4 years ago

Feel the exasperation of government-run healthcare in this Alabama mom’s open letter to President Obama

The Kinders (Photo: Facebook)
The Kinder family (Photo: Facebook)

Just before Christmas, Karri Kinder, a married mother of two living in Auburn, Ala., penned the below open letter to the Obama Administration.

If you haven’t experienced it for yourself already, feel the exasperation of a mom trying to navigate the ObamaCare bureaucratic nightmare in hopes of securing coverage for her family.

An Open Letter to the Obama Administration and American Citizens:

My family’s journey with securing our new insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) started on October 1, 2013. I have decided to write this letter to let the American people know what it has been like for us. We are a family of four, with two little boys’ ages seven years old and three years old. My husband and I have had full time jobs for 6 years and 13 years respectively. We have been with the same two companies for those years. We are a middle class family; we own our three bedroom two bath house, we own two cars, and previously provided our own insurance for the four of us. We have coverage through Individual Blue from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama until 12/31/13. Our premiums have been $380.00 a month, which also included dental coverage for all four of us.

On October, 1, 2013 we received our letters like other Alabamians about our new premiums and plans for 2014 from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama. When I opened our letter to say I had sticker shock was an understatement. Our premiums for the Blue Saver Silver would now be $753.26. This included the ACA tax but did not include the additional $75.00 we would need to pay in order to keep dental for me and my husband. So we would need to pay total $828.26 to keep health and dental insurance for the four of us. This payment is roughly $64.00 less than what we pay for our mortgage each month. I was outraged that anyone thought we could afford this. Sure we have some savings, but with that price tag we would whittle it down to almost nothing very quickly. I consider savings as a rainy day fund, a start to saving for the kid’s college, our retirement, etc. I never dreamed in a million years we would need to use it to pay our insurance premiums each month – how in the world could this help the economy too?

Throughout the month of October we read everything we could on what our plan would cover, and tried to get the information we needed about the ACA. I was also blown away when I realized that my son’s medical care, he has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), would cost us so much more out of pocket than it was currently costing us. My son has to go to his doctor every other month for his care. If we need to see a therapist we do that monthly, so you see on top of the premiums there are other out of pocket cost we have to factor in. He is also on medication that he takes daily. His medicine is a life saver for him and helps him function like a normal seven year old, without it he can’t focus, his grades slip and his mind literally goes back to the mind of a three or four year old. When he was first put on his medicine his reading went up 20 points and he went from writing one to two sentences to paragraphs, all in the course of a week. He is a straight A student and very bright, but without the proper medical care that could slip away from him. Under our new plan for 2014 we would need to pay a $55.00 co-pay, and then it would be covered at 80 percent once we reached his deductible, which would be $2,000 individual $4,000 family. Out of pocket max numbers are $6,350 individual and $12,700 family. All of this is enough to make anyone’s head spin. We were then forced to look at other options as none of this was affordable for our family.

I started to dig deeper into healthcare.gov. I was hearing all the horror stories through the news about the subpar website. I was reading right off their healthcare.gov Facebook page about other people’s terrible experiences trying to get coverage. Then the government announces that they are going to be working on the site and making it a better experience as well as making it more secure. They had already had three years to make this happen but they said would need the month of November to get it running right. So I waited patiently for them to get the site running so I could see if we would qualify for the subsidy and continue our health insurance through that route.

December 6, 2013 I went to healthcare.gov and started our application. The process took me over two hours to complete. Once it was completed it came back with our results. The results were that my husband and I qualified. That my three year old qualified for All Kids and that my seven year old did not qualify for anything through the exchange (ACA). I was so confused, how could a seven year old not qualify for a subsidy? I was also confused on why they wanted me to enroll one of my children in All Kids? So, I called the number they provided to speak to a representative. I was on hold for 20 minutes when a woman answered and offered to help me with the results. She told me that it is coming back that my seven year old son did not qualify and the only thing I could do was to file an appeal. I asked her a few more questions about how this could have happened, and I was told “she does not know and that all I can do is file an appeal”. She was reading her responses to me right off of a chart that I am sure they are given. So, I ended my conversation with her and proceeded to try to wrap my head around what was happening.

