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Covered California Website Outage Hides Huge Premium Increases

Covered California Website Outage Hides Huge Premium Increases

As someone who was forced into Covered California (CC) last year when Aetna, my long-time and excellent healthcare insurer, exited California’s individual market, I am painfully aware of the technical incompetence of the CC website. 

This year, the CC website has been down for the last two weeks, even though CC renewals are due by November 15th. As someone who had their monthly healthcare premium jacked-up by 71% from $780 a month in 2013 with Aetna to $1,336 with Covered California in 2014, it seems convenient the website outage is hiding the huge premium increases many new Covered Californians are about to suffer.

For many years, I purchased preferred provider healthcare policies for my wife and me with Aetna. Despite running up over $100,000 in medical expenses after being rear-ended by a texting driver in 2012, my monthly premium only increased from $760 a month in 2012 to $780 in 2013, or just 2.6%. I became a very satisfied customer of Aetna.

But I was noticed late in 2013 by Aetna that they were exiting the California individual healthcare market over the benefit design mandated by Obamacare and covered California. Aetna provided me with the contact information for CC as a courtesy.

As an economics professor and writer for Breitbart, I was interested in logging into CC to learn about the benefit design and the costs. I started trying to log into the site and generate a password but was “timed out” many times over the next two weeks. Covered California, unbeknownst to me, had created three accounts and issued healthcare two policies in the name of my wife and myself.

Finally, in frustration, I tried to call the Covered California “Help Line”. The automated attendant said that “your call will be answered within the next ten minutes.” After waiting almost half of an hour on several calls, the automatic attendant hung up on me. When I called back, the automatic attendant stated that, “Covered California is experiencing an unusually high call volume and ‘clients’ should log onto the website.” 

Shortly thereafter, I received two new policies from Blue Shield that revealed my monthly premium would rise from $780 with Aetna to $1,336 with Covered California, 71% higher. My individual deductible also rose from $500 with Aetna to $1,500 with CC, or 200% higher. My prescription co-pay rose from $10 with Aetna to $50 with CC, or 500% higher. My local hospital was not in the network. 

But my Covered California compliant Blue Shield policies cover a boatload of services my wife and I do not need. Such “medically necessary benefit” includes gender reassignment, needle exchanges for heroin addicts, smoking cessation treatments, SSRIs (such as Prozac) for “normal” people who want to feel “better than normal”, birth control, fertility, surrogate mother fees, sperm bank fees, stomach stapling for weight-loss, liposuction, weight loss foods and supplements, and eye-rounding.

I spent the last week trying unsuccessfully to login to the Covered California website to renew my “Blue Shield Silver” healthcare policy before the November 15th enrollment deadline. In frustration, I called the (800) 300-1506 help line and the automated attendant stated all representatives were busy and “your call wait time is ten minutes.” Six minutes later a representative came on the line. Her first question was, “Are you a registered voter.”

I was able to renew my healthcare policy for $1,364 a month. Although my Covered California monthly premium has risen by 75% over the last two years, I am sure it will become an advertised fact that the 2015 premium increase was just 2%. 

My Covered California representative told me that the website had been “down for the last two weeks to update the files.” The Business Journal reported that Will Metcalf of Covered California emailed a broker on Tuesday that “We do not currently have an ETA as to when this enrollment error will be corrected.”

The question California voters should be asking is whether  the Covered California website is down due to technical incompetency or avoiding very bad news before an election. 

Chriss Street suggests that if you are interested in tech, please click on NY Times Funds Blendle’s Pennies for your Thoughts

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