Learning To Flinch

IMG-20140306-00274The cover of Time Magazine features the team that fixed HealthCare.gov, the Eighty Percenters.  I know.  I know.  Officially, HealthCare.gov has been completely fixed and everything is copasetic.  And if you ignore the crashes, the glitches that send people to Medicaid, and the general weirdness, then the only real issues are that it is a clunky, repetitive process that makes it difficult to select an insurance policy and has no way to collect the initial premium payment.  Damn near perfect.

It takes five minutes to complete the brain-dead, anyone can do it application for a non-subsidized, off-exchange policy.  I allocate an hour and a half to enroll someone on the government’s website.  An hour and a half!  And if we are lucky, it will only take one try.  We are learning to flinch.  We prepare ourselves, and our clients, for failure before we even bother to create their password.

Taking a toll on our community

A young woman returned to my office Monday evening for our shot at the exchange.  I spent over a half hour prepping for the exchange.  Not once did we discuss insurance or insurance products.  We then went into the system and zipped through it in less than an hour.  When we hit the last button, an action that has too often led to incredible frustration, and her application went through, it was so easy that I had to look closely to verify success.  I was more prepared for failure.  The client, a massage therapist at the Cleveland Clinic, was surprised by the knots in my shoulders and neck.  I could use a deep tissue massage daily. 

And I am not alone.

Meeting with my peers I have noticed elevated levels of frustration and agitation.  “Did you hear that the President moved back the enrollment deadline in 2015 to February 15th?”  “Well yesterday the Health and Human Services issued new rules.  Looks like you may be able to keep the old policies a little longer!”  The rules change every day.  And once the feds make a change, then the states have to react. And then the insurers react.  And then we get to explain to our clients how all of this affects them.  Or not.

You can’t call it PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, because we are still in the middle of it.  The open enrollment ends March 31st.  Somewhere in mid-April we will learn new rules of engagement for the balance of 2014.  By mid to late summer we will begin the process to recertify for the exchanges and senior products.  And sometime in late summer or early fall, we will find out if all of the old policies, the coverage most of you have, will be allowed to continue or if everyone will be forced to have PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or Obamacare) compliant policies for 2015.

Clients want answers now.  We look like idiots when we can’t answer all of their questions.  But we can’t. The agents, an afterthought in the sweeping change that is the PPACA, turned out to be very important.  The insurers are just as overwhelmed.  Some of my Home Office contacts divide their time between issuing apologies and putting out fires.  They aren’t being paid nearly enough for the abuse they are taking.

I took yesterday morning off.  Slept late.  Read the Plain Dealer with a cup of coffee.  Hell, I didn’t get to the office until 9:15.  Positively Decadent.  No, we are swamped.  Working too hard for success.  Encountering way too many failures.  Learning to flinch.