Saturday, July 26, 2014

Qualifying for Medi-Cal Due to Obamacare

          In other news, since I officially don't have any more unemployment benefits and don't know where and when my next income is going to come from, since you remember I've only been hired as a part time employee with no guaranteed working hours, I've re-qualified for Medi-Cal (Medicaid) insurance. (Did that sentence run on?) It was supposed to be effective June 1st, 2014 but due to government backlogs, I didn’t get it till mid July. In the meantime, I stopped paying Healthnet the monthly $135 I’ve been sending them since January. I thought that  I still have to continue paying Keenan Healthcare $45 a month for dental insurance thru COBRA from my previous employer but it turns out Denti-Cal was reinstated by California effective May 2014.
          Let me backtrack a little bit. In May, I had to call Covered California (the California Healthcare Exchange) to make the changes and was glad the wait time on hold wasn't as long as it was late last year. Charlie checked my eligibility and in a few minutes was transferred to the L.A. County Medi-Cal representative Lily who had me scan my last EDD unemployment check notice and upload it to the Covered California website. There are still some bugs in the system, but not as bad as it was before because the representatives have found workarounds to bypass the bugs. It also seems like the reps have more latitude to approve the changes based on the proof you upload. I thought that was it and that free Medi-Cal insurance would kick in on June 1st. I made a doctor’s appointment and the medical assistant confirmed my eligibility. However on May 27th, I got another call saying my Medi-Cal was deactivated. I called the L.A. County Medi-Cal office and was told that I had to wait for it to be reactivated again but without an approximate time. A few days later I got a letter in the mail informing me that a caseworker has been assigned to me at the local Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) office. I was also expecting another packet in the mail to pick a managed care plan.
          So I waited, and waited, then waited some more, and I called the DPSS every other week. Meanwhile I was getting tons of mail from Covered California which said I qualified for this and that federal subsidy which was basically what I was paying Healthnet for 5 months. It seemed that Covered California’s computer system finally caught up with the applications and the eligibility information I uploaded way back in October 2013.
          On the second week of July, I called the DPSS office again and my caseworker said that my Medi-Cal would be reactivated the next day, but to wait another day for me to make a doctor’s appointment. When the time came, I called the doctor’s office and they verified that my insurance coverage was again active. Hence, I made an appointment for the following week.
          So I finally made use of the free medical insurance last week  and went to see a doctor for a checkup almost a year since my last doctor's visit. Not just any doctor mind you, but one who accepted Medi-Cal and someone I used to work with as a mental health worker 20 years ago before he went to medical school and haven’t seen since. I went to the clinic 10 minutes early, filled out the necessary paperwork regarding my medical history, then waited in the examination room. When the doctor finally entered, he greeted me, then had to do a double take. He said "hey, I know you!". I was going to ask if he remembered me but it was too late for that. He asked me if I was in touch with any of our former co-workers, which I was not. So he mentioned a couple of nurses whom we used to work with and that they were his patients too. Hopefully, there was no HIPAA violation there since we were all friends way back when. So I had my checkup done, blood drawn for lab tests right there in the office, had my maintenance medications refilled, and experienced the advantages and joys of free Medi-Cal insurance: no doctor’s visits co-pay, no lab co-pay, and no pharmacy co-pay. All thanks to my much much lower income and Obamacare. I already addressed this in my blogpost way before Obamacare kicked in :

Seeking a Financial Sweet Spot
          Now I have this dilemma of finding a full time job with benefits or working part time (and semi-retired) to keep my income within the limits required to stay eligible for free Medi-Cal. I'm torn between staying semi-retired and earning less (with free coverage for medical,dental, vision, and most prescription meds) or getting full time employment and earning more while paying for regular medical insurance with all the co-pays. I was offered a full time job which starts in mid-August which more than doubles what I earn  now, but in exchange, I have to work longer hours. The decision has to be made soon on whether to stay poor and get free insurance as long as Obamacare is in effect, or earn more money and start paying for employer sponsored insurance with all its co-pays. And perhaps, not too far down the line, since my mortgage is already paid off, finally take vacations I never took in the past 34 years of working so much.

           A final note on free Medi-Cal: when you choose a managed care plan, they even supply a postage paid envelope. That's your tax dollars at work folks. No wonder a lot of people pretend to be permanently disabled like some of the psych patients I've worked with.
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