Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Glitches I've Encountered With Covered California (Obamacare)

          Even though the Covered California website (coveredca.com) didn't have as many glitches as the federal Healthcare.gov website, it still wasn't smooth sailing as should be expected. In my first attempt at applying in October, the section where I was supposed to enter my citizenship information stopped me in my tracks because it wouldn't take the A90 number of my citizenship certificate. The website showed an error code and told me to contact the System Administrator. Well, I don't work for them so I didn't have a way of doing that. A week later, it miraculously accepted my citizenship info and I was able to proceed. So my registration was completed and the website presented me with options on what companies and insurance coverage I preferred based on my projected income in 2014 if I was still employed. Unfortunately, the next day, I was laid off so that changed the income equation.  If I remained unemployed in 2014, that means I would not have an income, so I had to make revisions with Covered California. When I tried to input my projected income of zero dollars, the website would not accept the value, however, when I put in 1 cent per hour, it was accepted. To prove that my income had changed, I was asked by the website to upload whatever evidence I had. I was able to upload my WARN Act Letter and my Termination Notice. Based on a projected annual income of $1,664 a year, I qualified for free insurance coverage through Medi-cal which is California' version of Medicaid. I don't know how much Medi-cal covers but at least it's free and better than not having any health insurance coverage.
          A couple of weeks later, I logged on the website to check on my status and it showed me that I was approved for Medi-cal based on my revised projected income and the evidence I provided. However, I didn't know what the next step was. By that time I had started receiving unemployment benefits so I had to update my information and report my new income. I would still be receiving substantially less than the $15,800 threshold for subsidized private insurance where I have to pay a certain amount, so I would still qualify for Medi-cal. As required by the rules to be truthful with my information, I tried to make the changes to my income. Again I hit a roadblock similar to the one with the citizenship information. Thinking maybe the website was too busy to process the new information, I tried to log in again in the evening. This is where a new problem cropped up. The website said I entered the wrong password so I tried to be more careful the second time. I got the same message so I clicked on the "Forgot Password" link which brought up some challenge questions to prove my identity. I know for sure that I answered them correctly but the website locked me out.
          The next day, I contacted customer service via Instant Messaging and was told to call the customer service number for help in resetting my password. I did that and after about a 35 minute wait, I talked to someone who told me to wait 24 hours before trying to log in again. He said that should help in trying to reset my password. While he was on the phone with me, I asked him if he could change my income information. He found me via my case number and did what I tried the day before. He failed as well because his computer gave him the same error message that I got. His advice was to just let it go since the new information wouldn't change my qualifying for Medi-cal anyway.
          I waited for more than 48 hours before trying to log in again but was still locked out of the system, and wouldn't even allow me to change my password. It didn't even ask the challenge questions again but rather just told me to call the toll free number. I sent an email to customer service with my dilemma and they were supposed to respond within 2 days. Two weeks later, I still haven't gotten one. Being bullheaded, I called customer service again and got someone on the line within half an hour. I asked him about resetting my password and he said that they are not allowed to do that anymore. What should I do if I needed to update my info, I asked? He said I would have to do it over the phone. Like the previous representative, he suggested that I leave well enough alone with the income situation, because I would be assigned a Medi-cal caseworker anyway at a later date who would verify my income.
          On December 5, 2013, I finally received a letter via snail mail stating that I didn't qualify for lower cost subsidies for private insurance, but rather I qualified for Medi-cal. At least now I know that my information was in the system. I was to wait for more paperwork, but this time it would be coming from Medi-cal and not from Covered California.
          Another glitch I encountered with the website is the Instant Messaging system. Sometimes after waiting in the queue for a long time while it counts down until you become number 1, the system kicks you off and says that no representative is available. This happened to me twice. So I think it's better to wait on the phone or do both at the same time if you want to talk to anybody.

          Time it was when I was so naive before I moved to the U.S. when I thought that if ever I become sick in America, I could just go to the nearest hospital's charity ward. After living here since 1981, I still haven't seen a charity ward in all the hospitals I've worked in.

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