As my company-provided health insurance was about to kick in, I decided a few days before the deadline to check out healthcare.gov, the website for President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
On Dec. 6 — a carefully chosen Friday night, during which I hoped others had better things to do — I hopped online and recorded my narration for posterity (at least for as long as it takes to write this column). After all the national media reports I’d read about people’s frustrating experiences accessing the website, I was ready to have my own.
However, if that is what I wanted, then I was sorely disappointed. I cruised through the process in about 21 minutes. An error I made inputting my income information was, through the website’s interface, able to be easily corrected without having to start from the beginning.
All in all, the process was a pleasant surprise. It was the end result I took issue with.
I entered the basic information. I wanted an individual plan — only health, not dental or vision as I’d decided to get that through work. I live in North Carolina. Richmond County. I’m 34 years old.
I read that prices shown are for those who use tobacco; rates could be higher for smokers. I don’t use tobacco. Onward I go.
Starting the marketplace application, I enter my personal data in order to create a user account. Less than five minutes into the process, I receive an email with a link to confirm the new account. So far, so good.
About two minutes later, I’m again entering personal information, some of which was the same as the first time. That’s kind of annoying, but quickly note to myself that if that’s the worst of it, that’s hardly something to gripe about.
Then there’s the process of confirming my identity. This is one of the few parts of the application process I questioned. I wish I’d taken screen shots to go along with this column, but as best as my memory serves, I was asked to confirm a previous address among a list of possibly good or bad addresses. Same thing with a list of phone numbers. I was allowed to continue, so I suppose I chose or guessed correctly. How am I supposed to remember a telephone number I had from 10 years ago?
It asked for my employer’s Employer Identification Number. I didn’t have that handy, but the system allowed me to skip that part. The application wanted to know if The Daily Journal’s parent company, Civitas Media, offers a health plan that meets the minimum value standards. I had no idea, especially not on a Friday night. Thankfully, “I don’t know” is a good answer.
Through the process, and by crunching numbers in my personal budget, I made the decision not to purchase health insurance through my employer. It costs too much — or so I thought. It turns out that, on the Bronze Level, which has the lowest monthly premiums, the ACA is still nearly double what my employer offered.
About 19 minutes in, I was completing my application with an electronic signature. Almost instantly, I was able to click on “view eligibility results.” This part failed miserably; it was a PDF document but instead of letters and figures it was gobbledygook. I hope it wasn’t important.
I’m fairly healthy, so I don’t mind trading a higher co-pay or deductible for a lower monthly premium. Unfortunately, that approach didn’t save me much through the ACA. The lowest I could obtain the lowest health insurance was $278.84 per month; almost to the penny double that of my employer’s plan.
Of course, I can’t afford that, either. I wasn’t bluffing when I made the decision to opt out of the company policy. The result? I chose neither. I remain among the underinsured, and am hopeful the law changes enough so that at least I’m not penalized financially.