What to do if your ACA health insurance is illegally terminated

If your insurance company terminates your insurance, claiming you missed a once a year ten-day “grace period”  for payment, go to this site and make an immediate on-line consumer complaint.   The complaint at this agency restored my illegally terminated health care in two business days.   The New York State Department of Financial Services (yeah, I know) now, finally, does the consumer protections functions of the abolished (in 2011) Department of Insurance.  The NYSDFS does what the Attorney General cannot do.  (I know…)

Here are the numbers of two offices in New York City that were enormously helpful while I was trying to have the illegal decision terminating my insurance overturned:

For immediate support, and solid advice during this illegal termination, contact the New York City Human Resources Administration, Department of Health, Public Engagement Unit (212-331-6266  M-Th  9am-8pm  Fri til 6:30).   Alexa at this office urged me to file the NYS Department of Financial Services’s on-line consumer complaint form.  She also assured me, 100%, that the unappealable corporate decision to terminate my insurance without notice would be reversed, which it was.  Bless her.

In addition to excellent and knowledgable support they will direct you to New York City’s new  program, NYC Care.  It  provides an extensive safety net for low-income individuals who lose access to affordable health care.   This wonderful pilot program can save a lot of lives, because it provides for low cost doctor visits long before a too late, ER diagnosis of a fatal stage of a once treatable disease.  This compassionate, life-saving program should be well-known by all New Yorkers and well-publicized until it is.   

NYC Care has a helpline at 646-NYC-CARE (692-2273).  The program is only active in the Bronx, so far, but if you go to any public hospital (Bellvue, Harlem Hospital, Jacobi, Lincoln, Montefiore and others)  you can enroll, at the Financial Planning or Business Office of that hospital, in the low-cost, pay-as-you-go “Options Program”.   


Happy Ending Story

So, I’m sitting at my kitchen table around 9 pm watching something on the computer and a smoke alarm goes off, either in the apartment upstairs or next door.   It sounds like the low battery warning.   The beep is very loud, designed to get attention, its pitch calibrated to make it impossible to ignore, it is keeping a very irritating beat, relentlessly.   It continues for several long, lengthening minutes.  I think, oh, shit, the low battery warning went off  upstairs and nobody’s home, it’s going to be a long, long night.   Finally I hear footsteps overhead and go out into the hallway.

It appears to be coming from the apartment of my next door neighbor, an elderly woman who always smiles graciously when we meet in the hall.   She comes to the door in her nightgown, after I identify myself, pointing to my door as I look at the peephole and try to think of the Spanish word for neighbor.   She tells me, in Spanish, with an apologetic tone, that she speaks no English.  I  point up to the smoke alarm, tell her I will fix it.   I climb on a kitchen chair, remove the alarm from its bracket, turn off the noise.   She thanks me after I put it back up, after I put the kitchen chair back in her immaculate kitchen, thanks me again as I leave her apartment.  I smile and wish her good night, thinking afterwards how easily I could have said “de nada”.   

We have been living next door to each other for so many years, in this largely Dominican neighborhood.   How is it I don’t know enough Spanish to speak to her in her own language?

L’espirit d’escalier

A saleswoman, just now, making small talk as she showed us samples before working up the estimate of a price, asked me what I did before I retired.  I told her I was a lawyer, and that I hated it.   Her daughter is a litigator, she said brightly, works for Aiken Gump [1], presumably litigating on behalf of corporate clients.  I smiled, sort of.  A moment later, l’espirit d’escalier [2] caught me and I had to shrug, with almost Gallic resignation, thinking of my missed much better answer to “what did you do before you retired?”– about my law career, my teaching career, about my life in general:

I conspicuously lacked the serenity to accept the things I could not change.


1] oy, my achin’ gump, as Sekhnet and I reflexively say whenever we hear the name of that law firm

{2]  L’esprit de l’escalier or l’esprit d’escalier is a French term used in English for the predicament of thinking of the perfect reply too late.

Slice of a NYC minute

I was walking in my neighborhood last night around midnight and I passed a young couple as I crossed the street toward my apartment.  They looked like they’d recently graduated high school.  The young woman was wearing very short shorts and a low cut tank top that clung to her in a very nice way.   As they passed me she caught my eye and said, “sir, he’s going to fuck my brains out tonight.”  In that split second our paths crossed I nodded, said “excellent idea” over my shoulder.   I meant it, too.  

Other People’s Problems

Truly, and this is a feature of human nature, it seems, if you don’t actually feel the pain or discomfort of somebody else, the best you can do is express abstract, if sincere, sympathy.   If you don’t know what the full extent of the misery really feels like, meaningful empathy is pretty hard to pull off and action to change the painful condition is literally unthinkable.

The real-feel temperature here in New York City at the moment is, let’s see… ah, what am I even whining about?   Only 109.   Actual temperature 97, though it is only 89 in the living room where I was playing the guitar a few minutes ago. 

I whine, but I can easily get relief from this killing heat and humidity.   I can get into a car chilled to 70 degrees, head over to a refrigerated supermarket for some cold drinks (in fact, I think I will, as soon as I’ve finished this little bit here), sit in a frosty cinema being entertained, and cooled, for a few hours.

What if you can’t do any of these things?   Suppose you are too poor to afford a movie or even a cold drink?   If your city or town is merciful they will have cooling centers in public buildings on a day like this.   An air-conditioned room where drenched, stinking poor people can gather to cool off for a while.   It saves a few lives.   In a wealthy country, that’s possible, you can set up cooling centers in public buildings to save a few poor souls from their inescapable anguish.    In poor countries, in towns without mercy, you just have to persevere on a day like this.

Seriously, though, if you have central air-conditioning, or even a room in your home you can cool off, remove the humidity from the air, you can ride out this kind of brutal weather pretty easily.   

On days like this I keep thinking of the billions of poor people all over the globe who have no relief from common torments of this sort, who simply, if the going gets tough enough, die.  I’m thinking of those poor bastards Trump has locked up, the stinking children he doesn’t allow to wash, the ones he has warehoused in cages that he insists are better than the shit-holes they come from.   Other desperate refugees detained on their way, fleeing death in their own countries, looking to America for refuge.   America to the world’s desperate: fuck you, assholes!   Spoken in my voice, through the glorious megaphones of our great, exceptional democracy.

If my brain wasn’t parboiled it would make me want to holler.

I’d better shut down this poor laptop, I could fry an egg on the metal.  Stay cool, everybody.