The World at Large

Moving to the US

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Health Insurance

New Babies

I'm a little freaked out tonight.

Here in the US, health insurance is provided by your employer, or else you don't have health cover at all. For a non-citizen, that's just not an option. But that's OK, because my visa requires I have an employer, and that means I'm covered... usually. There are occasions that you can fall through the cracks, but usually you wince at the expense and move on. But not always.

3 days after Mietta was born I got in touch with my work to say that we needed the new baby put on our cover. I have no direct contact with my insurer, and those occasions when I have tried to get in touch with them, for some reason they won't recognize my details. That hasn't really bothered me, as we've been covered, and work handles these things anyway.

It's been a few years, but I recall with Luc and Nicolas that I was able to get in touch with Medibank Private (in Australia), and add their details over the phone. Easy. My work knew about the baby (they all sent flowers), and so I thought that the request to add Mietta was really a formality.

2 weeks later I got back an email that had been forwarded from the insurance broker. I was to fill in a form before Mietta was 30 days old. This is where things started going wrong.

For a start, I had trips to New York and San Francisco. I had no access to the internet in New York (I was presenting and speaking with people the whole time), and my access in San Francisco was also restricted. My hotel in SF charged a lot of money for internet, and I saw no point, especially given that I was getting to my room late at night, and leaving first thing in the morning. During the day I was in meetings the entire time, so email was completely out there as well. So for nearly 2 weeks I was pretty much incommunicado.

Then the other day we received a large bill for pediatrician services in the hospital. The insurance details listed were old, so Anne rang to give our current details. That was when she was told that they had the current details as well, but that hadn't worked either. So I got in touch with work to find out what had happened... and that's when I was told I hadn't submitted the paperwork. I've been so busy that I swore I must have filled in something so important, but apparently not.

The form was trivial. I just needed to give Mietta's name and sign at the bottom, but now it's been submitted 11 days late (presuming they submitted it straight away - which is a big presumption). I can only presume that she was completely uncovered for her first 41 days.

During that time there were some concerns with Strep B and several blood tests were done (from experience, these are often over $1000 per test). Mietta's "accommodation" cost several thousand. Then there were the pediatrician visits, and her 1 and 4 week checkup visits. So far the bills are about $7000, and we still haven't received any of the pathology bills. I'm expecting the final bill to be somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000, though it could be more. Of course, this is money we don't have.

So tonight I'm a little freaked out.

I am left wondering why both my work and the insurance broker didn't ask me about this before the due date. But ultimately it comes down to my own stupidity for not following through in a paranoid fashion. After all, the US health care system constantly reminds me that I don't understand it, and you just can't afford to take risks.

Birth Certificate

Meanwhile, it's tempting to just skip the country, abandon my career in the Semantic Web, and go back to Australia. Only that's not actually possible. For a start, it's too expensive. But more importantly, Mietta is a US citizen, and we don't have a passport for her. That's going to be a problem in December when we're supposed to be seeing our family for Christmas.

Getting a passport requires a birth certificate first. 2 weeks ago I went downtown and waited for over an hour to be served in order to get her certificate. However, given that it was now "late" in the day, they could not give me the passport, and would have to mail it. The Columbus Day holiday was going to delay this, but after making full payment for certified mail I was promised that I'd have the certificate by Friday. It's now Friday morning 2 weeks later and still no birth certificate.

I went downtown today to see if I could get the certificate by hand (again), but both the pamphlets from the hospital and the website have the wrong hours. On a Thursday they are only open from 2pm-4pm, and I had work commitments at that time.

Once we get the certificate we can apply for Mietta's passport, but we don't know how long that will take. Hopefully it won't be long, as we are starting to run short on time now.

We also want that certificate so we can start the process for Mietta's Australian citizenship. This will be particularly important over Christmas, as it should enable us to apply for a Medicare card for her... I hope. Even so, I think we'll need to make sure that she has traveler's insurance before we enter the country.

Mietta is a beautiful little girl with a bright and ready smile. She reaches out for me all the time, watches me as I walk into a room, and "talks" to me if I'm not looking at her. I'd do anything and pay anything for this little girl. But having her was supposed to cost next to nothing, and my employer and I pay so much in health insurance that I'd really prefer not to be in debt for the next 5 years. Wouldn't that money be better spent on her education?

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At 6:33 AM, Blogger lari said...

Hey Pawuly! Thinking of you heaps. It is totally terrible that this is happening to you but I like that you are looking on the bright side of it and that Meitta is absolutely gorgeous!
For what it is worth, if it helps... when we were waiting on paperwork but in a rush to get citizenship and passport for V I contacted the Oz embassy in advance and told them we were in a hurry. The guy there speed up the processes for me. It might help contacting them ahead of time... if you haven't already.
Thinking of you lots!

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At 9:56 AM, Blogger indianist said...

Without any doubt a health insurance policy is must for everybody bit before choosing one you must see for both benefits and drawbacks, thanks nisha


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