Why This Liberal No Longer Supports Universal Health Care: An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama-

I hope this letter finds you well. I voted for you in both elections. I’m proud to call you our president. I was a staunch supporter of universal health care. Thank you for following through on your campaign promise. That you did so IS significant.

But I have to say, you’ve let us down in a big way. This health care system blows.

I’m writing to you today because you strike me as someone who appreciates a good story. So, I’d like to tell you mine. From what I’m reading in the news and across Twitter, my story isn’t unique. But it’s important to me. So here goes.

I’ve been insured by various employers for most of my adult life. Just recently, I decided to start my own business. Yay me, small business owner, keeping our economy going. Woohoo! Salt of the earth, bitches.

As you probably can imagine, there are a lot of factors to consider when you go from the ‘w2' world to the ‘1099' world. Arguably, one of the biggest is health insurance. Foregoing insurance did cross my mind. I’d be lying if I pretended otherwise. I’m healthy. I’m kinda frugal. It’s a big expense, ya know? But I understand that ultimately it’s smarter to be insured than not to be. And, I’m a law abiding citizen and the law now says I have to be insured. Furthermore, I BELIEVED in this new law. I was proud of you and our Congress for passing it. So I’d be a total hypocrite if I didn’t sign up. Right?

(Side note: Economically speaking if the penalty for NOT being insured is LESS than the cost of getting insurance- well, good luck getting folks on board. Econ 101. Just sayin’.)

So I did what any lawful citizen should do and signed up for health insurance through my local marketplace, Covered California.

There were a few hiccups with the initial process, but I didn’t complain. I didn’t even tweet about it. In the words of Adele Dazeem, I “let it go”.

It’s a new system, I thought to myself, they’re working out the kinks.

But as of today I’ve stopped making excuses for you and this system. It’s time to get your shit together. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have foregone insurance and taken the tax penalty. In fact, I’d rather be dead and broke than have to participate in Covered California’s health care exchange.

I know that seems drastic but let me tell you why.

For the past few weeks I’ve been dealing with this 1095-A issue. You see, I never received it and as you know I need it to file my taxes. Being a law abiding citizen and all, I typically like to file my taxes on time. Being of German descent, I also like to be on time.

I called Covered California in January and was assured I’d get it soon. But alas, it never arrived. So, I spent my entire afternoon (and part of yesterday afternoon), on hold with different folks at Kaiser and Covered California.

At first I wasn’t worried. I mean, a) I’m insured. b) I have several letters from Covered California congratulating me on being insured. c) I have emails from Kaiser and Covered California confirming payment for insurance. d) I have my credit card bill that also shows that I, in fact, paid for insurance. And e) I’m insured!!!

Why should I be worried? I mean, sometimes Amazon doesn’t deliver an item. So I call them up, they look at their records and boom! Problem solved. It arrives the next day, plus a 15 dollar credit for my trouble. XOXO Amazon. That’s service done right.

I was foolish to think that getting a simple form and proving that I was insured would be as seamless as ordering the Audacity of Hope.

My second interaction with Covered California on this issue was both straightforward and unhelpful.

“If you didn’t receive a 1095-A you have to fill out a dispute form and FAX it to us.”

I respond, “Ok, but I’m not disputing anything. I’m asking for the form you’re supposed to have sent me.”

Alas, my logic seems illogical to the person on the helpline and she tells me that her hands are tied and that nothing can be done until I submit a dispute form.

I sheepishly ask, “Can I email it to you?”

“No, but you can fax it.”

Of course I can FAX it. Cuz, we’re in 2015. Who doesn’t fax stuff?

Miraculously, I manage to find a fax machine and send over my dispute form. Yay. Got ‘er done. Booya.

I like my ducks in a row, so I call back today to make sure that they received my fax. (Plus, I remember having to do that back in the 90s when people faxed things.)

After being on hold for 30 minutes I’m told, “We’ll let you know in 2 weeks if we received the fax. You’ll get a letter in the mail.”

A letter in the mail? Just to confirm you received my fax? That seems ludicrous. That can’t be so.

So I ask again, “Can’t you just tell me over the phone?”

“Nope, ya gotta wait for the letter.”

Of course I do. A quick answer would be so 2001. We’re still in the 90s here, apparently.

I then ask what I think is a simple question. Shame on me. “Can you at least tell me if a 1095 was ever generated?”

This is when things turn from bad to comical.

“Ma’am, it doesn’t appear as though you’re in our system for having insurance in 2014. Are you sure you didn’t imagine signing up through our exchange?”

Imagine signing up through the exchange? Really? It occurs to me that they might think I’m using this insurance to seek help for the voices. The voices? Yes, the voices in my head. Precious. Precious told me to click on Covered California.

The voices stop and I say, “No, I’m 100% sure I signed up through Covered California. In fact, I’m looking at a letter from you, confirming my first payment.” At this point I’m using, what I’ll refer to as, my ‘east coast aggravated’ tone.

“I’m sorry ma’am but I think you’re mistaken. You signed up through Kaiser and Kaiser will send you the 1095.”

And so my new adventure begins, Frodo. I embark on the next part of my journey. Contacting Kaiser.

Getting through to Kaiser took a mere 48 minutes. But who’s counting? Once someone finally picks up I’m told, “Oh yes, I see right here, you were covered by us in 2014 through Covered California.”

“Great!” This isn’t so bad, I think to myself. I was too quick to use that east coast aggravated tone. I’ll make sure to apologize once this gets straightened out in a few minutes.

“But you need to talk to them about the 1095.” Of course I do.

And so, I call Covered California back. I’m thrilled to inform them that I didn’t imagine signing up through the exchange and that Kaiser can, without a doubt, confirm that I’m covered. Damn Gina!

I’m then told, “Ma’am, you need to submit a dispute form.”

“I’ve already done that,” I say exasperated. Are the voices starting to come back? Will I ever get off this island? Type the code, push the button, Desmond.

“Well, they’ll figure it out within 60 days. Don’t worry you’ll still get your taxes filed in time,” The women replies matter of fact-ly.

“60 days?,” I respond again, exasperated. “Actually, if you’re telling me I’ll receive my form in 60 days I will have missed the deadline.”

“Oh. Sorry about that. You’ll have to file for an extension then. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

And scene.

Looking back, I probably should blame Amazon. I mean, they’ve made it so simple to purchase, pay for and ship an item that I’ve grown accustomed to that level of ease. But honestly, is it that hard to generate a receipt? C’mon, really? Groupon does it everyday and they’re no Amazon.

And so I beg of you, please help me. I don’t know what to do? I’ve done everything right. And yet, I’m being penalized. I got insurance, I’m preparing my taxes. And, THIS is what I have to deal with? Felons have it easier. And the worst part is, I’m not the only one.

As many as 1,000,000 people (that we know of) got the wrong 1095-As or did not receive one at all.

According to Forbes, “1 in 8 of those covered by Covered California — received a bad tax statement.”

That’s unacceptable. Can you imagine if 1 in 8 Amazon orders were incorrect? No. Because it wouldn’t happen. If Bezos can figure out how to ship the right shit within an hour in NYC, surely our government can figure out how to generate a form?

If you’re still reading this, Mr President, well thanks. I didn’t promise a short story. It saddens me to say this, but I no longer believe that the government should mandate health care. It’s not because I’ve abandoned the basic principles behind health care reform. Quite the contrary. But a great idea, is just an idea, if you can’t execute. And the government has proven time and time again, it can’t execute. So I’m over it until someone figures it out. Let’s hope that Megan Smith will rise to the occasion. Yes we can?