by Mike Kimel
Following a merger, a few months ago I took a severance package from my most recent employer. Put another way, I became unemployed. I started looking for another job but without much luck. In the last few weeks, I’ve also started doing some consulting work with two clients. Its been sporadic but lucrative, and I’m trying to figure out how to ramp that up quickly. Having been a consultant before for eight years, I know the tough thing is always maintaining a strong enough stable of clients. (FYI, the work I’ve been doing has been economic analysis, business analytics, and litigation support. If you or anyone needs that sort of a skillset, drop me a line at “mike” period “kimel” at “gmail.com.”) Fortunately, in addition to the consulting, we have some other income coming in and a fair amount saved up, so I don’t need to get 100 mph immediately.
One of the drawbacks of being unemployed or an independent consultant involves health insurance. When I left my employer, I became eligible for COBRA. Here’s my ongoing COBRA story. I’m going to change all names to protect the guilty and innocent alike. Call my former employer A, the COBRA administrator they use B, and my insurance company C.
A few weeks after I took the severance, A informed B that I was no longer with the company and thus eligible for COBRA. I had been checking B’s website religiously because I’m kind of paranoid about lacking health insurance. So one day, I logged on and found that I was eligible. But there was a small problem – somewhere along the line, I had lost my dependents. So I called B, B called A, some other stuff happened in the background, a day or two went by, and when I logged in, lo and behold, my wife was now listed as a dependent. But there was a small problem – I also happen to have a (at the time) thirteen month old son. So I called B, B called A, some other stuff happened in the background, a day or two went by, and when I logged in, lo and behold, my son was now listed as a dependent. But there was a small problem – neither of my dependents was listed as having been on my insurance policies when I was employed, thus making them ineligible for COBRA coverage. So I called B, B called A, some other stuff happened in the background, and when I logged in, lo and behold, my wife was listed as having been on my health insurance. But there was a small problem – my son was not listed as having had health insurance, making him ineligible for COBRA. So I called B, B called A, some other stuff happened in the background, and when I logged in, lo and behold, both my dependents were listed as having been on my health insurance policy when I was employed. But there was a small problem – it seems that the records provided indicated that I had two spouses and no son. One of my two spouses, interestingly enough, had the same name, birthday and gender as my now non-existent son. The records, in other words, indicated that I personally was violating a nontrivial number of laws. So I called B, B called A, some other stuff happened in the background, and when I logged in, lo and behold, well, I couldn’t find the mistake in the records. So I signed up for COBRA, and I put us on direct payment from my bank account.
All’s well that ends well, no matter how much time is wasted. But I did mention that my insurance company, C, was going to be a part of the story, right? Today a letter comes in the mail. My wife had gone to a dermatologist. The dermatologist submitted the bill to C. C informed the dermatologist that we no longer had coverage.
So I called B. It was a lovely conversation. I was informed that, yes, they have been withdrawing money from my account, and yes, I am paid in full, but nevertheless, C’s records do show us having no coverage. I was told B is calling C. I was told that in 24 to 48 hours I need to call C to see if they listed us as having the insurance coverage for which I have been paying. At some later point my wife or I will also have to call the dermatologist. Call me cynical, but I expect this is going to take a lot of time and interfere with my ability to generate income.
As an aside, in the past few weeks we’ve started looking at new insurance options. Interestingly enough, it seems that if everyone in the family is generally healthy, COBRA is generally not the best option.