About my healthcare exchange promise—I lied

I promised you wouldn’t write about the Healthcare Exchange…but I lied.

Today, I am officially enrolled in an affordable healthcare plan via the federal Healthcare Exchange.

Though the GOP has worked tirelessly to ensure I not get this far, I persevered and made it. Though I realize the GOP is still doing everything in its power to ensure I don’t have healthcare coverage come this January, at this moment, I am covered. I have what every Republican Congressional member has, but doesn’t want me to have: healthcare coverage.

I will be able to go to the doctor when I’m sick. I will be able to get the medical care I need in order to survive. And I won’t be filing for bankruptcy if I do get sick.

My statement to the GOP on Twitter was heartfelt but a little severe. I want to take this time to provide a more measured statement…

For years you tried to stop me getting healthcare coverage, but you have failed. You actually brought the government to the edge of financial disaster to keep like me from getting healthcare coverage, but you have failed. Even now, you’re scrambling to file lawsuits in attempt to prevent me from having healthcare coverage, but those are tomorrow’s battles. For today, you can’t take away my healthcare coverage, and you have failed.


Neener neener.

all complete notice

Now, I return to my previously made promise to not talk about the Healthcare Exchange.

Thank you.


Stage 2 on the Healthcare Marketplace


Yesterday, I was able to upload my identification. Now, some human somewhere will have to concur that it indeed verifies I am me.

In the meantime, USA Today has posted a story with tech details about the fixes being done on the system this weekend. It interviews the “top technology expert” behind the system, who managed to use the word “geekalicious”.

I was especially surprised when reading the following:

It is upgrading software that lets people create accounts to apply for insurance. One symptom of this has been malfunctioning pull-down menus that have worked only intermittently all week. And is moving one part of the site that processes applications from so-called virtual machine technology, which uses software to let a website securely share computer servers with other sites, to using servers dedicated exclusively to that process, he said.


I am not who I say I am. Or I can’t be verified to be who I say I am.

I’ve been able to go through the entire application process…except for verifying who I am. And evidently, they forgot to turn this part of the application on.

I’ve put in my correct name, address, social security number, and so on. I put in what I know the IRS has for me.

Nada. Zip.

So I took the option to upload a document. A simple scan of my driver’s license.

I tried once, and got a message that maximum file size is 10MB. My file size was a little larger than 1MB. OK. So I compressed the PDF down to about 67KB.

Nada. Zip. Same error message.

I snipped out just my drivers license, and created a JPEG of the image. File size? A svelte 34KB. I uploaded it…

Nada. Zip.

And, as usual for almost any activity associated with this system, I must now call in. Except I have no interest in calling in. I’m going to wait a week, in hopes that someone remembers to turn on the rest of the application. I’m disappointed, though, that I couldn’t even look at the plans, because I’m stuck in the never never land of “verification”.

This isn’t load problems, people. This is a crappy system that has all the symptoms of never having been tested. Other than a cursory run through.

I may like Obamacare, but the Marketplace sucks.

PS Oh, and I’ve never been able to use Chrome to access the Marketplace. Not once. I’ve had to use IE and Firefox.


Healthcare Exchange: 1 Shelley: 0

I joined the masses in attempting to access the new Healthcare Exchange yesterday. I thought I had an edge by creating an account with the system a few weeks back, but no such luck. Attempting to log in kept resulting in a blank page (which showed itself to be a “downstream error” when accessing the site using Firefox).

I noticed that the format of username that was acceptable a few weeks back no longer meets the criteria for new user names, so I don’t know if I have an account or not. And forget trying to use Chat to verify whether I need to create a new account, or can use my existing one (with its improper username format).

I expected glitches, but not such wide systematic failures, where people can’t even get access to the security questions to create an account. This breakdown isn’t the fault of Obamacare. This breakdown is, unfortunately, all too typical with large new systems developed with too many inputs from middle management and too little heed paid to experienced software developers. And way too little effective load testing.

Using Java doesn’t help. Java requires a very savvy tech architect, and well designed infrastructure. Even tiny fractures can cause big pile ups in a poorly designed Java system.

