You Have the Right Not To Be Angry

If you are not wealthy in this country, you have a very limited right to express anger publicly.   Anger, like health care, is a privilege in America, not a right.

A wealthy person who feels aggrieved may hire a team of lawyers to legally bludgeon the person who inflicted the injury.   An angry wealthy person may take out a full-page ad in the newspaper of record, calling for vengeance against someone he hates.   Our current president did this, as a private citizen, when he purchased a full-page of the New York Times to call for the death of five boys locked up for, and eventually exonerated of, a heinous crime.    Anger is all the rage among the rich and powerful.  It is a luxury not permitted to the weak.

I was told in no uncertain terms in January, mistakenly it turns out, that my Affordable Care Act health insurance had been properly terminated without notice, for my failure to do something I had no notice of.   I’d been told by the insurance company that everything I needed to do to have 2020 health coverage had been done.  Then they informed me I had no health insurance because I’d failed to pay a “binder” during a once-a-year ten day grace period that nobody told me about.  The invoice made no mention of a do-or-die grace period.

I had no warning, no chance to fix what they told me was fatally broken in our contract.   This lack of a heads-up struck me as fundamentally unfair, as it probably is, except in a world where superhuman corporate “persons” rule over regular puny earthling persons who proceed at our own peril.

I was angry about this, even after the multiple complaints I submitted resulted in the reversal of this irreversible decision.   Within a very short time I had my insurance restored;  in fact, I had a call from the insurance company apologizing and telling me that my insurance had never actually been terminated.   I rescheduled a canceled cardiologist appointment and had an expensive treatment paid for by the insurance company, at about 30% of the uninsured sticker price, with only my co-pay required from me.

Still, I was irked about the lack of accountability for a health insurance company that had made me suffer agonizing anxiety as I exerted myself mightily to find the hidden legal remedy (hint: NYS Department of Financial Services).  I am pretty sure that the “mistaken” termination had been unlawful, this seems clear by how quickly the final determination against me was changed.  

To my dismay, nobody I spoke to in the city, state or federal bureaucracy could tell me what that violated law was, not its name, its existence, what exact patient protections it contained.  I wanted to see the text of the law, to read the precise patient protections my health insurance provider had ignored, to such unfair and frightening effect.  It is apparently not the right of a powerless citizen to have this kind of information.

I began lashing out in letters and emails, and on the phone.  A Resolution Specialist from Healthfirst called and promised me a written apology and a record of the many calls I’d had with the insurance company, which would allow me to trace exactly what had been done to me and how it had been corrected.   I wanted a roadmap of how the unknowable law had been violated.  I feel a strong need to inform others in my situation of their rights and legal remedies.   None of what I was promised by Healthfirst was delivered.  

I became increasingly unsettled, as my case was repeatedly “escalated” and never resolved.  I included some inflammatory remarks in letters and phone calls and asked pointed questions about some very obvious things.  

For example: due process is guaranteed in our constitution.  It is fundamental to a free society that people have the right to some kind of hearing, some process, before they can be deprived of something they legally own.  In my case, I’d re-enrolled for coverage in time and subsequently paid for my health insurance through June.  How was it legal to void our contract without notice to the consumer?

As if in answer to this question, I was informed on Good Friday, during this pandemic (not a very good Friday for me) that my insurance had been terminated again, without so much as an email to inform me of this sobering fact, and without any reason given, effective March 31, 2020.

I learned this when I had a call from a doctor I was scheduled to see (over the phone) on Wednesday telling me my insurance came back “inactive.”  When I called Healthfirst to snarlingly enquire, the rep confirmed that they had been instructed to terminate my insurance by the New York State of Health Marketplace, the state’s sole purveyor of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act health insurance policies.

In the absence of law, those with the power to do so can freely oppress those who are powerless.   If you have no power, you must not be angry about this.  Anger is so bad for your health, your immune system, all of your relationships!

I was told the New York State of Health contacted Healthfirst on March 11, instructing the private corporation to terminate its contract with the patient.  No reason was given.   Any day between March 11 and March 25 would have been an ideal time for either or these entities to inform the patient of the jeopardy he was about to face (no health insurance during a worldwide plague) and the need for immediate action on his part to prevent the loss of the insurance he’d already paid for.  

There was no email, phone call or letter — none from Healthfirst, none from the so-called New York State of Health.   Healthfirst sent me a notice that my ongoing cardiac treatment had been approved through July, an invoice showing that my premiums were paid through June, and numerous instant email reminders that I’d not taken the voluntary customer satisfaction survey after each call.   Not a peep about the insurance cancelled ten days before I found out about it when a doctor’s office alerted me to it.

Had the doctor’s office not called, I’d still be blissfully unaware that my health insurance has been quietly null and void for thirteen days and counting.  Seems there should have been some legal process due before a patient is deprived of healthcare during a pandemic, no?

The well-paid CEO of Healthfirst would be perfectly within her rights to be furious at me, after being subjected to provocative lines like these, no matter how otherwise accurate they might be:

A corporate “person” is an appetitive psychopath, without conscience or remorse, driven to devour and only constrained by the rare regulation in place to restrain the gnawing impulse to maximize profits, a corporation’s only legal imperative.

The removal of health insurance during a plague is arguably an excessive punishment for an impolitic expression of something that is well-known: private health insurance corporations have every incentive to cull from their rolls older, low-income patients who cost them far more in medical care than they pay in premiums.   That’s just good business sense, however else one might feel about it.  

Why the New York State of Health intervened a month ago, as I was told by Healthfirst the other day, with no reason given, to terminate the ACA insurance of a customer who had re-enrolled and completed his end of the contract with a private insurance company is a question I will not be able to get an answer to any time soon.   During this terrible plague, everyone is overwhelmed, many mistakes are made, lines for help are very long and it is best to stay calm, even when provoked to great fear and anger.  Particularly if you are powerless in a state ruled by the bottom line.

That said, it would be a wonderful thing for citizens to actually be allowed to know the laws that protect them from arbitrary and capricious decisions with terrifying consequences.  It’s kind of maddening that we are not, if I might be so bold.


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