The Gamification of everything has gone too far.

bullshitmeterRemember when you were a kid and your parents saddled you with some boring as hell thing to do like mowing the lawn and when you complained they told you to try making a game out of it? Well over the past couple of years that idea has gone from being a stupid way for parents to try to get kids to do something they don’t wanna to do to being a way to motivate adults to do something they don’t wanna do. It’s called Gamification and has been used for everything from getting folks to exercise to “check in” on apps like Foursquare. Now it’s showing up on healthcare websites like United Healthcare’s Wellvibe program.

I mention this because I have UHC myself and it’s not half-bad health insurance, or at least it wasn’t until last year when the company I work for changed things so that instead of having a handful of plans to choose from we were all forced into a single high-deductible plan. I went from having a co-pay to having a $3,000 deductible and a health savings account to try and offset those out-of-pocket costs until the deductible was met. That was annoying enough, but they also introduced this Wellvibe nonsense that requires you to jump through hoops to qualify for an annual contribution from your company to your HSA.

Every year we have until September 30th to complete a number of activities on the Wellvibe website our we won’t get the company contribution to our HSA. These activities include things like watching a video to learn how to pick a Tier 1 doctor that UHC feels offers excellent service at the best price. My doctor is not considered a Tier 1 doctor because, while she is considered to offer excellent healthcare, apparently she costs UHC too much money. The problem is I’ve gone to the same doctor for over 15 years and I trust her decision making so I’m not going to switch unless I absolutely have to. Luckily, I don’t (she’s still considered in-plan), but that won’t stop UHC from making me go through an activity pointing out she’s not what they consider to be the best value.

They also have a system in place on their website that helps you to find the cheapest applicable drugs for whatever is it your doctor has prescribed. My doctor already tries to make sure we’re taking the generic equivalent of whatever it is she thinks we need so that part of the site is of limited use to me, but I still have to watch the stupid video each year and answer a bunch of questions about it with multiple choice answers. I never watch the videos because the right answer is so blindingly obvious that you’d have to be an idiot to not be able to figure it out just based on the choices in front of you. I hit play and then race through the questions and get it right before the video has a chance to get past the cheesy porno-music opening.

There’s also a health profile you have to fill out where you have to get a UHC Annual Biometric Checkup done. You print out a form and take it to your doctor and they run blood tests and report your sugar levels, cholesterol, etc. and stamp it with an Official Doctor Seal and you send it back. You cannot fill this form out yourself. Then there is a redundant Health Assessment form you have to fill out that asks for the SAME FUCKING MEASUREMENTS YOUR DOCTOR FILLED OUT ON THE OTHER FORM. I can only assume they’re checking to see if you’re lying about the condition of your health.

All of that is annoying and insulting enough as it is, but this year they’ve tried to Gamify the entire process by putting in an Xbox-style achievement system where you can earn badges and “leaves.” Logging into the site for the first time since last year when I completed the previous activities, I got a popup announcing I had earned a “Here I am!” badge and 10 leaves for completing registration, logging into, and visiting the Wellvibe homepage.

I boggled at it not sure what the hell it was, but I went ahead and did one of the activities and got this badge as a result:


Holy shit! You did something! HAVE A FUCKING COOKIE!

That’s when it dawned on me they were trying to make it into a game of sorts. Oh joy. It’s not enough that they insist on holding my hand when I didn’t need their help before, but now they want to give me meaningless rewards for grudgingly complying with their stupid requirements. I got another badge by accident when I checked my profile and saw that I didn’t have a phone number listed. It was the much-coveted “THIS IS ME!” badge earned for updating your account profile and granting 10 more leaves.

If you poke around long enough you eventually will find the “Wellville” page where you can see all the badges you have earned along with those you still haven’t acquired. It’s here where you finally found out why you’ve been earning “leaves” with your badges. It’s for your Health Tree! The more leaves you earn, the healthier your tree becomes! Isn’t that amazing?

Welcome to Wellvile. Where patronizing you has been taken to an entirely new level.

“Badges?? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!”

As you can see, my tree is in pretty piss-poor health at 14%. Some of the other things you can do to earn a badge include: Complete your first Optional Activity (if it’s optional, I’m not going to do it), print out your first “bar code scan form activity”, email your “bar code activity” (which I did last year and it nearly cost me my company’s HSA contribution because it didn’t work right), login once a week for 3 months straight (that’s so not going to happen), and — I shit you not — reset your login password. That last one is called: “I FORGOT, BUT IT’S OK!”

