Health Insurance (California)
IN light of last week's reference to the heated national debate about health insurance, the subject of a seemingly innocuous letter that arrived in the mailbox at our modest Peninsula address turned out to be enough to send the innocent recipient screaming into the night.
The not-so-tender missive was from Kaiser Permanente, the medical provider for one of our favorite family members. The fellow, courtesy of an untimely layoff, was insured through a federal COBRA plan via Kaiser.
The gist of the stark note was that his insurance had been "terminated." Or so it appeared. The letter also indicated that Kaiser would be available to help with any "transition" to a new health program. Warning bells began sounding immediately.
Thanks to a rather daunting pre-existing medical condition, obtaining fresh coverage would be just about out of the question. The guy is high-risk. That's one of the awful quirks of the U.S. health insurance setup: Frequently, those who need such coverage the most can't buy it — the risk is too high.
And therein lies the dread for the worried customer. No health insurance, after all, can wind up equaling financial calamity if, heaven forbid, you require expensive medical help.
That's one of the driving forces, among others, behind the latest push to reform America's health care industry.
In the case of Kaiser and its announcement of "termination" (love that word, by
the way), it turned out that coverage had not been ended at all. In fact, according to a very helpful Kaiser clerk, the reason for the dire letter was a simple computer error.
Because the Obama administration has instituted a 65 percent COBRA premium reduction for nine months as part of its federal stimulus program, Kaiser's electronic setup had automatically sent out declarations of ceased coverage due to that simple payment alteration.
The clerk apologized for the miscommunication and advised that nothing really had changed, except for the reduced monthly bill.
So, in the end, it was actually good news.
But the little flap was just one more example of how the whole matter of medical care and insurance has become one of the most important issues facing countless families across this republic.
What's the solution? I wish I knew.
SACRAMENTO SHUFFLE: The pathetic Sacramento shell game, aka the state budget fiasco, has really just begun.
The purported "fix" to a 2009-2010 financial plan that was in deficit by $26 billion is nothing more than an illusion, a sorry sham. It simply kicks the can down the road.
It is replete with far too many accounting gimmicks, more borrowing and other blatantly bad temporary "solutions" to the state's chronic overspending habit.
Which means, sad to say, that next year will probably be even worse. By delaying the pain once again, 2010-2011 looms as more of the same, especially if the economy remains in the dumper.
So, buckle up. We are all California crash-test dummies just waiting for another collision.
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