JDA dropped my employer-provided health insurance on 09/30/09. The COBRA administration company processed my elections (to stick with what we had, retroactive to 10/01/09) and supposedly sent the health insurance company a notification to this effect on 10/05/09. Now here's where the stupidity index of this process suddenly zooms to stratospheric levels. The health insurance company can take up to 15 business days to process such a notification. Of course, it can't really take more than about 15 seconds to actually do this; since I am already in their system, all they have to do is change my status back to "covered".
But that's not the really bad part, which is that, until they have actually done this update to their system, they "can't" -- I'm thinking the correct word here is "won't" -- verify even that they have actually received the COBRA administrator's update notification. So, if one of the parties somehow dropped the ball on the communication of the update notification message, there is no way for me to determine that fact until at least 15 business days after it is supposed to have happened. And of course then a new 15-day cycle would begin, with the COBRA administration company probably just repeating exactly the same process that failed the first time. I told the COBRA adminstration company's CSR I spoke with that this sounds to me like a recipe for catastrophe, to which he responded, "Yes, it certainly does work out that way sometimes". How's that for "customer service"? If someone was determined to find a way to maximize the frustration and powerlessness of the paying customers in this scheme, I doubt that they could significantly improve on how it works right now.
So, here it is 10/20/09, and the providers have no choice but to treat me as someone who has no health insurance coverage. They react to this is a number of different ways. The best response is "OK, we'll hold onto this until you tell us that it's safe to submit it". Slightly less convenient for me is "We'll bill you". Hopefully this is really code for "Call us back when it's safe to submit it." If I really have to pay out of pocket and then seek reimbursement myself, that could lead to a cash-flow problem, not to mention being a hassle. But the worst response is the one Johns Hopkins uses: "You have to pay at the time of service". The likely fee for this Thursday's initial stem cell transplant consultation at Hopkins: USD 545.00. That's going to be a painful line item on the next credit card statement.