Advice for Screwed NYS health care consumers

The only readily available help for someone in NYS who buys insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act  (which can only be purchased at the ineptly run New York State of Health Marketplace) is the Attorney General’s Consumer Health Bureau.   I reached out to them when I had my health insurance abruptly terminated without notice last week.  The woman I spoke to was very kind.   She sadly got back to me to a couple of days later to tell me that the company that had screwed me had responded to their query and had not changed its mind.

New York State’s Commissioner of Insurance position was abolished in 2011 along with the Department of Insurance.   The regulation of insurance companies in New York State was assumed by the newly reorganized Department of Financial Services which also oversees banking, finance and commerce.  Makes sense, no?  As of a few years ago this agency had no ability to help consumer victims of insurance company fraud or abuse.  It only took complaints against consumers who the insurance companies accused of fraud.  Makes sense.

When the Attorney General’s consumer health bureau gave me the sad news that there was nothing further I could do to get my insurance for 2020 back, I continued my online research and round of phone calls.  I eventually found a new online consumer complaint form at the NYSDFS website.   That form is here:  https://www.dfs.ny.gov/complaint.

Within two business days I had a call from the insurance company, Healthfirst, informing me that my insurance was in full force and effect.  They apologized for their “mistake” and acknowledged that the DFS complaint had caused them to “escalate” the appeal process they’d previously told me didn’t exist.  Cool, now I can reschedule the appointment with the cardiologist I had to cancel for today.

I emailed to let the kind woman at the AG’s office know that, after only a week of indescribable stress and aggravation, my complaint had been quickly resolved by the DFS complaint process.   She wrote back to tell me she was happy for me and asked if I wouldn’t mind helping a consumer who’d been screwed as I had been, could she give her my email address?  I opted to write to the screwed citizen instead.   Here is what I advised her (and anyone else in NYS sodomized by an unaccountable, constantly feeding artificial “person” of eternal life):

Kimberly:
 
I was given your email address by the overwhelmed woman at the AG’s help desk, who asked if I’d be willing to help you.   I am a private citizen who was recently screwed by my health insurance company.   Not sure why the woman at the AG’s help desk couldn’t help you, and I’ll be writing to the assistant AG in charge of the sympathetic but unhelpful help desk (will not mention any names, the woman I spoke to was perfectly nice and really tried to help), but here is my advice.
 
I can’t go into the details of how you were screwed, believe me I know how many ways the virtually unregulated private insurance companies — and the accursed NY State of Health “Marketplace” — have to screw us.    I’m sure thousands are similarly abused.   Here are my recommendations:
 
1) contact the NYS Department of Financial Services today.  They are the agency that oversees health insurance in NY State.   Their NYC phone number is 212-331-6266 * (I don’t know what county you live in).  They are open til 8 pm today.   Wherever you live:  Go to their website https://www.dfs.ny.gov/complaint and submit your complaint today.  You can do it on-line.  
 
If your complaint is complicated, write it out before you work on the on-line form, since you have only 30 minutes to complete the complaint once you start.  Cut and paste the complaint you’ve already written, if you think it will take a long time to put your concerns in order.
 
Keep it brief and to the point.  I was cut off health insurance for 2020 without notice when I called to pay my premium last week.  The AG’s Health Bureau Help Desk called Healthfirst and was told my termination was done properly and in compliance with the “guidelines” and that nothing more could be done.   Within 2 business days of filing my complaint at NYSDFS I had my insurance restored, Healthfirst told me it had been a “mistake” and they were sorry.   I’m sure they were very sorry… corporations always say they are, when they are caught and there is no consequence to them for apologizing.
 
