Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Covered California (Obamacare) Update - The Saga Continues

BREAKING NEWS: Hours after I posted what I wrote below, I received snail mail from Covered California notifying me that I'm temporarily qualified for the federal subsidy for only 3 months because they needed proof of income, citizenship, and social security. I scanned and uploaded those to the website immediately but as probably should be expected my first two attempts gave me an error message. Fortunately, I remembered a workaround from a couple of months ago when somebody from Medi-Cal assisted me with my enrollment and uploaded the documents to a different section for eligibility changes. We shall wait and see what's going to happen next.
          After I had my insurance choice changed from Anthem Blue Cross Silver to Healthnet Platinum, I waited a week for an acceptance letter from Healthnet. When that didn't arrive, I called Healthnet to find out if my name was in their system. To my consternation, it was not and January 1st was fast approaching and I didn't want to be without medical insurance at the start of 2014. I scoured the internet for similar problems and one of the websites mentioned a Covered California phone number that one of the commenters posted that wasn't publicized by Covered California.
          I called the number and I was surprised that it wasn't busy nor did it have a waiting time. Initially, they couldn't check on my status because the system was down for maintenance. I tried again an hour later and they were able to verify my choice of insurance. The person I talked with said he was going to forward my concerns to tech support. When I called Healthnet the next day, my name was already in their system. I was given my subscriber ID number by the customer service representative and another phone number to call where I could pay and choose a doctor. It was an automated system (I thought I was going to take to another person) and the option to choose a doctor was not available, but I was able to pay for the January premium by credit card. My name didn't come up but the ID number corresponded with my platinum coverage choice and amount that Covered California quoted.
          The next day, an acceptance letter arrived from Healthnet, which was out of turn chronologically. I then tried to register with the Healthnet website for several days but it wouldn't take my ID number until January 1st. When I was finally able to log in, I found out that I had been preassigned a doctor based in Huntington Park. I called the Healthnet again on New Year's Day and wasn't expecting a live person to answer when I didn't press any buttons, but someone named Candy answered and she was able to change my doctor. I even joked and asked her if she picked the short straw so she had to work on New Year's day. I printed out the overview of my coverage as a temporary ID in case I needed proof of insurance since I was joining my relatives the next day for a day trip to Pechanga Casino.
          So it was great relief to find out I was finally covered even though I had to pay for it and it's a lot cheaper than what I paid for private insurance in November  and December. It had been an almost painstaking three months to get covered which was not helped by being unemployed. Then another surprise came up. I got a Medi-Cal card in the mail and called their L.A. County office  who told me I'm also temporarily covered and can use it any time until more information comes in the mail, so I can choose a Managed Care Plan, kinda like an HMO. I'm temporarily covered by Medi-Cal until they can verify my projected 2014 income. Again, out of turn, my Healthnet ID card arrived a few days later.
People who haven't bought insurance by March 31st are supposed to be fined by the Federal Government. My question is how will the government know if they haven't bought it? I also think it's going to be a mess once the insurance companies start trying to collect the subsidized amounts (based on income) from the government. How well the Obamacare system works out remains to be seen.

          This is what would cost me to have health insurance: if I took COBRA from the job I was laid off from = $503, if I continued with Anthem Blue Cross Silver (which I subscribed in November and December on the open market)= $193, with Healthnet Platinum = $134. Medi-Cal, if it comes to it, is free.
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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My First Ever Casino Experience

