Health Insurance: Why is this so damn hard? (Part 2)

March 6, 2014

Here’s the latest on my Obamacare travail . . .

Back Story

If you recall, in early February 2014, I received a nasty-gram from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). I had just gotten set up with my government-mandated Obamacare a month before that, but the nasty-gram appeared to be telling me that I would not be getting any health care coverage, or food stamps, or anything else from the government, through April of 2014, because – get this – I had failed to show for some appointment. An appointment that I didn’t even know about.

Read my blog post on that here:

Health Insurance: Why is this so damn hard? (Part 1)

After I had cleared the matter up with DSHS over the phone, I followed up with the Legislative Health Care Committee in Olympia, because I assumed that thousands of such nasty-grams had gone out and lots of people would be thinking that they had been denied Obamacare. So here’s what I sent to the legislature:

E-mail to the State Health Care Committee (2.10.14)

You’ll note the e-mail is addressed to Representative Eileen Cody, who is heading that committee. Everyone else got a Cc:

Ms. Cody’s must have forwarded my e-mail to DSHS for reply because a response came back from one Ms. Susan Todd (“DSHS Constituent Program Supervisor”) the very next day. Wowsers!

Unfortunately, Ms. Todd’s reply was lame to the point of being insulting. She either hadn’t read my e-mail to Ms. Cody . . . or she thinks that I can’t read . . . because in her response she said that my health care coverage hadn’t been denied (only food stamps and cash had) even though the DSHS letter clearly states that I can’t receive health care coverage from the gub’mint:

Here’s what Ms. Todd said:

The denial letter only referred to DSHS medical and cash assistance,  not to Washington Apple Health which is administered through the Health Care Authority.  The letter was not a cancellation letter.

Full e-mail here:

Susan Todd e-mail to David Preston (2.11.14)

Granted, technically there’s another health-care related agency involved here: the Health Care Authority.

–To which I say: So? Why should I, an ordinary citizen, have to try and keep this alphabet soup of agencies straight in my head. The plain fact is that I shouldn’t have gotten a letter from ANY government agency saying that I was denied for ANYTHING. And I especially should not have gotten a denial letter from DSHS, because I hadn’t applied to DSHS for anything.

So I’ll ask this again: Why is this so damn hard? And why can’t anybody in the government ever admit that they screwed up? 

Personally, I blame lawyers. But that’s a post for another time.

* * * * *

So anyway, I wrote an e-mail back to Ms. Todd – with a Cc: to Ms. Cody and the other legislators – explaining that she had not given me an acceptable answer. In the reply, I also asked her what she planned to do about the thousands of OTHER people who had taken the DSHS nasty-gram at face value and were assuming that they had no health care coverage through March, 2014 . . .

David Preston e-mail to Susan Todd (2.13.14)

Ms. Todd did not answer my e-mail for 12 days. So I sent another, slightly more urgent one. And this time, I asked her who her boss was. This is my standard policy whenever I get the silent treatment from a government worker. I go: “Who’s your boss?”

Second David Preston e-mail to Susan Todd (2.25.14)

I don’t think Ms. Todd would have answered my e-mail had I not added that implied who’s-your-boss threat. And yet, even when she did answer, on February 27,  she sent me this dismissive response:

Mr. Preston,

I provided detailed information in my email to you on 2/11/2014. I advised you that the denial letter only referred to DSHS medical and cash assistance and not to Washington Apple Health, which is administered by the Health Care Authority. The letter was not sent in error.

You may wish to visit the Health Care Authority website. There is extensive information on Medicaid expansion and Washington Apple Health.

Thank you,

Susan Todd

–Notice that she didn’t answer my question about her boss, but I can get that information later. And I will. When I do, of course I’m going to publish it. In the meantime, would you like to know how much the taxpayers are paying Ms. Todd to blow them off?

Oh! I’m so glad you asked!

The good news is that Ms. Cody forwarded my e-mail to the Health Care Authority for a response, and that same day (February 27) I got an e-mail response from a Ms. Jessie Dean at the Health Care Authority. Ms. Dean’s response to me, in stark contrast to Ms. Todd’s, was respectful and informative, and though Ms. Dean did not agree with my suggestion that the government should clarify the matter of coverage with Obamacare recipients who got the DSHS nasty-gram letter, she did at least ACKNOWLEDGE that the original denial letter I got was confusing:

Jessie Dean e-mail to DBP (2.27.14)

So here’s what’s weird. The response I got from the Ms. Dean at the Health Care Authority was actually pretty good. And yet, this was DSHS’s screw-up, not HCA’s. Go figure!

I wonder: Is this the way Obamacare is going to play out in Washington State, with people getting passed around from agency to agency, getting all different kinds of treatment (or mistreatment) along the way? God, I hope not. But the signs don’t look good. And my experience gets even more “interesting,” so stay tuned . . . .


You can assume that 99 out of 100 cases where some citizen has a complaint against the treatment they get at the hands of the Ms. Todds of this world end at Step 1, with the citizen getting treated like a child and having a door slammed in his face. I’m convinced that the only reason I got any satisfaction on this was because I was keeping legislators informed of the situation. So THANKS, Ms. Cody, and everyone else along the way who helped.

Ending up on a positive, here’s the letter I sent back to Ms. Dean (with Cc’s to all) thanking her for response and suggesting that perhaps she could teach a class at DSHS in how to respond to citizen inquiries . . .

DBP e-mail to Jessie Dean (3.4.14)

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