Fuck you, United Healthcare. Seriously. It was bad enough having to do all this bullshit for my company to put $500 into my HSA every year, but now you’re insulting my intelligence. I will never have my tree to 100% because I will not do any more of the activities on your website than I absolutely have to in order to qualify for the employer contribution. This is the sort of bullshit that if I had any reasonable alternatives I’d probably be dropping you like a hot potato. Lucky for you my company doesn’t offer any alternatives and what they do offer is considered good enough that it would cost me more to go through something like Obamacare.

Needless to say, I don’t appreciate you trying to turn my healthcare into some sort of game.

Finally, insurers will be require to cover contraception!

I’ve been fortunate over the years that, when I did have health insurance, it generally covered contraception. It’s not as much of an issue for us these days, but it still is for lots of other people. This something that should’ve been universally covered a long time ago. #seb #insurance #contraceptives

Embedded Link

Obama: Insurers Must Cover Contraceptives
The administration says women must be able to get free birth control.
Federal officials said they would give such church-affiliated organizations one additional year — until Aug. 1, 2013 — to comply with the requirement. Most other employers and insurers must comply by this Aug. 1…
In announcing details of the final rule on Friday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said it “strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access …

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Headed back to Dr. Toothy.

I lost a filling the other night which puts me down by two as I lost one a couple of months back and hadn’t gotten around to getting it taken care of yet. This latest loss was rather large, however, so I felt I should do something about it. We’re transitioning from working for one contract house to an entirely different one which means I’m without dental insurance at the moment. The dental plan being offered isn’t worth the fee they’re charging for it so Anne and I had decided to not sign up as her job will be offering open enrollment in September and it offers much better insurance plans. So naturally that small period where we’re without insurance is the point in time when I lose a major filling. Not that it matters as I’d still be in mid-transition at this point and by the time it would have kicked in this would be considered a “pre-existing condition” and thus not eligible for coverage anyway.

The short of it is that I’ll be heading to a dentist for a 10AM appointment this morning straight from work and then returning to work after I’m done there. The cost for the exam and x-rays alone will be around $234. Fillings will be between $100 to $1000+ depending on how much work they are. We called around to several dentists and this appears to be more or less standard at this point. If it turns out I need to crown one or both of the teeth then the price just goes up from there. Fortunately there’s a company offering a means of paying the debt off over time that we’ll probably be taking advantage of. I’m just thrilled at this latest bump in the road. Still, you do what you gotta do.

The CAT scan billing saga continues…

You may recall that back in January we had to take Courtney in for some CAT scans when it seemed like she might have a kidney stone without any health insurance to help with the cost. You folks stepped up with lots of good advice when the final bill came in at a grand total of $3500. Advice which, oddly enough, the kind folks at the billing company handling the bill also suggested I try and they put the bill on hold for a month while we attempted to get Courtney covered under Medicare. Michigan has two kinds of Medicare for kids whose parents don’t have/can’t afford health insurance. One of them will cover bills up to 60 days prior to signing up and the other one doesn’t. Guess which program Courtney qualified for? Yep, the one that wouldn’t cover the bill.

The second suggestion was that I check to see if the company, Avant Imaging, that did the CAT scan would be willing to offer a discount seeing as I was paying for it out of pocket. The nice lady at the billing company said she would put another month hold on the bill and send in a request on my behalf and that we should eventually see a new bill with any discount applied to it. Well that bill finally arrived and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s still for $3500 and some change. It appears Avant Imaging won’t cut us any slack and we’ve run out of any further options.

The good news is that the donations you folks sent in back when I first talked about this crisis will cover around a third of the bill. Allow me to again take a moment and express my gratitude for your generosity on our behalf. After that initial payment I’ll have to work out some sort of payment plan with the billing company and pay the rest off over time. The other good news is that we just signed up for health insurance through my new job and it should kick in on May 26th. It’s no where near as great as what I had in the past—in fact it probably wouldn’t cover the majority of the cost if Courtney had to have CAT scans today—but it beats the hell out of no insurance at all. The cost for the insurance will knock my pay down to just a little more than what I was earning at the last job, but at least we’re covered. The only really frustrating part about all of this was that we spent a lot of time sitting around waiting for decisions to be made on if we were going to catch a break or not before finally finding out that we’re going to have to pay the full bill anyway.