ACA sign-up leads to 'colossal mess' for couple

Double enrollment causes problems for Kaiser customers

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Ralph and Jana Kile's Affordable Care Act headache began in November.

More than three months later, the Vancouver couple are still waiting for relief from Kaiser Permanente and the state-based insurance exchange, Washington Healthplanfinder.

"After I got enrolled online, I was excited," said Jana Kile, 63.

"That wasn't so hard after all," she thought. "Then reality set in."

The reality is Jana Kile is enrolled in two Kaiser Permanente health plans — one she selected through Washington Healthplanfinder and one Kaiser automatically enrolled her in because her old plan wasn't compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

The reality is that more than $1,300 has been deducted from the Kiles' bank account to pay for that second health plan.

"It's just a colossal mess," Ralph Kile said.

Kaiser Permanente officials are aware of the double-enrollment problem, which they estimate is affecting about 15 people in Southwest Washington and another 15 Oregon residents, and are working to resolve it, Kaiser spokesman Michael Foley said.

"We think we'll have it completely sorted by the end of the month," he said.

That's welcome news for the Kiles.

Last fall, the Kiles learned Jana's individual plan, which cost $510 per month, was being canceled. Ralph receives disability insurance that wasn't affected.

Jana Kile received a letter from Kaiser notifying her of the cancellation and her options. She could either choose a plan through the exchange or do nothing and let Kaiser auto-enroll her in a comparable plan.

The comparable plan was a bronze plan that cost $681 — more than the Kiles could afford. So Ralph checked out the exchange, looking for a less expensive plan for his wife. He found a silver Kaiser plan that, after a sizable tax credit, would cost the couple only $33.

Jana Kile enrolled in the silver plan in November. In December, the Kiles received a letter from Washington Healthplanfinder. Jana was one of about 8,000 people who received an inaccurate subsidy amount. Her plan would actually cost $294.

The plan was still more affordable than the bronze plan Kaiser was offering outside of the exchange, so on Dec. 17 the Kiles paid for the first month's coverage.

Then, on Jan. 6, Kaiser collected $681 from the Kiles bank account through its automatic bill pay program, a feature the couple took advantage of with their previous plan. The money was payment for the bronze plan premium — a plan in which Jana Kile didn't know she had been enrolled.

According to the Washington Healthplanfinder website, she was enrolled in Kaiser's silver plan. But Kaiser didn't receive that information and, as a result, auto-enrolled Jana in its bronze plan.

Like Jana Kile, several people opted to find their own plan on Washington Healthplanfinder, Foley said. The problem, he said, is they didn't cancel their existing plans with Kaiser Permanente. The letters Kaiser mailed out last fall, however, didn't tell members they had to cancel current plans.

"We did not communicate effectively with our members, unfortunately," Foley said.

Making the situation worse is the lag time between people enrolling through the exchange and the paperwork getting to Kaiser, Foley said. Had that transfer of information been immediate, Kaiser likely could have caught and resolved the double enrollment issue before members were affected, he said.

As Kaiser sorts out the mess, those people double-enrolled are also being double-billed, or, as in the Kiles' case, paying double.

The Kiles faxed and mailed letters to Kaiser on Jan. 9, asking Kaiser to cancel the bronze plan and reimburse the $681 premium. But, a few weeks later, Kaiser withdrew another $681 from their account for the second month's premium.

They've also been paying Washington Healthplanfinder for the silver Kaiser plan. In total, the Kiles have paid nearly $2,000 in premiums for two different plans in the last two months.

Ralph Kile has placed countless calls to Washington Healthplanfinder and Kaiser to try to get the mess sorted out. He even appealed to the governor's office and local elected officials for help. The Kiles got word Friday that Jana's enrollment status had been resolved and their refund is finally being processed.

"I can't believe this process has been going on since November," Ralph Kile said.