2) If the NYSOH Marketplace screwed you (as they have screwed me twice in the last few years) file a formal appeal over the phone (this cumbersome process will take about 3-4 months for a determination that will likely be in your favor).  I’d recommend also writing directly to the unaccountable political appointee who runs it.  Include a copy of your NYSDFS complaint.    Here is her contact information (as best I can determine it, she keeps a very low profile):
 
Donna Frescatore
Executive Director, New York State of Health Marketplace
New York State Department of Health
Coming Tower
Empire State Plaza
Albany NY 12237
 
and this (though you’ll likely find it completely useless)  https://www.health.ny.gov/contact/doh800.htm
We are victimized in a state with virtually no protections for health care “consumers” who are screwed.  Call NYSDFS, that’s your best first stop, and hopefully your last.  
 
Best of luck to you, be direct, give ’em hell, and don’t take this abuse lying down!  Many of us are similarly screwed, take courage from the new help now available at the Department of Financial Services.
* This is actually the telephone number for the New York City Human Resources Administration, Public Engagement Unit.   I’m told the NYSDFS 800 number is as useless as it was the last time I entered their administrative cul du sac several years ago.

Hmmmm…

I just watched President Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, repeatedly quote from an impartial, unimpeachable constitutional expert who says this impeachment is illegal– his co-counsel Alan Dershowitz.  Yesterday, Kenneth Starr, architect of the Clinton impeachment, argued about the danger of partisan impeachments like the one against Trump, and the dodgy, unconstitutional standard of Abuse of Power, although it was at the center of the impeachment he engineered in 1998. [1]  

Now, apparently, Senate Republicans working closely with Trump’s defense team, are worried about the increased possibility of an actual partial impeachment trial– rather than opening and closing arguments, a session of questions from Senators and a quick vote to acquit the eternally victimized innocent president before the State of the Union next week.

Only in America, folks.

 

[1] These two lawyers, Dershowitz and Starr, by the way, were the top-shelf attorneys who got that excellent deal for Jeffery Epstein a decade ago, a slap on the wrist for employing under-age “prostitutes” (he gave them money).

Trump Ephemera

In our current age of in-your-pocket/in-your-face instant, disposable communication, traditional written documents are relied on less and less in daily life.   If you want to test how little a written page is regarded by most people today, try writing a letter to somebody.   Put it in an envelope, mail it.   In my recent experience, it is rare to ever hear more than a peep about it, if that.

It’s a shame that quickly thumbed, highly opinionated, disposable smartphone ephemera has largely replaced good writing in public discourse.   The famously short American consumer attention span is shorter than ever before, and growing shorter all the time.    The published statements of public figures like Churchill, Gandhi, FDR, Nixon, Goebbels live on.   They are printed on paper for the ages, available to scholars, historians and everybody else.   Not so with a text, email or tweet, which serves its immediate purpose and is quickly forgotten, lost in a massive haystack of such disposable communications.  

Check out the Hitlerian overtones of this one, part of a long tweet stream by the president of the United States, from last April, less than a year ago.  The echoes should be noted, and they deserve to be remembered.   Shot off right after AG Barr exonerated Trump of all wrong-doing in connection with accepting sweeping and systematic Russian help to win in 2016, with making sure insufficient evidence of “collusion” reached the Special Counsel and for his numerous attempts to thwart the investigation itself.   Trump tweeted “complete and total exoneration!” denounced the “big fat waste” of time and millions of dollars and ended on this ominous note:

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A favorite trope of Mr. Hitler and his followers was turning the tables on the “November Criminals” the sick and traitorous Jews and socialists who were forced to sign the humiliating and punitive German surrender on behalf of the military in November 1918.   The generals would not be tarred with that defeat, it was, the right wing story went, the goddamned sick and dangerous Jews and socialists who “stabbed undefeated Germany in the back.”  The popular justice often proposed for these treacherous traitors, shouted often in enthusiastic rallies of humiliated, angry Germans, was to “hang them from lamp posts.”  

Nothing to worry about here, of course, in our great democracy, with its exquisite system of checks and balances, ensuring that a tyrant will never be able to seize power here.

