If you have tried to find out more about the new kinds of healthcare plans available, you are probably as frustrated as I am right now. Last week the government put up its healthcare.gov portal website, and had a devil of a time keeping it from crashing. Quelle surprise. (SNL did a great skit on this over the weekend, BTW.) I am not sure whether or not non-essential personnel are staffing the site during the shutdown period.
Be that as it may, I was able to access the site early one morning over the weekend, and able to signup and see what kinds of plans that I would be eligible for. It took about an hour after several false starts and having to navigate through the site three total times. No wonder why it is overwhelmed, the site design could use some work. One of the reasons it contains a lot of code to reach into your credit reports and pull out information to ensure that you are whom you say you are. With my first try, one of the authentication questions was asking me for the name of my pet insurance provider that I had recently purchased. I think it was confusing me with someone else.
If typing in all this makes you uncomfortable, note that you also have to provide your birth date, social security number, and other personal data. The paranoid among you might just want to skip the exchanges entirely.
Not everyone will have to suffer through the federal site: if your state has set up its own exchange (and about half have), you can go directly there and find out your eligible plans for 2014. But Missouri didn’t want anything to do with setting up its own exchange, so we are stuck with the feds. My daughter lives in Colorado, so we were able to go to that exchange. She was able to find a less expensive plan on the Colorado exchange than sticking with her existing provider.
But here’s the rub with the exchange-offered plans. They have huge out of pocket maximums: usually $4000 or more per person. If you are used to the existing plans that you have had for many years, that could mean trouble if you need a lot of care. The existing plans (called “grandfathered” because they were set up before the new law) have lower maximums and typically lower deductibles too.
Depending on your insurer, you might be able to get information about your existing premiums for 2014 by going to their own websites. In my case, with Anthem, I had to call and suffer the usual 30-minute wait until I got a person to take me through it. In my case, it looks like I should stick with the grandfathered plan rather than deal with the ones that I could get on the exchange (where my maximum out of pocket would be $6000 per person). Another complicating factor: my plan’s anniversary is Feb 1, which means it might be late December before I will get the actual premium numbers. That could be too late to sign up for the newer exchange-based plans.
Do you get the feeling that the official “navigators” – people who are hired to help you sort this all out – are seeing things for the first time? You do.
The lack of quality information on healthcare plans is appalling, and the new healthcare law is only making things incredibly more complex. My daughter got a series of badly worded notices from her existing provider that I could barely figure out, and the plan specifics on the Colorado website wasn’t much better. You can save the plans you are looking at on the exchanges’ website, when you can actually get through, but (at least on the federal site) you have to go through the same congested portal when you want to log back in and view where you are: that seems like really stupid design.
Feel free to vent below your own tales of woe and if you were actually able to make sense of the new plans, which should be able to handle the volume of your comments.