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I need to vent

MikeK703's picture
MikeK703
Posts: 235
Joined: Sep 2010

I need to vent. Please excuse me.
I pay $1,100 a month for my health insurance (not mine and my wife’s but just mine) because, as you might think, I am considered a high risk. My wife and I were paying $1,000 a month for both of us while on Cobra. (She is now on Medicare.) But the insurance company (an HMO) was forced to accept me because they can not turn you down when you convert your Cobra policy upon expiration. So they merely charged this exorbitant premium, hoping to frighten me off because how many people can afford to pay that amount? Thank God for 401K's. I have been paying this since January 2011 and will continue to pay it until May 2012 when I can get on Medicare (along with Social Security, considered an "entitlement" nowadays). You would think that with high premiums like this I would pay a small copay. $40.
Because I have no income other than my Social Security now, I am eligible for VA health benefits. Four years in the military, 2-1/2 in Vietnam. So why not? I'm taking a chance that I won’t have any health problems over the next 5 months. I'm not exactly keen on trusting my health to the VA. But I'd save myself about $6,000.
So I applied on Nov. 22 and was told that it should take 7 to 14 business days. I started calling the D.C. VA Medical Center 4 days ago. I wait 15 minutes “in line” only to be forwarded to a recording that tells me to leave a message – they don’t even identify themselves. Just “Leave a message.” So you have to wait 15 minutes to get to the recording! I left a message but, surprise, nobody returned my call. Sometimes it just rings and I don’t even get a recording. I had a rep at the VA main office try to get hold of somebody there and even she couldn’t do it. In frustration, she forwarded my call to the same number I have been dialing for days (without tell me she was going to do so). Surprise again -- nobody answered. I called the operator there and asked “is anybody working in the Eligibility Department?” He didn’t answer but connected me to the same line that just rang and rang and rang. I tried again and got another operator and asked him the same question. He said they weren’t answering because it was almost closing time (it was 4:25 pm). Meanwhile nobody has been answering since Friday morning.
If this is an example of the quality of government customer service I can imagine what the medical care might be like. No wonder the post officed is broke. Maybe I should just eat the $6,000 and stay with my current doctors.
Sign me
Frustrated.
Thanks for listening.

rae_rae's picture
rae_rae
Posts: 267
Joined: Oct 2010

Sorry you are going through this. While I haven't personally experienced dealing with the VA, I have an uncle that has and I am afraid this sounds much like the hamster wheel he deals with. Unfortunately I'm not sure it will get much better. But merry Christmas!

MikeK703's picture
MikeK703
Posts: 235
Joined: Sep 2010

Thanks.
Just for the heck of it, I called the VA Eligibility office (which closes at 4:30 p.m.) at 6:30 and got the usual message telling me that all agents are busy and that my call will be taken in the order in which it was received. After 15 minutes comes the second recording, asking the caller to leave a message. Evidently, they keep that recording going 24 hours a day. Our tax dollars at work.

garym's picture
garym
Posts: 1651
Joined: Nov 2009

Mike,

In my opinion you have every right to be even more upset than you are. There is absolutely no acceptable excuse for anyone to be treated that way, let alone a vet! There seems to be no accountability left in government, top to bottom, nobody with any skin in the game anymore. I am the decision maker at my company and we had to switch to a guaranteed issue group healthcare plan to keep me from being "lasered out" at renewal after my dx.

I wish I had an answer,

Gary

MikeK703's picture
MikeK703
Posts: 235
Joined: Sep 2010

Hi Gary,
Thanks for understanding.
Things finally worked out with the VA. I found the secret to speaking with a human being there -- one of the operators (a veteran, I think, who seemed to understand my frustration) gave me the top secret list of telephone extensions and I managed to get through this morning. The person who answered the phone probably thought it was a personal phone call and was tricked into helping me. My application had already been approved but nobody bothered to tell me about it. Now I have to decide if keeping my current insurance until May at the cost of $1,100 a month is better than depending on the government's ability to fix me up if something should go wrong. My wife thinks I should stay with my doctors. I think I'm starting to see things her way. My health is more important than money. My 401K has taken a hammering over the past year anyway and five more months won't make much difference. I can't stress enough the importance of saving your money over the years so if something catastrophic occurs (like having to pay outrageous premiums because you lost your employer's health insurance), you will have something to keep you going until things get better.
Regards,
Mike

sylvan75
Posts: 30
Joined: Sep 2009

I was in the same boat, and went with the VA, and I can honestly say I have been pleasantly surprised. I had my partial nephrectomy done at the Philadelphia VA Hospital and the care and treatment I got was as good as any private hospital. I see the same primary care physician each time and the same renal and urologist, and I have complete confidence in them and the system. You always hear about the bad things that happen but rarely abiut the good, but I have been in the VA system for 2 years now and have no complaints

MikeK703's picture
MikeK703
Posts: 235
Joined: Sep 2010

Thanks for sharing that. I'm truly happy to hear it's not all bad. I guess the VA professionals -- the doctors and nurses -- are much better to deal with than the administrative people. I have that problem with my HMO -- my doctors and nurses are great, while the administrative support leaves a lot to be desired. And I have to say that I'm also not too happy with the blood drawers in the lab -- ouch! A few of them need to go back to practicing on fruit.
Mike

jimran
Posts: 4
Joined: Dec 2011

While I don't need it now, I had no idea 4 years in the military makes one eligible for VA Health benefits. Do you need to be a certain age or have served at a certain time?
Jim
USMC 1/1975-1/1979
Stage III RCC diagnosis 10/2011

MikeK703's picture
MikeK703
Posts: 235
Joined: Sep 2010

Hi Jim,
If you served in the military and got anything other than a dishonorable discharge, you may be eligible. There are a number of eligibility factors and you may meet only one of them and still be eligible. They assign you a "priority" status based on when or where you served (service connected disabilities get a higher priority than others).
Here is a good starting place to begin researching it:
http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/apply/veterans.asp
There was and maybe still is an income/net worth limit. Not sure if they changed that or not. (They're always changing requirements and you need to stay abreast of them.) All I know is that I was not qualified while I was working because I made more than the annual income limit. (I had George Bush to thank for that disqualification based on income; before he changed it, any honorably discharged vet could receive health care benefits regardless of income or net worth.) After I retired and got on social security, my income was within the limits, and thus I was qualified. Doesn't matter if you don't intend to use the benefits now, you could still apply in case you need to use them in the future. There's an application form on that web page.
Regards,
Mike

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