Matt Harrelson Staff Writer
December 13, 2013
Editor’s note: See the Dec. 14 print edition of The Daily Journal for a comprehensive report on the Affordable Care Act.
Simply put, the Affordable Care Act is confusing.
At least that’s the opinion of Nora Hudson. As a farmer working with David’s Produce just outside of Ellerbe, it’s safe to say that Hudson is part of the middle class. That makes signing up for insurance via www.healthcare.gov even more difficult.
When asked what led her to visit the site, Hudson replied, “We’ve had Blue Cross Blue Shield for years, but every year there is an increase. We’re a family of four paying $882 (each month) for our insurance.”
Hudson was sent a letter from BCBS saying that her family had to comply with the changes due to the Affordable Care Act, but her family’s insurance would again increase. This time to $1,073 each month — an increase of more than 21 percent.
“I can’t afford that much anymore,” Hudson said.
Hudson decided to do a little research to try and find a plan that was less expensive. Her first encounter with the new health care website took more than two hours, and she was left with more questions than answers. Passwords are case sensitive and it can be complicated for anyone who isn’t at least a little bit computer savvy.
“All the plans are carried through the marketplace,” Hudson said. “You have no choice. It’s all Blue Cross Blue Shield.”
The first letter Hudson received from Blue Cross in September stated her insurance would total $1,073. However, after she visited the marketplace of the website, Hudson was quoted an estimate of $957 for the same Blue Advantage Silver 3500 plan. When she checked on that same plan on Dec. 12, she found that it had increased back to the higher figure.
Perplexed, Hudson said, “I don’t know what a definite price would be because the price has increased since October. If I would’ve gotten this done in October, I still don’t know if the price would’ve gone up.”
A calculator on the website indicated there could be a possible tax credit available and found through the website’s estimate calculator that she was eligible for a $600 subsidy.
Later though, Hudson said she was denied that credit but was informed she could appeal the decision. The website offered a telephone number to call, an online help form or she could visit her local Medicaid office.
There are problems with all three of these choices, Hudson said. The number she called put her in touch with an operator who knew less about the appeal process than Hudson did. The online form appeared to omit a “submit” button, thus forcing her to mail in her appeal. Hudson said as her family is not signed up for Medicaid, she’s not even sure if that’s the correct department to get in touch with.
“The different departments are confusing, but I was scared to start the application process over,” Hudson said.
Three weeks ago, President Barack Obama announced that residents would be allowed to keep their existing insurance plans. That’s true, for at least a year, but there’s more to it than that. A week after Obama made that announcement, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, a Hamlet native, allowed a rate increase between 16 and 24 percent for Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in North Carolina.
In other words, insurance policy holders would be paying nearly one-fourth again as much for the same coverage. It’s a situation that does not sit well with Hudson.
“It’s a good insurance company,” said Hudson “but it’s like they have control over North Carolina. They need to limit the increases.”