Applying for State-Assisted Health Insurance, Part 2
My first complete week without health insurance. As I still had hope I would be on Commonwealth Choice for February, I started researching when the last day of the current month is that you can purchase insurance for the following month. I want to hold out as long as I can before buying February coverage because I am hoping to have gotten Commonwealth Care by then.
However, this information is nowhere to be found on any website. I did find out though, that there is a 63-day, legal grace period for people like me who have lost their health insurance. You have up to 63 uninsured days before you incur a tax penalty with the state. I find 63 days to be an odd time period, but whatever, I’ll take it.
Also that night, I went to Target to pick up two prescriptions. I was prepared to pay full price for them. At Target, I am given the best news of my day when I find out that my auto-refill prescriptions processed through on 12/28 and were therefore paid by my old health insurance. Score! I also find out that one of my prescriptions is $70.99 without insurance. That is a lot more than I thought it would be. The pharmacist suggests that I get some health insurance. She means well, but really? Gee, thanks for that tip. I hadn’t thought about getting myself some health insurance.
I still have not heard anything, so I decide to call and check on the status of my application.
Call One: It takes three weeks to process an application, let me transfer you to MassHealth so you can check on your status. As I have applied for Commonwealth Care, I’m not sure why I have to talk to MassHealth. At any rate, I was transferred, then hung up on.
Call Two: I called back, pressed different numbers, then got to a person. The customer service person told me that my application was received on 12/17 and is pending. I am told it takes 45-60 business days to process an application and what I should have done was go to one of their ‘in person’ sites to apply. Apparently, when you do it in person, you can get processed in 15 business days. I am told that I can still do this if I want to reapply and try to speed up this process.
The thought of filling out the paperwork again is unappealing. I explained that a previous operator told me I couldn’t apply in person and that was why I had applied by mail. This operator again tells me I could have. I also explained that another operator was adamant that it takes 25 days to process an application, not 45-60 days. This operator tells me this information was wrong too. I pointed out that I continually receive conflicting information and no longer know what is correct and what is not. I understand that this particular customer service rep can’t do anything to change the situation, but it needs to be said.
I ask if I should go ahead and purchase health insurance for February because there may be no way my application will be processed in time for coverage. The customer service person tells me there is a chance, but nothing is guaranteed.
The more I thought about this “nothing is guaranteed” thing, the more nervous I got. I went ahead and bought myself an individual health insurance plan for February. Yes, I am getting decent insurance in relation to what it will cost, but it’s still an extra $224.83 every month. This is one of the lowest cost options, but the premium price will still cost me around a week’s salary. Ouch.
Still no word from the state about my application. I was feeling glad that I picked up some insurance for February.
A sad day for health care in the United States, as Scott Brown is elected to take Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat for Massachusetts. Health care was the hot button topic for Brown during his campaign and he has vowed to block Obama’s plan. As this is a subject that greatly affects my life, I spent four minutes watching a video on whitehouse.gov to ensure I fully understood Obama’s current proposal. Apparently the rest of Massachusetts does not and the majority voted for Brown. I fail to see how anyone other than the big health insurance companies can oppose Obama’s plan.
I received a large packet in the mail telling me that I am eligible for Commonwealth Care! This is good news, but I’m not sure how good. Commonwealth Care provides some kind of subsidized health insurance, but I have no clue how subsidized it is. The letter told me that I need to call or go online to enroll myself. I decided it’s probably best I do this over the phone, but it’s after business hours, so I can’t do it today.
P.S. – The packet I received is so large because it contains information on appealing decisions via a fair hearing, as well as a section on what to do if I don’t speak English and can’t read the letter. The instructions appear in 10 different languages. As this process has been excessively difficult for me, a native English speaker, I’m glad they provided this information for non-English speakers.
1/26 – 1/27/10
I have not been able to call during business hours to find out more information. I’m still wary that Commonwealth Care will really not be all that helpful.
Today I had time during business hours to call and find out what the deal is. I got fantastic news! The Commonwealth Care people told me I had been approved for a “Type Two” plan. I have no clue what this means in their world, but for me, it means I get super-subsidized insurance and fantastically low co-pays! I’ll now be paying a lower premium than I did when I got insurance through my employer and it sounds like I will get much better coverage! For once, being classified as “working poor” has helped, rather than hindered! Amazing!
It took a couple hours for this to sink in. Now, I feel like I can breathe again.
This process has been absolutely ridiculous, but in the end, it was worth it. I just worry about people who do not have the resources I do to navigate this system – the Internet, cell phone minutes, native English speech, and the ability to read and understand all the forms. What happens to people who do not have these resources during this process? Do many of them get help or do they give up? Massachusetts’ law means well and I greatly appreciate being accepted into Commonwealth Care, I just wish the process had been less painful. I doubt everyone who needs the service makes it through the process.
Goldstein, S. (2015). Applying for State-Assisted Health Insurance, Part 2. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 6, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/applying-for-state-assisted-health-insurance-part-2/