I decided to call back, this time I waited 15 minutes and spoke to a very nice gentleman who seemed to have an understanding for how the system was working. He looked up the results and said “this can’t be right, let’s start over and do an application over the phone”. So again I went through the application process. The results came back the exact same, we all qualified for something except my seven year old son. The gentleman could not understand how this could be happening and assured me it had to be a “glitch” in the system. He placed me on hold so he could speak with his supervisor on how to fix this error. I waited several minutes and when he came back he said “there was nothing more they could do tonight”. He said “we are sending your application to two different departments and that one of the departments would get back to me through a phone call with a fix to this problem”. He also told me “it could take 2-5 days but that I would receive a phone call when they had closed my case”.

So I waited until Tuesday December 10, 2013, which was day four and called them back. I was then told it would be 2-5 business days and if I had not heard from them at that time to call back. So that is what I did, I waited till 9:00 pm on that Friday December 13, 2013 with no phone call. I called Sunday December 15th, 2013 and spoke with my 3rd supervisor who told me “they were very sorry that I had not received a phone call and they were messaging the two departments to give me a call the following day”. He also said to go ahead and file with All Kids in my state because even though they send that information to them, they have no idea when they will receive it. So Monday I went and applied for All Kids for my children, it was a similar application to the healthcare.gov site. I called them to verify that they received my application and was told they cannot access it till sometime in January. They said once they could access it that they would be in touch and if the kids qualified the coverage would retro act to January 1, 2014. So that was a little bit of good news.

So here we are December 22, 2013, the day before the December 23rd deadline to sign up through the Health Insurance Marketplace’s Exchange. I decide I will call one last time to see what they can tell me about coverage, since I never received a phone call after my last conversation with a supervisor. I waited on hold for 1 hour and 15 minutes. I asked to speak with a supervisor and I was transferred. The supervisor pulled my file and was talking to me when she must have accidentally pressed a button and we got disconnected. I thought for sure she would call me back. That is one of the first things they ask for is your phone number. I did not receive a call back, so I call back and have to be placed on hold again to speak to someone. I waited another hour and a half before I get connected with a supervisor. She pulls up my file and tells me “there is nothing they can do and I have to wait the 90 days they have to contact me through the appeals process”. The supervisor tells me “that this whole time I have been told wrong by numerous people and that I should have been called back but that the two departments could do nothing for me”. I just have to wait the 90 days. I asked her, “so yet again an error, due to no fault of my own, has occurred all these times I have been calling and speaking with people and no one can really do anything”? She said “yes that is correct, I am sorry you have been told something different but that is all I can tell you”.

I have never been treated so poorly by any insurance company in my whole life. I have never experienced such terrible customer service in all my years on this earth. I can’t imagine how long a company would last in this country if they followed the same protocol as the ACA/Health Insurance Marketplace does. Most companies can fix a glitch in their systems pretty easily, or can connect you to someone who can. Not the ACA/ Health Insurance Marketplace, you spend all that time on hold to just be told, so sorry but you have to wait for someone to get back to you in a 90 day time span.

What is the most sickening thing to me is that we have been forced into the Health Insurance Marketplace’s Exchange. We wanted to continue our coverage through BSBC and pay as we always had been. But, we found out that option would not be affordable under the new Act, which is how we were forced into the Exchange. Furthermore, not only were we forced into the Exchange, but then forced again to submit an application to ALL Kids for our children. I just don’t understand how we go from being hard working middle class family who provides everything for our family to where we are today. I feel like everything that my husband and I have worked hard for is for nothing. I pray each night that we will get something resolved with our “glitch” in the system so our children will have health insurance coverage in January and by the time I have to purchase my son’s $400 a month ADHD medicine.

I really don’t know how our government can allow this to be taking place. What if something happens and one of my boys breaks an arm, or God forbid something worse? They don’t have insurance, so I guess we will then be paying the hospital monthly if that happens. We are almost completely debt free currently and now all I see is very large medical bills in our future until the government can fix the issues with the ACA/Exchange. I would really like them to rename the Affordable Care Act, because from where I am sitting it is anything but affordable or caring for my family.

