The Headache of Enrolling in Obamacare

by | Dec 16, 2013 | *Financial Awakenings, Health, Insurance, Weekly Column

AffordCareActLike millions of Americans, I jumped on Healthcare.gov on October 1 to view the long-anticipated plans on the insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Healthcare Act, known as Obamacare. I needed a new healthcare plan and purposely held off buying one in September to compare the coverage and prices of an Exchange plan.

My disappointment paralleled that of thousands of other Americans wanting to do the same. After six tries that day, I gave up. I tried the site multiple times for each of the next six days. No luck.

Finally, on the seventh day, the site actually let me start an application. I chose to go with the “short” form since I was certain I would not qualify for a subsidy.

The short form application took 30 minutes to fill out. There were very few questions about health, just whether anyone in the household smoked. A number of questions had me wondering if I was applying for a passport. These included my Social Security number, race, citizenship, relationships to everyone in the family, and whether I was ever incarcerated.

When I reached the end of the form, I hit “submit,” anticipating that plan options and costs would appear. Instead, I was sent back to the starting page of the form. After 60 minutes of trying to get out of this endless loop, I gave up.

For the next three weeks, I went to the site at least once a day. I was never able to get past the endless loop to view plans or prices. I took a two-week break.

On November 14, I tried again. Success! Well, sort of. No endless loop. Instead, the site said it lost my original application and I needed to complete a new one. After another 60 minutes filling out the application, I ended up stuck in a loop again, unable to view plans or prices, much less choose one.

Frustrated, I decided to give it a rest until the site re-launched on December 1. I figured I would still have plenty of time to meet the December 15 deadline for enrollment.

On December 1, I eagerly popped onto the site. Not only was the site not functional, it had lost my application for the third time.

I gave up.

I phoned my insurance broker. She was able to give me all the information I had tried to get out of healthcare.gov for the past 60 days. She also said my insurance company was canceling my current plan. Obamacare deemed the coverage substandard because it did not cover pregnancy, mental health costs, and pediatric dental and vision costs. Although I don’t want or need any of that coverage, Obamacare gives me no choice.

My old policy cost $1,192 a month. The new one costs $1,506, which includes $59 a month in mandated surcharges on non-exchange policies to help fund Obamacare. My maximum family out-of-pocket expenses must also increase $208 a month. The total potential increase is a staggering $524 a month.

As someone who listened with great skepticism as politician after politician promised that Obamacare would lower health care costs, lower our deficit, and guarantee we could keep any existing plan, I feel sadly vindicated. In March 2010, when Congress passed Obamacare, I paid $660 a month for health care that had better coverage than I have now. For that same coverage today, my premium would be $2,450 a month.

Unfortunately, my story is not unique. It is ubiquitous to the average American who has health insurance. Our elected officials and government agencies failed us miserably. So far, there appears to be no relief in sight.

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