Whoa! I think I just stumbled onto something amazing. Remember how SDXB told us “money happens”? Well…the stuff appears to be materializing as we scribble.
Well, not so much!
See the update here.
Yesterday I was talking with the people at the state Department of Administration about COBRA, which is administered through their agency.
The Great Desert University did another of its little numbers on me. Despite handing me a contract that says my last day of work was December 31, they “termed” me (the bureaucrat’s salubrious term for “terminated”) in their system on January 10. Because the eligibility for the COBRA discount ended on December 31, this would have rendered me unable to pay for health insurance, except that (thank God!) the Obama Administration extended the stimulus discount for those who are canned into February.
In the course of conversation, the ADOA rep remarked that during the first six months of COBRA, you’re covered whether or not you’re paying every month. For me, the payment under the ARRAS discount would amount to about $200.
I said, “So, if I haven’t paid for the first couple of months and then I’m in a car wreck and break every bone in my body and they cart me off to St. Joe’s emergency room, I can pony up the back payments and be covered?”
Hm. Come to think of it, I’ve heard that before.
Now, my Medicare card came in the mail yesterday afternoon. On the first of May—three and a half months from today—I will automatically go on Medicare. At that time I’ll want to sign up for a Medigap policy.
According the the reams of paperwork I have here, Medigap insurers cannot zap you for whatever pre-existing condition they can dream up if you have “no gap in coverage” with your prior insurance.
“No gap in coverage.” That is exactly the ADOA rep’s wording. She said, “Don’t worry. You have no gap in coverage between your state insurance and COBRA,” even if you’re not paying the first few premiums.
So. Because Medicare starts less than six months from the start of my COBRA coverage, in theory if I never paid a penny in COBRA premiums, I still would be covered right up until the time the government program takes over, and, because I would have “no gap in coverage,” the private sharks who run the Medigap insurance programs would be unable to screw me because 20 years ago I broke a wrist when I fell on the rocks in the bottom of Aravaipa Canyon while hauling a 30-pound backpack.* And there would be nothing they could do to claim the stress attacks engendered by working for Our Beloved Employer are some sort of excuse for why they shouldn’t cover me.
This sounds too good to be true. But it gets better!
As dawn cracked, I got on the phone to Medicare and tried to formulate this question for the rep who answered: Is it true that if I don’t pay for COBRA I would still be “covered” technically so that I could get Medigap without being zinged for pre-existing conditions.
Irrelevant, says she. Here’s the deal: When you turn 65, you have six months of open enrollment, during which time you can select a Medigap provider who has to take you without regard to pre-existing conditions.
You catch my drift, right?
If I remain “covered” by COBRA for six months whether or not I’m paying the premiums and I attain Medicare in 3 1/2 months, then effectively what I have here is free health insurance for the next several months. There’s no reason for me to pony up the $200/month COBRA premium.
Eight hundred dollars would just about cover the increase in power and water bills over the summer—my combined bills go up by about $200 a month during June, July, August, and September.
With enough in the bank to pay the summertime utility bills, my 2010 budgeting problems disappear into the overheated desert air.
My health is excellent. Except for my neurosis about Arizona State University, I have no health problems at all. I often go six months to a year without seeing a doctor. So it makes good sense to take a chance—especially since no real risk is involved—and quietly not pay the COBRA premiums unless something drastic happens.
Meanwhile, because in direct contradiction to my contract the state carried me on its payroll until January 10, they deposited another $517 into my checking account! This happened because, contrary to what HR told me, in the two December 31 paychecks PeopleSoft did not pay off everything ASU owed me: the five hundred bucks represents pay for the two days in December that I worked past the final 2009 lagging pay period.
I think I’ll be able to argue that this is 2009 pay, so that Social Security will not ding me for it—although from the blank looks I’ve gotten from ASU functionaries about this matter, it’s pretty clear that no help in proving it will be forthcoming from those quarters. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.
Let’s see here… $800 + $517…that’s $1,317 of money happening!
*No joke! Blue Cross/Blue Shield once actually told me it would not cover me for any broken bones or back problems because they believed the hairline wrist fracture and a later X-ray of a foot showing mild osteopenia meant I had osteoporosis (even though I decidedly did not and still do not).