Thursday, May 17, 2007

US Gov't + Computers = a mess

So we got a letter the week before Ben was born saying that my medicaid had been terminated no less than twelve times. In November 2005. This came as a surprise to me, the doctors, the pharmacy, and the hospital, since they had been putting things through since then and Medicaid had been paying for it. The reason I got terminated? Because "REBECCA's income is over the allowable limit." This is a joke. Since I quit working to raise Caleb, I have made $162.50. All of that in March, 2007. I don't think that qualifies as over any limit. It's not even gas money anymore.

Then we got a notice that Dan was terminated because he didn't ask for medicaid. He's one year old. Nobody told him (or me) that he needed to say "Please" to get coverage.

Then we got a notice that we needed to fill out reapplication/recertification paperwork for everyone. The notice was dated April 16, 2007. The Instructions said to return the paperwork by January 9, 2007.

We also got a notice saying we couldn't get CHP+ coverage for our kids in January 2005 because we were approved for Medicaid.

Then we got a notice that the kids were terminated because they didn't turn in the paperwork by January 2007. That's the paperwork we got in April 2007.

So then today I got notification that I was terminated again in 2005. And another letter that said that the kids were denied CHP+ coverage again, this time a couple dozen times from February 2007-June 2007 (which, Caleb pointed out, hasn't even happened yet!). Why were they denied CHP+ coverage? Because they have medicaid!

Except nobody told me they have medicaid! And what about me? Do I also have medicaid backdated to February? That, at least, would cover the $9000 hospital bill (that was just me!).

So, in the midst of all of this, we spent weeks and weeks calling people, and nobody would get back to us for the longest time. Finally the caseworker called and reported, very kindly but sounding rather tired, that they are understaffed and overworked, but she'd put the baby, at least, at the top of the pile so he could ge the care he needed in Denver. She was really nice.

I think all those notices and decisions were made by a computer program. Thus the over-the-top kind of notification (being denied and terminated dozens and dozens of times) and the weird dates and stuff.

Anyway, as a result of all of this, we have had some problems. For one, Ben needs to see a urologist at Children's Hospital in Denver. He needed to see the urologist within the first two weeks of his life to make everything easy for everyone. The trouble is, they wouldn't even let us schedule the appointment because he didn't have medicaid. So that, right there, complicated things immensely.

Then, we got in with an organization that works for, but not in, the hospital getting public aid for people with no insurance so they can afford their hospital stay. They called us so we could get everything taken care of regarding the labor and delivery. They informed me that I have to have birth certificates and state-issued ID cards for everyone in order to apply for aid. Especially, they said, for the baby.

So then, when my caseworker called back, she confirmed that new laws require everyone applying for aid to have a birth certificate and state-issued photo ID to prove you are citizens or legal aliens. She said the baby was exempt for the first year.

The trouble was, I didn't have birth certificates for anyone. They're too expensive. These programs are for the desperately poor, living at 80% below federal poverty level even to qualify. So requiring people to come up with these documents is not as reasonable as well-paid lawmakers think. Birth certificates cost about $17; state IDs cost about $8. So it cost me almost $90 just to apply for medicaid. That's a lot of money for someone who only can qualify for the program if they don't have ANY money. Duh. Good thing Mom and Dad are generous is all I can say.

To the government's credit, you can now order birth certificates online. In Utah, you have to do it through the state website or you get charged $6 extra for handling. In Colorado, you have to order through the County website, or you get charged $6 for handling. But everyone got the birth certificates to me within 5 days. Boulder County mailed Daniel's so that I got it Thursday when I ordered it Tuesday afternoon. Not bad.

So today we got everyone cleaned up and dressed and threw them all in the car and braved construction to take four kids down to the Driver's License Division to get IDs. I was dreading this. For one thing, they didn't list anywhere online what documents I needed to have. For another, the DLD is known for long lines, being hot, and grumpy workers. And I have four kids and the oldest is 5, and nobody had eaten because we woke up and ran. We got there ten minutes before they closed. We thought they were closed because there were four workers and nobody else inside. No line. So we got to work. Turns out you have to have a birth certificate and social security number to get an ID. So it was fortunate that I wrote all the kids' social security numbers on their shot records, which I carry with me all the time so I won't lose them. (I hope my purse never gets stolen.....). Anyway, we worked through the system really fast. The workers said they're never that empty on a Thursday right before they close. It was a "fluke." I say, "It was a serious blessing for a tired mommy with four babies!"

So we got three IDs. Why only three? Despite the fact that the aid-getter insisted Benjamin needed an ID, you can't get one for a newborn. Why? Social Security numbers are issued for newborns, true, but you turn the paperwork in to the hospital for the birth certificate, and they take 7-10 days to process it. THEN they turn it over to Social Security, and they take 7-14 weeks to process it and another 2-10 weeks to issue the number and card, according to their paperwork. I've received the kids' numbers a lot faster than that before, but it usually takes 4-6 weeks. So you can't get a state-issued ID for newborns. By the time you get the required paperwork, they're not newborns anymore.

This overabundance of paperwork is a little silly, anyway. You get a birth certificate for being born. How do you get a social security number? Show your birth certificate. The SS Number is really proof of birth certificate. Then how do you get a Photo ID? Show proof that you have a birth certificate (SS number) and the birth certificate. I understand that they want a picture to prove that you are who your birth certificate says you are. But you see the problem?

I must admit, I'm really tired of winding my way through this jungle. It's not easy to get aid. It's expensive and difficult to sort through. And we haven't even dealt with the fact that we can't prove no income (we gave them bank statements and our business financial records and hoped that covered it). Can I jump through a few more hoops? I guess so. But it sure seems like someone could simplify the system. And I'm an educated person. What about people who are mentally disabled? They're the ones who really need the aid, and I can't see how they would ever sort through this mess. Especially if they got letters like I did.....

And I'm still not sure exactly what we do about the fact that we went through a whole pregnancy approved and then got unapproved. I guess nothing until they send us a bill. But it wasn't our fault that we were not approved--we qualified in the first place, and notified them of the pregnancy, as required. Then the computers got involved.

It's like the billing lady at the doctor's office said, "How many phone calls would you make for $13,000?"

No comments: