Stamped receipt of this applicant’s ACA-spurred health insurance application submitted at an HRA Medical Assistance Unit in Brooklyn, N.Y.
By Valerie Seckler
This week, one U.S. citizen’s application for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act entered the land of the absurd.
It landed there in a return visit to a Brooklyn, N.Y., office of New York State’s Human Resources Administration Thursday, with an HRA stamped, signed receipt in hand for my ACA/New York State of Health-spurred insurance application. Just as instructed by an HRA supervisor at window 7 in a visit to the Clinton Hill facility Wednesday.
Nonethless, HRA staff still did not convey what “information/documentation required by this agency to establish your eligibility” could be missing from my application and delaying receipt of Emblem Health insurance. The application submitted on Nov. 6 is nine pages long. The several supporting documents asked were included when dropping off the paperwork to window 18 at HRA’s Brooklyn offices after a three-hour wait. Emblem is one of eight health insurance plans green-lighted for this applicant in the first part of applying for coverage, at the New York State of Health website (http://bit.ly/123vj0V). Medicaid funds finance these plans, in part, an aspect of the Affordable Care Act.
The failure to communicate and advance the process was doubly strange considering that eligibility granted for financially assisted health insurance came one month earlier via the Affordable Care Act at New York’s new online insurance marketplace. The eligibility nod triggered HRA’s mailing of the Access NY paper insurance application — currently stuck in a mire of information void. For now, it is classified as rejected, a status delivered only seven work days after it was submitted and before any additional information asked could be provided.
In a local conference Tuesday to remedy the problem, at an HRA office in downtown Brooklyn, an advisor said it ought to be simple to resolve. An additional form might be sought or something already submitted could have been lost in the system’s massive paperwork shuffle, Mr. Lu noted. He advised to simply ask an HRA supervisor or section director in Clinton Hill what else is needed. “They have it all there,” Lu said when asked if anything ought to be brought in the return trip.
Unfortunately, the staff with whom I spoke at the HRA Medical Assistance unit Wednesday repeatedly summarized their notice’s content (“incomplete application”) rather than stating what additional information could still be needed. They made false and repeated claims that this applicant did not submit an application. They raised repeated questions as to whether I had done so. They said there is no HRA office in downtown Brooklyn and there is no Mr. Lu. In the end, HRA staff said that unless I returned with a stamped front-page receipt, there was no way to know if they had my application. Really? “Mission Impossible” comes to mind.
Instead of relaying what additional information is needed to obtain health insurance, in a return visit Thursday, Mrs. Johnson, an HRA supervisor, said:
1. You don’t have your entire health insurance application on hand. [The one submitted Nov. 6 at this very office in Brooklyn? Yep. The one I was not asked to bring in again when asked Wednesday to return with the application’s stamped front-page receipt? Yep.]
2. The HRA Medical Assistance unit in Brooklyn “doesn’t process” health insurance applications, it only accepts them. [But it does mail applicants notices asking for more information.]
3. Nov. 15 is very soon to receive a rejection notice for a health insurance application submitted Nov. 6. [Progress! I thought so too, since the approval process typically takes 45 days-60 days.]
4. “I’m done with you.”
5. “You only want to talk.”
By Valerie Seckler
One week of shopping New York’s new health insurance marketplace later, one of New York’s 20 million residents has found some useful information, some helpful customer service and plenty of delays and snafus. The goal is simply lowering individual health insurance costs in New York, where they are reported to be the highest in the U.S., averaging north of $1,000 a month.
After visiting the New York State of Health website — nexus of hope for more affordable health insurance — for three hours on Day 1, Oct. 1, three accomplishments could be claimed: browsing topline information, registering for an email newsletter and creating an account. This experience was three times better than that of many people out of the gate who couldn’t open accounts or reach the Empire State’s health benefit exchange, one of more than two dozen opening in 16 states around the U.S. (New York State of Health intends to be consistent with the Affordable Care Act, according to its own explanation of the new insurance marketplace.)
Eight days, four tries at health exchange visits and three successful entries to the New York State of Health website also resulted in an application to shop for more affordable health care that is about half finished. Culprits stalling completion are two. Mostly it’s being booted off a site that is easy to use. Glitches in New York State of Health’s own responses to some user information submitted also halted the process. Ironic humor intervened when the website said a piece of personal data suggested income of millions of dollars. No such thing.
A surprise of the pleasant variety came via phone. Helpline hold times have been short. Customer service representatives have been helpful. Website overload is chief among the problems still being addressed, they’ve said. Technical problems could account for nonsensical responses to certain personal data inputs. While these answers are not problem solvers, they are informative. The stopgap solution is unsurprising: try back later.
Photo: New York State of Health website, Oct. 9, 2013
New York State of Health Twitter: http://twitter.com/NYStateofHealth
On Sunday, 30 June 2013, Shutterstock employees and their guests participated in the NYC Pride March. The tweets collected below give a good overview of the event.
Fittingly, change characterized New York City’s Gay Pride Parade in 2013. Oddly, changes in the Greenwich Village stretch of the parade’s march were absent almost any crowd talk of Marriage Equality victories just a few days earlier. Scarcely a single mention of the Supreme Court’s decisions to shoot down the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 could be heard in two-plus hours of spectating in the gated corner of Fifth Avenue and East 8th Street.
This phenomenon was all the more surprising given the march’s generally serious tone, a departure from decades past of uproarious celebrations, blasting music, exuberant dancing and costume dressing. Those former markers made brief appearances to be sure. But flag drill teams, marching bands, flatbed floats and message-bearing placards were in considerably greater evidence, creating the ambiance of a homecoming parade on Main Street, more than what has mostly been a broadly entertaining and affirming celebration.
— Valerie Seckler
Photo fourth from top is by Valerie Seckler in lower Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, June 26, 2013, as posted by Shutterstock in its Storify tale of its pride parade march.
Favorite spots and experiences at Yankee Stadium since the ballpark in the Bronx opened in 2009. — Foursquare list and photos by Valerie Seckler
Going to a baseball game at the new Yankee Stadium can bring on a bout of sensory overload. The experience is something akin to visiting an amusement park. Visual and audio stimulation is neverending. Music plays. Flashback footage and video games cross the massive outfield screens. Ads flashing lights and colors zip around the Stadium decks’ facades. Baseball game broadcasts by John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on WCBS radio accompany trips to restrooms and to food stands, where flat screens monitor the action on the field.
Since the 2009 season, the one the Yankees organization tagged the venue’s inaugural season, the volume has returned to a reasonable level in the Stadium’s high-quality JBL speaker system. Commercials no longer blast relentlessly between half-innings. Less than one season of loud griping by fans and the media moved Yankee Stadium game days closer to the pastoral feeling imparted by blue sky, sun, and green grass, a momentary departure from their urban setting.
Fans come and go from their seats with greater frequency than in the old Yankee Stadium. There’s so much more to do and see. There’s an expansive team store, filled with tempting merch. There’s a Yankees museum. That’s just the beginning.
— Valerie Seckler