Regardless, I’m not going to bash the law just because of early system failures. I’m irritated at journalists and their pondering of “people giving up” because they can’t access the system. Hey boys and girls: people who want and need affordable healthcare coverage aren’t going to give up because of software glitches. Perhaps if the pundits would stop talking and start listening, they wouldn’t write or say such silly crap.

However, someone needs to be kicked in the ass behind the scenes of the Healthcare Marketplace.


Here come the unwashed masses

ratty fur coatMy roommate was surprised by a card he received from his doctor this week. The doctor stated he was changing the way his practice worked, in order to provide a more “personalized approach”. There will be time to really discuss medical needs, the card noted. The appointments will be unhurried and quickly obtained.

“To achieve these goals, my practice size will be smaller and there will be an annual fee.”

The return address listed a Specialdocs Consultants. A quick look up on Google told us all we needed to know: Roomie’s doctor is going concierge. Going concierge just in time to avoid the unwashed masses who promise to invade medical offices next year thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

The unwashed masses…that’s folks like you and me who for whatever reason, don’t currently have medical insurance. For all the lofty rants about freedom and liberty echoed by those who fought against Obamacare the last few years, bottom line is much of the pushback is coming from folks who don’t want to have to compete for medical care with the additional 10-15% more of Americans who will soon be able to get healthcare when they need it. And compete we all will, if the medical profession meets the newly insured by fleeing to walled practices, doors open only at the ka-ching of a dropped coin.

What can we expect from these new, walled practices?

Lest you’re thinking Royal Pains, and doctors that come to your home (and who also donate much of their free time to treating those who can’t afford their services), the reality is that you’ll still need to visit the doctor in his or her office. However, you will most likely be able to get an appointment more quickly, and yes, the doctor will be able to spend more time discussing your health issues with you. But you’ll get all of this only after you pay a hefty premium. In the St. Louis area, average concierge fees run between $1500.00 and $2000.00 a year.

In a glowing opinion piece on concierge medicine, a doctor writing for Forbes magazine implied that the fees paid are “within the means of most middle class families”. However, there are few families I know that can quickly and easily absorb an extra $150 or more a month, just for the honor of being able to call in for an appointment. For all that doctors bitch about receiving less money from Medicare, they still are doing much better than the average middle class family, whose income has remained fixed as grocery and other costs have increased.

What we’re seeing is the beginning of a class system within the medical industry, with the wealthier having quick access to medical care, while the rest of us scrape by, getting whatever we can get. Of course, there’s always been a class system in the medical industry, but now it’s more obvious.

In the Forbes piece, the doctor wrote:

Over the next decade, we will likely see the evolution of primary care delivery into two tracks. Some patients receive high-quality care from happy, motivated concierge doctors, whereas others will have to make do with rushed “assembly line” care from overworked providers trying to get their patients in and out the door as quickly as possible.

Over the next decade what we’ll see is a different attitude towards the medical community, thanks in part to these new walled off medical practices. Gone will be the days when doctors are treated like Gods. More people will get their medical advice from Dr. Google, than from Dr. Baker or Dr. Hsieh. We’ll also be seeing more of nurse practitioners and physician assistants than doctors, which is a trend we should encourage. Gone, too, are the days when we just accept whatever the doctor says—whether she says it in 10 minutes or 30.

We’re already seeing a change in how we view medicine. Rather than rush in and get antibiotics any time we or our kids get a sniffle, we suck it up and drink our orange juice. We’ve found that antibiotics have been over-prescribed in the last few decades, leading to antibiotic resistant infections that, unlike the common cold, can kill us.

We’re discovering that many of those medical tests our doctors want us to take are unnecessary, or could be replaced by less expensive alternatives. We’re even discovering that the annual physical that we’ve been told is absolutely necessary for good health may not be necessary after all for many of us. As for treating the measles or the mumps, most parents get their kids immunized, and do so at the local school or pharmacy, not the doctor’s office.

(Well, most parents that don’t belong to certain churches. that is.)

We already know what we need to do to be healthier in this country. We need to eat less processed, fat and sugar laden foods We need to lose weight. We need to quit smoking, and not drink so much. We certainly shouldn’t take Molly, or whatever “kill me” drug is currently popular.

