I know two great people who work at Kaiser Permanente, a large HMO that operates here in the western states. I really feel sorry for them.
Because given how many people I've met who fucking hate KP, I wonder if, when KP employees are at parties and a stranger asks, "so what do you do for a living?" they concoct some lie. I mean, would you want to own up to working for an organization that provides such an important service, yet so thoroughly annoys and frustrates so many people on such a regular basis? Do KPers fear saying, "I work for Kaiser Permanente," because they fully expect the questioner to recoil as if bitten by a black mamba, or to go off on a rant about how bad Kaiser screwed over a friend or several friends, or, worst of all, to simply shudder mildly as if they've just smelled something horrible and mutter "Oh. How nice."
I wonder if some KP employees just opt to lie and say they work in a humble but honorable profession that benefits the common good.
"So, what do you do for a living?"
"I clean out public lavatories."
"Really? Any chance for promotion there?"
"Oh yes, after a year, they'll give me a brush."*
Why this sudden annoyance with KP? you ask. A valid question. The answer is that I just got rejected by them today.
But perhaps I should start at the beginning. I worked at a lovely communications writing firm, Alling Henning and Associates, for a few months in 2004, long enough to qualify for their health plan. But then the calamity settlement came in and I decided I'd try to write for a living. So I left AHA and, as a result, I've been insured by AHA's health care plan, the aforementioned Kaiser Permanente, through COBRA. For 18 months. I've gotten check-ups from KP and never asked them for so much as an aspirin.
When COBRA was running out, I applied for a KP individual plan, since they already had my history and I'd been with them for nearly two years. No dice. The problem: "Hip replacement less than five years, and an unfavorable brain condition."
Ouch. That brain condition thing really hurt.
Now I like to think I'm a reasonable person. If KP wanted me to have a full check-up to make sure I was in good shape before insuring me, fine. I'm healthier than probably 90% of 44-50 year-olds in America. I don't smoke, exercise regularly, am not overweight, have low cholesterol, eat healthy meals(mostly) and have no history of chronic illness. Hell, I've never even had a cavity!
These things don't enter into the equation, however. And equation is the operative word here, I'm sure. They've got their tables and stats, and regardless of your history with them or the reality of your situation, the stats rule the day. "So long, low-maintenance but statistically unattractive gimp!"
Kaiser currently has a public relations campaign going here (gee, think they need it?) that features the slogan, "thrive." I've had fantasies of striking their billboards and bus placards by night, replacing the "thr" in thrive with a "j."
But as the lawn mower said, "I de-grass."
KP isn't the only villain here, I should mention. During the calamity, I was insured by Lifewise, another HMO in the area. They niggled on some stuff but overall I was satisfied with them. So I approached them first as my COBRA expiration approached. But they also turned me down for the same reason -- a hip replacement less than five years old. But at least they gave me an alternative: Oregon Medical Insurance Pool, which is the court of last resort for those of us who are healthier than 90% of the U.S. population but are cursed with pre-existing conditions from which we've been recovered for two years. That and unfavorable brain conditions.
I'm glad that I don't have anything really wrong with me, because, well, Jesus! What would you do? I guess what most Americans do: go without. Then if something really bad happens -- like cancer or the like -- you're not only up shit creek, but buried beneath the spring from whence shit creek issues.
It also makes me wonder why having a joint replacement within the last five years seems tantamount to having leprosy, gout, lupus and the mange. I'd do some research on the subject, but I'm afraid to.
Anyway, I'm sending my Oregon Insurance Pool application in tomorrow. Wish me luck. And those pagans among you (you know who you are), please work up an extra special nasty hex on Kaiser Permanente managers for the upcoming Vernal Equinox. But not that they all become cleaners of public lavatories. That's too good for 'em.
*Gag courtesy of Monty Python's Flying Circus.