          Would you believe that in the 33 years I've lived in the U.S., I've never been to a casino until last week (January 2nd, 2014), when my Uncle and Aunt invited me to go to Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California? I've had numerous invitations before of course, but I've always declined because they usually interfered with my work schedule. This last invitation, I finally ran out of excuses not to go since there is no job schedule to be interfered with. Oh, didn't you know that I've been unemployed since October 2013?
          We agreed to meet at my Uncle Oscar and Auntie Ditas' house at 10 a.m. with Uncle Ed and were soon on the road to Pechanga. However, we were invited to stop by for lunch at another Aunt's (Beth) and cousin's (Melot) home in Winchester only a few miles away from Pechanga, so that's where we headed for first. This was another first for me because again, despite invitations in the past, I've never visited their home before. My goodness, their house was spacious and beautiful! Lunch consisted of tinolang manok and inihaw na isda. Thank you Auntie Beth, that was delicious and filling.
          After lunch, we were back on the road to Pechanga. We arrived at the destination in about 15 minutes, parked in the casino parking structure making note of the floor and parking spot (3rd/3J), and upon reaching the entrance, took some obligatory pictures just to prove that I finally made it to a casino. It was disappointing that there was no sign in that area indicating that it was Pechanga Resort and Casino though. I tried to geolocate myself on Facebook but the guest wi-fi needed a password and I didn't have a data plan on my phone.
Uncle Oscar, Auntie Ditas, & I
          Upon entering the building we agreed to meet in that area at a designated time in case we became separated. Oh, I almost forgot, Uncle Ed handed me $20 to gamble with, LOL! Being unemployed has certain advantages, doesn't it? Then we proceed through a long hallway full of slot machines and card tables towards the non-smoking area. Uncle Oscar proceeded to show me how the slot machines worked: insert loyalty card if you had one, insert money, then start pressing the button and hope you win. He further explained how you can increase and/or decrease your bets if you wanted to. Then he left me to play on his dime and I tried to analyze how one won or lost which up to now I'm still unclear. All I know is that I didn't win on that orientation machine. I returned Uncle's loyalty card and thanked him and we were shortly joined by Auntie Beth who drove from Winchester. She and Uncle Ed proceeded to play some slots while I explored the interior perimeter of the building. Surprisingly, the larger smoking sections didn't smell too much of smoke. Maybe the building had a very good air scrubbing system. I also went upstairs and looked inside the Bingo room and the non-smoking Poker room where I looked for my cousin-in-law, Mike who we knew was in the building with cousin Mary Ann and their friends.

 I went back downstairs and saw Ed and Beth again. Ed had won about $20 in slots but subsequently lost all of it. Darn! I walked around some more then went outside where a woman asked me if she could use my phone to call a friend who was supposed to pick her up. I was very wary but reluctantly lent her my phone. Her friend told her he would be picking her up shortly. She asked me if I was Vietnamese and I said I could be whatever or whomever she wanted me to be, baby. Just kidding, I told her I was not. With that, I separated ways with the young lady.
View From
2nd Floor

2nd Floor Selfie
Next, I explored the outer perimeter of the casino and hotel. Well, nothing to see there really, except parking lots, hahaha! In about 25 minutes, I was back where I started from and the Vietnamese lady was still waiting. She texted and called her friend again and somehow they just missed each other, or so he said. I told the lady I was surprised that she didn't have a cell phone. She said she did but her battery ran out and showed me her phone. She also told me that she was from Orange County and was in the area to sell her daughter's car and decided to visit the casino for a couple of hours. I wished her luck and hoped that her ride would arrive soon, then went back inside the casino.
I met up with Ed and Beth again and were joined by Uncle Oscar and Auntie Ditas. In a few minutes, cousin Mary Ann saw us and said she won $225 when she hit a Royal Flush in the poker machine. She handed over $100 for us to have dinner on her. Beth went to a change machine instead and divided the money among ourselves for more gambling funds. Mary Ann took me around to look for a Poker machine to show me how it works and upon finally finding a free one, my second casino orientation began. She showed me how to bet and what winning hands would look like. After a few examples, she had me make a go of it. At least this game involved more thinking than a slot machine and I spent more time there. However, still no beginner's luck and pretty soon it was 4:30 p.m. which we decided beforehand was the time to head home. But first, Uncle Ed and Oscar had a hankering for coffee and hotdog so it was off to the snack area. I was still full from Auntie Beth's cooking at lunch so I declined the snacks. Then it was a pre-drive bathroom break for some, while the others played some last second slots in the lobby area. Too bad, no late winnings there. Mary Ann went to look for Mike and friends while we headed back to the parking structure. Soon we were on the freeway and headed back to Cerritos. The drive took about 1 hour and 15 minutes just like Google Maps said. Before we parted, Auntie Ditas treated us from her approximately $80 winnings, banh mi sandwiches and a taste of durian smoothie. Then Ed and I went to our respective cars and headed home.
Impressions: well, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Pechanga exploring, observing, being oriented to, and playing the machines a little bit. I can now say that gambling is not my cup of tea maybe because I have become a very risk averse person in this time of my life. Other than Uncle Oscar's money in the slot machine and Mary Ann's in the poker machine, I didn't use the $40 I was given. So you might say, I won $40 dollars from my relatives :-).  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, but nothing lost either.
Gratitude: I want to say my utmost thanks to Uncle Oscar and Auntie Ditas for inviting me which enabled me to have my first ever visit and experience in a casino, to Uncle Ed and cousin Mary Ann for the funds, and to Auntie Beth for the Filipino food lunch.

After having such fun spending most of the day at Pechanga with my beloved relatives, the next day alone at home was a bit sad, but I got over it. Well, next time, Auntie Beth said it may be Las Vegas (another place I've never been to).
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