on the ground  - untouchable.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The view from here.

In a few days my middle son will go on a Taglit-Birthright trip to Israel.   My youngest will be entering college this fall, majoring in Psychology (can't help but wonder about that...).   My oldest son still lives in Minnesota, which surprised all of us.  I doubt I would have lasted past one winter.  My daughter is still not talking to me.  It is what it is.

Last Friday, the two younger boys and I prepared Kiddush lunch for our shul, in honor of the trip and of the youngest's 18th birthday, as well as in recognition of all the kids graduating high school at the shul.  My middle son did the Torah service and my youngest gave the drash.  All of this spring's graduates were honored.  A "happy graduation" ice cream cake was served for dessert.  It was a very nice service.

But it's sad that most of those graduates will go away from this community, if not immediately then after college, and probably never come back.  I am pessimistic about this community's future.  It seems that far more people leave, disengage, or fade away than arrive and become active.  And, of course, this community does not have the basic infrastructure to attract young observant families, and does not appear interested in building a miqvah, or a JCC, or a Dayschool.  I have the feeling that the community doesn't particularly want observant families to come.  So it will dwindle away - is dwindling away, actually.  The Reform Rabbi would protest that's not true - why, his Temple has plenty of kids in it.  But statistically speaking, those kids are not committed to Judaism, especially Torah observance, and are not likely to be motivated to do so in the future.  The intermarriage rate of Reform congregants is extremely high - and many kids there have been taught - accidentally or on purpose - that Judaism is not anything particularly special. It's just one choice among many, a social consciousness instead of an obligation.  All the benefits without any of the responsibilities.  The youth have other priorities.

But they came by it honest, as they say here in the south.  My generation, Generation X, is not much better.  Maybe not any better.  We are the reason most of the Millennials have other priorities.  We gave them those other priorities.  Or worse, we didn't recognize their priorities, because we were too busy with our own.

Of course, this problem is not unique among Jewish youth - it's a pretty strong trend in all American youth.  And probably with good reason!  Should they feel obligated to a society or a country that has left many of them without basic healthcare, saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, off-shored most of the living wage jobs with benefits and replaced them with Mc-Wally-Wort useless make-work wage-slave jobs?  Should American youth feel connected to a society that completely disregards the things that are important to them - a clean environment, fair trade, safe natural food, non-toxic products for their homes, and walkable cities?   We tell them it can't be done and they need to just get over it.  Or we tell them their concerns are irrational.  Or we tell them more of the same will somehow make things better than they can even imagine.

Of course, none of those things are true, and they know it.  The kids graduating from high school and college today are inheriting a world that we have come close to ruining.  And it's likely by the time we (the X-ers) wrest control away from the Boomers, and the Millennials wrest control away from us, it will be ruined.  There's really not much doubt about that.  I have spent the last six months reading books, articles, studies and documentaries.  I'm not optimistic about America's future, so why should they be?  They know intuitively - through zeitgeist perhaps - what the rest of us refuse to admit.  Things can't go on the way they are.  If nothing changes, their future is going to dwindle away - is dwindling away, actually.

Israel's future is equally fraught with peril.  Aside from the ever-present threat of rockets, invasion, or chemical/biological attack, the internal political and religious struggles are draining away Israel's vitality.  Every glimmer of hope - the Women at the Wall, hints of a right to marry or a right to freedom of religious practice - seems to come with a fog-bank of confusion making finding the way forward extremely difficult.  Each step forward seems to lead to two steps back - the Chereidi simply have no intention of allowing such changes, and demographically they have the upper hand.  All they need to do is bide their time (and stem their own tide of defectors, but that's a whole other issue).  There's no law people can do now that can't be undone.  Whatever victories we win now will probably just be shot down later - or else the entire country will be shot down, it's hard to tell which.  Israel relies on America for a huge chunk of their defense capabilities.  What if America can't or won't continue to provide?

Certainly the radical Islamicists don't consider the Chereidi to be any real threat.  The more they refuse military service, refuse to be educated and stay in poverty, and become the dominant adult majority, the closer the radicals are to being able to waltz in and exterminate them all with little effort.  So the Chereidi, also, are throwing away their futures with both hands, militarily and economically.

But that day has not yet arrived, thankfully.  So I'm glad my middle son is going to get to see Israel.  I wish I could afford to go see it.  I hope my younger son will get to go one day.    Meanwhile here in America we could, if we wanted, have a social democracy that eschews war-mongering and takes care of our citizens needs instead of lining corporate pockets. It's not like it can't be done - Switzerland and the other Nordic countries seem to be doing it perfectly well.  And if anybody is willing to be honest, it was importing American style banking and American style profit-over-people policies that led the rest of Europe astray.  We could fix it all if we were willing.  But apparently we don't want that.  I can't understand why, personally, but lots of people rationalize it.  And here in this community, we could try and attract vibrant young observant families and strengthen the Jewish nature of our community.  But apparently we don't want that, either.   It remains to be seen if there will be enough X-ers or Millennials left willing to monetarily support this Jewish community after the wealthy Boomers retire south or go to their fate in the great beyond.  I'm guessing not.  I don't see that many people my age either in shul or at Federation events.  Some, yes.  But not enough.  And I'm on the top edge of the X-ers, not far away from being a Boomer, actually.  Just missed it, for all practical purposes.   And I'm the youngest person who attends our local Hadassah meetings, for example, though our chapter is widely regarded, has a high fundraising quota, and meets it - for now.  As the Boomers dwindle away, it's not clear how Hadassah, either, will hang on.  Meeting quota because somebody died and left a nice bequest is not really a great way to meet quota.  Nor is it sustainable as a fundraising model.

So here we are.  The view from here and now is not encouraging.  Of course, things can change.  I hope they will change.  And if they don't, well, it is what it is.  And let's not forget - we made it what it is.