Am having issues with COBRA, or rather, the company that manages it. COBRA, if you had not had the pleasure, stands for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. What the act does, super basically, is allow people who lose or quit their jobs to continue their work insurance/healthcare plan with limited impunity for a set amount of time (usually 18 months to start) at 102% of the group rate premium cost. This may vary depending on your employer and what type of employee you were. 102% probably sounds high, but to folks like me this is a great deal, because most insurers will either refuse to cover our pre-existing conditions for a year, or will require us to pay prohibitively high premiums. Higher than the 102% group rate, that is, and that’s saying something. I always considered COBRA a kind of reasonably-priced insurance extension, to keep my pills coming in so I could look for another job with benefits without
A) having a flare, and/or
B) going broke.
It’s pricey, but it generally works.
It’s also a big ol’ pain in the ass to set up, apparently. After spending roughly two hours on hold with the COBRA management company, I managed to clarify my enrollment, find out where to send my payment, and make sure the company had my correct, updated address. They in turn told me they’d definitely send a bill for the next payment. October 1st rolled around, and no bill. At this point, I called them to cancel the COBRA effective 10/1, as I’d found new, cheaper healthcare.
“I’m sorry,” the telehelper said. “But we can’t cancel your coverage until we receive your payment for September.”
“Oh, right,” I said, mortified. “You know, I never received the bill.”
“Oh. Well. It says here we sent it out. So you should have gotten it.”
Yes. But should have is not the same as having a envelope in the mail. Alas, according to the FAQ over at the US Dept of Labor website:
You should also be aware that it is your responsibility to pay for COBRA coverage even if you do not receive a monthly statement.
So despite their assurance that I would and did get a bill, technically they’ve done nothing wrong. The fault in a mix-up defaults (so to speak) to me. My lack of bill receipt is something I should have called them about, I can see that. Bills can get lost just like any other mail, right? I do find it funny, though, that for every single other service I’ve ever paid, such as Internet, cable, utilities, telephone service, this is the only one that can’t send something like a Final Bill. You know, the ones you get when you cancel your service. It has your final outstanding amount on it, you pay it, you’re done. I suppose this method wouldn’t work well with insurance. Probably half of their Final Bills would be sent to dead people. Golly! Can’t close out many outstanding accounts that way!
Back to my phone call. My telehelper continued to help. “Pay the balance before October 7th or your coverage will be canceled effective September 1st.”
And then she told me that I should be aware (something I probably would be aware of if I had received an actual bill) that the insurance premiums had gone up thirty bucks. Just like that. I didn’t realize that COBRA insurance premiums weren’t static–it’s been years since I’ve done the COBRA thing. But I can recognize that the rise in premium might stop there, because September is open enrollment month for my old company. Any yearly increase of premium would happen at that time, and then stay static for the remainder of the year.
Ultimately I can’t get too angry. I’m canceling, aren’t I? What’s an extra thirty bucks to a jobless lady with a sugar daddy keeping us (maybe) above the poverty line? No. Big. Deal.
After the government shutdown began, I wrote a letter to our state rep detailing my reasons for supporting the Affordable Care Act, with the hope that she too would come to support it. Yeah, that’s likely. But it felt good to put it out there.