Karri Kinder

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims


2 hours ago

Alabama Senate delays vote on church ‘Stand your Ground’ law

The Alabama Senate has delayed a vote on a proposed revision of the state’s self-defense law to clarify that deadly force can be used to defend someone in a church.

Senators delayed a Thursday vote after at least one senator threatened a filibuster.

Sen. Bobby Singleton said that the legislation is encouraging people to get “trigger happy.”


Alabama already has a self-defense law that someone can use deadly force if they reasonably believe a person is about to kill them or another person. The bill adds that people can use deadly force if they believe a person is about to use physical force against a church member or employee.

Supporters pointed to deadly church shootings and said members need the legal protection to respond to a threat.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

2 hours ago

Debbie Long is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

This summer, Debbie Long will call it a career at Protective Life Corp.

What a career it has been.

Long, who also is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, served as executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate secretary of the insurance company before taking on a part-time advisory role this year. She is one of Alabama’s highest-paid female executives.


Long also has been a big contributor to her community.

Long told Business Alabama in 2012 that she always wanted to be a lawyer, although first she had idealistic visions of saving the world. After graduating in 1980 from the University of Alabama Law School and then clerking for a federal appeals court Judge Frank Johnson, she went to work for a law firm and practiced corporate law.

“Although I hadn’t initially wanted to practice business law, I found I loved it,” she told the publication.

Long left the firm along with several other lawyers to help form the powerhouse Birmingham firm of Maynard, Cooper and Gale.

In 1992, Long joined the board of Protective Life as general counsel of the insurance company.

Long told Business Alabama that her advice to would-be business leaders would be to stay open to opportunities that might come along at unexpected times.

“It’s very doubtful that someone’s going to come to you early in your career and say, ‘I want to be your mentor,’” she said. “It’s far more likely you will meet people along the way who will give you great advice if you are open to receiving it. Someone at a cocktail party might say something that could change your life.”

Long has been active in the larger business community. She has served as chairwoman of the Business Council of Alabama’s Judicial and Legal Reform Committee and also has worked on the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, the Federal Affairs Committee and on the board of ProgressPAC — the lobby’s political action committee.

Last year, the BCA honored her with the Robert W. “Bubba” Lee Political Courage Award, given each year to someone who is willing to take the right position regardless of cost.

“She has shown through her support that she cares about the Alabama business community and she values the role we play and the jobs we create,” BCA Chairman Perry Hand said at the time. “She has been a distinguished member of the Alabama and Birmingham business communities for nearly three decades.”

Her charitable endeavors include Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham, the YWCA of Birmingham, Oasis Women’s Counseling Center, the Birmingham Museum of Art and Partners in Neighborhood Growth Inc.

In addition, she serves on the Alabama Women’s Commission and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, as well as The Fellows program of the American Bar Foundation.

“It is her commitment to excellence that has made her such a valuable asset to Alabama’s business community, and there are few individuals more dedicated to our corporate community, the rule of law, and the political arena than Debbie Long,” Hand said last year.

Join Long and special guests from across the state for a Birmingham awards event March 29 honoring the 20 Yellowhammer Women of Impact whose powerful contributions advance Alabama. Details and registration may be found here.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

2 hours ago

Alabama Rural Broadband Act on governor’s desk

A bill that would provide grants to aid rural broadband expansion is on Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk.

The legislation was delivered to the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon after the Senate adopted changes to the Alabama Rural Broadband Act previously made in the House.

Originally conceived as a bill that would offer tax incentives to companies to provide high-speed internet services to some of the state’s more remote areas, the bill was changed to offer grants instead. Projects that would provide speeds of 25 megabits per second down and 3 megabits per second up would be eligible for $1.4 million per project, while projects providing minimum speeds of 10/1 could get $750,000 each.


The bill is expected to provide $10 million annually, with the program being administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Private providers and cooperatives would be eligible for the money, but government entities would not.

