Thursday, March 16, 2006

"I clean out public lavatories"

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.


Devon said...

I feel your pain, brother. When I tried to get my own health insurance when I've been out of work, I was denied because I have a history of depression. Hey -- don't consider the fact that I'm fine now, take my meds, and am probably healthier (and, therefore am cheaper to insure) than most overweight, unhealthy Americans. Now I know how diabetics feel when they say "I'm fine as long as I take my inexpensive medication." Sorry, chronic illness person, come back when you're obese or something and we'll talk. Don't get me started. . . !!
Anyway, I started out to respond about the Kaiser thing: There's a guy in California (I think) who has a Web site that takes the "thrive" campaign and has modified it to "thieves" to describe Kaiser and it's policies. Marty worked at Kaiser for 7 years and the Web site was a source of concern for his department: Public Affairs. As Marty says, he had the second-worst job in the world, working in Public Affirs for an HMO. The WORST job: a stand-up comic in Iraq.

Andrew said...

Yes, the "thieves" site you mention is the one I link to in my post with the phrase "annoys and frustrates." Argotnaut, diligent girl that she is, provides additional snarky links on her site in the post entitled "Son of Birth Control Quest."

We have a friend who went out with a girl from Canada for a while. She said she would never move to America because the health care system here is "barbaric." Tough to argue on that score.

Tavia said...

In the hex department, there's a great geas/spell you can do that involves either a mirror or a piece of malachite. It creates a "mirror of the soul" so that anyone looking at a person (I've never used it on a corporation, but the principle should be the same) can see their true nature. It's often called "the Emperor has no clothes." Of course, most people know KP's true nature, don't they?
And don't even get me started on insurance, which of course I cannot get. I might have been covered on Ursa's insurance if we could get married in the eyes of the state, but that "common law" thing doesn't work unless you have one Y chromosome and ONLY one Y between you.

Andrew said...

Tavia, does Ohio have "civil unions?" Would that be enough for you to get on Ursa's health insurance? Forgive my ignorance -- if only I've had a nickel for every time I've said THAT -- regarding the government's catagorizations and the health care industry's exclusions.

Thus spake Homer Simpson: "The government? Whoa-oooooh. Don't get me started on the government!"

Tavia said...

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!!!!!!!! Civil unions?! Ohio???? Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!!

Devon said...

How about "domestic partners?" The insurer for my company allows medical coverage for this arrangement.

Tavia said...

You guys living in liberal states are funny.
The U has been half-heartedly looking into domestic p-ship for years; they may get around to it before Ursa retires. Of course, my condition will be "pre-existing."
As for Kaiser employees, everyone knows where they are on the ladder when they draw KP.