Here are a couple of the president’s many tweets, at random, from today, which should be reassuring:

 

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… America, America, God shed His grace on thee…

… and shit…

As the President’s Defense Begins

The president’s defense is that even if he did exactly what has been shown over the course of several days of opening arguments by his hated enemies, supported by the cherry-picked sworn testimony of anti-Trump members of the Deep State– traitorous career “diplomats” and their ilk– and so-called “corroborating” video clips of the president and his most powerful advisors — it does not amount to a crime, nor, by definition, anything serious enough to merit any kind of detailed fact-finding trial in the Senate.   The President’s position is that even if his irrationally enraged enemies in Congress manage to “prove” their case, which they can’t because they are all traitors and liars and don’t follow the law so their arguments are all false and invalid — it is not a case that merits impeachment, let alone removal from office.

Every American accused of a crime (or a high crime and misdemeanor) is entitled to a vigorous defense at trial.   Defense lawyers must cast reasonable doubt on the facts in evidence and the testimony of the witnesses to get acquittal for their client.  The appearance of a fair process is crucial to integrity of our legal system.  

If a judge has some connection to the case that gives any appearance that she might take one side or another, she must recuse herself, even if the suspicious looking connection is innocent.   The standard for recusal is an “appearance of impropriety”.   The same is true for the jurors, anyone with an interest in convicting or acquitting the accused, or an expressed prejudice, may not sit in judgment on the case.   That’s why the Senators who are acting as jurors in the impeachment had to take an oath to be impartial and uphold the constitution.

The accused never has any say about (let alone control of) the conduct of the legal proceedings.  The unalterable procedures that ensure due process for all accused citizens are part of our law.   In certain cases (as in overtly racist trials down south back in the day– and in some places to this day) the outcome is a certainty before the first bit of evidence is presented during the trial, but American law strives to avoid this kind of openly unfair trial today.   If active prejudice is involved in a conviction, and can be shown on appeal, it is grounds for overturning the verdict.   There is no such appeal in an impeachment trial, making it even more important that all relevant evidence and witness testimony is presented and carefully examined by the jury at the trial.

In the present impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, the head juror and trier of fact has announced, ahead of the trial, that he will work in close coordination [1] with the defendant’s defense team for a speedy acquittal, since once again, treason is afoot and the extremist opposition party, motivated by unreasoning hatred of an innocent man, is a lynch mob that must be stopped.  

The position of the president’s party toward impeachment is identical to their unified stand after the Special Counsel’s investigation of Russian influence on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 campaign (“sweeping and systematic” and ongoing) and the detailed description of Presidential Obstruction of Justice.  Their narrative is that the traitorous Mueller team was so twisted by their hatred of one innocent man that they contorted themselves to find no grounds to exonerate him for obstruction of justice!  Other members of the impeachment jury have also publicly committed to a speedy acquittal for the persecuted president.  No need for witnesses the defendant has been blocking from testifying, no need for any further evidence from anyone.  If it’s Shifty Adam Schitt, you must acquit!

OK, fine, everybody knows the deal.   The accused, the most powerful man in the world, has tremendous power over these elected officials of the Senate majority party who are now sitting in judgment at his impeachment trial.  He is the leader of their party.  He can destroy disloyal, “impartial” jurors’ chances for reelection by denying them campaign funds from the RNC, if he were that kind of vengeful person.   He can publicly mock them, instantly expose them to ridicule — a dangerous thing for any politician– if he were that kind of mean guy.  He can publicly and privately bully them, if he was inclined to bully people.  He could even invite reprisals against disloyal members of his party, if he was that kind of angry person.

Thankfully, the president is a very stable genius, an extremely stable genius.   Nothing to worry about here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

A complete, very, very short summary of Mr. Trump’s legal defense in the impeachment trial is here.

 

 

[1]  This pre-coordination neatly fits the definition of criminal conspiracy, not to mention violation of a sworn vow (perjury) to act as impartial jurors, Mitch.