Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kicked to the Curb by Kaiser

Dave has been a Kaiser member for 17 years, via two different workplaces. The company he was recently working for went belly-up so now he's looking for full-time work and looking for health care.

We knew things weren't going so well at Dave's last company, and knowing he had two life threatening chronic health problems, I tried to call and get another health care option lined up ahead of time. Which was useless. Everyone I talked to told me to call back after Dave was laid off and after his health insurance had expired. Until then, they wouldn't answer any questions.

After we got a notice in the mail from Kaiser, saying his insurance was terminated, we visited them to look into their "options for continued coverage" (noted in the handy little full color brochure enclosed with the "you're terminated" letter.) It was one of those surreal experiences with a smiling functionary behind a desk, telling you how screwed you were. Felt like we were in a Michael Moore movie.

You could get Cobra through your employer . . . oh, your company employed less than 20 people? Then they weren't required to carry Cobra.

You could apply for individual coverage but you'd probably be denied for having a pre-existing condition.

Even though I've been a Kaiser patient for 17 years?

You'd be just like everyone else.

You could use one of our "conversion plans" (which allows you to buy our insurance at obscenely high prices, but we won't reject you for having a pre-existing condition.)

Gee honey, which should we choose, homelessness, or health care (hunger is pretty much a given.) Aren't there any other options?

You could apply for Healthy San Francisco but they won't accept you unless you've been uninsured for 90 days.

So in the meantime? When my Coumadin runs out? Wait until that big clot gets bad enough to kill me and then hope I get to an emergency room in time?

Doesn't it seem a little bit insane that an organization that calls itself a "health care" organization, that claims to care about the health maintenance of its members, would look at a member like Dave (still being monitored and treated for Leukemia and a blood clot in the leg) and just cut off communications with that member? No effort at transitioning them to other caregivers, no diagnosis-specific advice about how to prevent his health problems from spiraling out of control. **It's ALL ABOUT THE MONEY!** "Pay up or die" - that's the true Kaiser ethos.

-- Anna

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