The sponsor, Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), wanted to give providers tax credits for providing broadband rather than cash. The bill still has safeguards in place – the money won’t be received upfront and a legislative committee would monitor the program for effectiveness.

Scofield couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

Ivey is expected to sign the bill after speaking about the need for such programs in her January State of the State speech. The legislation sailed through the Alabama Legislature, receiving unanimous yes votes in the House on Tuesday and in the Senate concurrence vote on Wednesday.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), said grants are better for taxpayers.

“It’s more transparent and gives us more accountability,” he said.

In reality, both funding mechanisms have been dismissed by critics. The MacIver Institute said in a 2014 report that incentives can actually hurt economic growth, while Obama’s stimulus grant program was one of the more stark examples of grant largesse.

Alabama lawmakers hope their broadband plan goes hand-in-hand with a proposal from President Trump to spend an immediate $200 billion and long-term $1.5 trillion on infrastructure improvements. Trump hopes to spur more public-private partnerships – so-called P3s – with his proposal to help state and local governments shoulder more of the load. But his plan has faced criticism on both sides – Democrats aren’t fans of the president’s goal to put more costs on the states, while many Republicans say the plan calls for too much spending and haven’t exactly deemed it a high priority this session.

Some on both sides have criticized the lack of any guaranteed funds for broadband, although the plan cites high-speed internet as an infrastructure priority. There are concerns that federal broadband grants could accelerate the growth of government internet projects, which have largely been a sinkhole for taxpayer money.

3 hours ago

Alabama Committee approves ethics exemption for economic developers

An Alabama Senate committee has approved legislation, pushed by the state’s top industry recruiter, to exempt professional economic developers from the state ethics law.

The Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee approved the House-passed bill Wednesday on a 10-2 vote. It now moves to the Senate floor.


The proposal would exempt professional economic developers from the rules that govern lobbyists. The rules include registering with the state, undergoing yearly training and reporting activity.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield has said professional site developers, who help businesses decide where to locate, will not work in Alabama if they must register as lobbyists.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton has expressed concern about exempting a group of people, whose primary job involves interacting with government officials, from the state ethics law.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

Human trafficking bill that would impose severe penalties for obstruction is step closer to becoming law

Anyone who obstructs a human trafficking investigation in Alabama could be met with the same penalties as the traffickers if the governor signs a bill that passed the House this week with near unanimous support.

The bill, which already passed the Senate, increases penalties in place for those who obstruct, interfere with, prevent, or otherwise get in the way of law enforcement’s investigation into the practice that includes child sex trafficking.

Under current law, such obstruction is only a Class C felony and could result in just one year in prison. The new legislation would increase the maximum offense to a Class A felony, with a minimum jail sentence of ten years.


Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) sponsored the bill and said he is proud that the Alabama Legislature made this a priority.

“This week we’ve taken another crucial step in ending this horrific practice,” Ward said in a statement. “By increasing penalties for those who would aid traffickers, we will hold them just as accountable as the traffickers themselves.”

Human trafficking victims are often children who are trafficked into sexual exploitation at an average age between 11-14 years old, according to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force.

“Most people assume, ‘Well, that doesn’t happen in my backyard,’” Ward said in an interview with Yellowhammer News when the bill was first introduced. “…It’s everywhere in our state, but there’s low awareness as to how bad it really is.”

Just this week, a Decatur man pled guilty to child sex trafficking and other charges related to his plan to kidnap, rape and kill a mother and sell her 14-year-old daughter to a Memphis pimp, according to horrifying details reported by the Decatur Daily.

Brian David “Blaze” Boersma’s plan was thwarted because an informant, who Boersma recruited to help him with his plan, alerted the FBI.

“Oftentimes it’s like what we say with terrorism,” Ward said. “If you see something suspicious, tell somebody, because a lot of times, trafficking can take place right underneath our noses in our communities.”

The legislation to increase penalties for obstructing human trafficking investigations was delivered to Governor Kay Ivey for her signature Wednesday afternoon.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.