Thursday, March 06, 2014

Adventures in the Other Side

I went up to the county welfare office on Tuesday. It's a long story, but in short, I was getting free Hudson County-administered Medicaid* which I wasn't entitled to AS WELL AS my regular Marketplace insurance, and had been unable to get a human on the phone for weeks. When I got a machine from my assigned insurance calling saying things like "Press 1 if you feel generally healthy, or press 2 for this question in Spanish," I realized I needed to sort this out.

The welfare office is not something I am intimately familiar with, so I had to find it first using Google Maps. I walked up—it wasn't far away from home—and it was on the side of a county building. I went through a metal detector and past some armed guards into a yellow-y fluorescent-lit room where phone signals don't work. I waited in a long line with old people, people with strollers, and people leaning on canes. You know how sometimes you're at the post office and a worker comes by and asks what you need? An older guy with a white ponytail asked what I was there for.

"I'm getting Medicaid I'm not entitled to and I want it to stop," I explained.


"Wha--? ACA...uh, yes."**

"Go back there to the left and wait. I'll see if the Obamacare guy is available."

I went back to the room where people go to get their food stamps. This was pretty depressing. One guy politely lined up to ask if his baby-mother could get into his welfare debit card, and the white-ponytail guy patiently explained that the guy should memorize the PIN if he doesn't want her to be able to use it. An older woman balanced with a cane lined up at a window to loudly berate an agent for the records she kept getting which indicate she received welfare for 48 months, which she said she did not. Other people waited for their numbers to be called. I guess people were picking up their food stamps. It was dehumanizing and the staff is obviously overworked and there were a fair number of people irate about their individual problems.

Eventually, the "Obamacare" guy, whose name is Pedro, came out to find me. He had to run the gamut of people wanting to waylay him, but I just waited patiently, and finally he came over. I explained quickly. "I qualified for a Marketplace plan and I'm getting phone calls from Medicaid robots and I thought I better find a way to get off Medicaid before it bites me in the ass later as a crime or something, since I don't qualify to receive it."

He nodded, got it quickly. He went to get me a withdrawal form, waited while I filled it out, got the supervisor to sign it, and gave me a copy with his direct phone number in case I keep getting Medicaid-robo-hassled about my health.

The whole thing took about an hour, which honestly I did not need, but Pedro and white-ponytail guy were great and totally efficient, and I appreciated the look into a world right up the hill, and I am really really glad I don't have to count on this world to support me.

*think income when one is overseas most of the year, and how that is no reflection on what my income will be in 2014.

**The official name of the Affordable Care Act is not Obamacare. That was a kind of nickname, mostly used to denigrate healthcare reform, and I was surprised to hear it used in an official capacity.

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