We need to get off the couch and walk. And when we walk, we need to turn off the damn phones. We’d do better spending that $2000 on a relaxing vacation or fun new hobby than paying a concierge fee.

In other words, we need to practice common sense when it comes to our health. We don’t need a doctor telling us what we already know if we’d only be honest with ourselves.

So, we need our doctors, true, but we need to work on needing them a lot less. Maybe then the doctors won’t flee from us in terror.

Is roomie going to pay the fee? He visits the doctor once a year. He isn’t particularly fond of him. He certainly doesn’t like him well enough to pay for the privilege of just being his patient.


Where the healthcare reformers are failing…badly

aroli was talking about an incident in her neighborhood via Twitter that I later found out to have been at a Healthcare reform protest put on by MoveOn. Karoli recounts the pro-reformer’s side of the event, and there seems to be any number of people wanting to jump on that particular wagon. I’m not one of them.

The facts, if I understand them correctly, are that a group of about 150 pro-reform protestors showed up for a rally, and a much smaller anti-reform group formed across the street. Everything should have been fine if this state had been maintained. The worst that could happen is people going hoarse yelling at each other.

It didn’t remain the same though. Karoli writes that the anti-reform protestors were blocking access to the protest side, but her photo shows no one was blocked, and the anti-reform protest was too small to physically block anyone’s access to the cross walk. More importantly, the anti-reform people stayed on their side of the street. It was the pro-reform person who started this brouhaha, because they were the ones to cross the street, effectively busting into the other side’s territory. In Karoli’s words:

Several minutes later, there was another altercation. My best recollection is that this man saw what happened to the woman and reacted to it. I cannot say with certainty where he was when he saw it — he may have arrived and was navigating his way through that group, or he may have crossed the street to defend her. He was confronted by the same man. I could tell from where I was that the man was belligerent, angry, and confrontational.

The man in the orange shirt hit the pro-reform guy (I’m going to call him PR Guy just to keep the players straight). Hard. ( tweeted in real time) He punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and into that thruway. As you can see from the photo, cars drive straight through that without stopping. The pro-reform guy could have been run over. He got up, tried to get back up on the curb, but Orange Shirt guy was in his face. Finger in his face, PR Guy standing, steps up to the curb, and there’s a scuffle. Orange shirt seemed to have PR Guy in a hold, but again, I was across the street, so won’t state that as absolute fact. Next thing I see is PR Guy’s hat being tossed into the street, both yelling at one another, then Orange shirt walks away, PR Guy picks up hat and crosses to our side.

When he gets to our side, he tells a story in one sentence: “He punched me hard, straight in the face, so I bit his finger off.”

The woman that Karoli references was someone handing out flyers, who went across the street for some reason. Supposedly while on the other side of the street the man in the orange shirt, whose finger was later bit off, shooed her back across the street, doing so in what Karoli calls an aggressive manner.

Fine. Dandy. If the woman felt threatened, she should have called the police. However, if the woman was across the street trying to hand out flyers to these people, which my spider sense tells me could have been a very real possibility, then it’s not surprising she triggered an angry response. You don’t bait people when emotions are high.

Regardless of why she was on the other side, the woman crossed back and she was in no danger. It was inappropriate for any other pro-reform protestor to cross back over, regardless of reason. This put the pro-reform movement squarely into acting as the aggressor in this event.

Regardless of who did what, the pro-reform movement was in the wrong. Worse, they allowed themselves to be set up in such a way that it could potentially help discredit what they’re supposedly protesting for.

I have to wonder what’s more important to the pro-reform movement at this time: the healthcare reform? Or the healthcare reform protests? Because from my seat, the latter has real potential to hurt the former, if more incidents like this occur.


update More information on the incident. It sounds like this was more of an altercation that came about because Code Pink also attended the protest. Why Code Pink felt they had to be there is anyone’s guess.

last update Corrections: the person who lost part of his finger was the first to actually cross the street and confront a pro-reform protestor, before crossing back over to his side. He was the man wearing Khaki, not the orange shirt guy. He also threw two punches at the guy who bit him, not one. The police are not actively looking for the guy who did the biting, probably because Khaki was the one to throw the first punch.

Frankly, no one was an innocent bystander in this. Time to move on to what really matters: healthcare reform.