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Monday, December 16, 2013

This is what happened when I went to healthcare.gov to sign up for health insurance

Today in the mail I received a letter from my private health insurance company informing me that my current policy, which was being cancelled because it didn't meet minimum standards of the new healthcare law, would actually be available to me next year. In other words, I could keep my plan.

There has been a big kerfluffle about a presidential promise to allow people to keep their health insurance plans if they liked them, which turned out not to be true under the health care law. Having read the law I thought that was pretty clear. I figured that my plan wasn't compliant and I would therefore find myself signed up for some more expensive policy by my health insurance company when 2014 rolled in. I am not entirely sure why the president told people they could keep their non-compliant policies, and apparently he has been spanked soundly for saying it. The "Keep your health plan act of 2013" passed the house in November, but I cannot find anywhere that it passed the senate, and now I have received a letter that suggests I can keep my health plan. I find nothing online to explain this confusing set of contradictions.

But all of that aside, I decided today that I would plunge into what is supposed to be a horribly broken system for obtaining health insurance. The process sounded interesting a month or two ago, but I was way too busy to explore it. Today, though, my schedule cleared out a touch and I got the letter from my insurance company, so I decided to give it a whirl. And...

It was fine. There was no problem.

First I went to the website for Idaho's health exchange as the letter from my insurance company instructed. Since Idaho has been grouchy about anything to do with the healthcare law, we are not quite yet functional as a state exchange. The website routed me to the federal health insurance exchange via healthcare.gov. There I expected horrible bugs and delays. I don't doubt that people have had terrible bugs and delays, but today things went as smoothly as a greased watermelon in a warm lagoon. The website was attractive and uncluttered, the fonts were easy to read and the navigation was fast. I signed up for an account. I entered my name, the names of my children, social security numbers, and attested to our citizenship and the fact that we didn't smoke. I promised that I was telling the truth. I was then routed to a page of options for health plans, categorized by level of coverage. Coverage is either bronze, silver or gold, depending on how much the plan pays and how much I pay to have the plan. I went for bronze level since I expect to die suddenly after experiencing perfect health all of my life, and figure that my children will be well until they are kicked off my plan at age 26. I am willing to bet my $12,500 out of pocket maximum on it, and have a health savings account with something like that amount of money in it, should I lose my bet. I had 6 choices of plans, offered by a variety of different companies and chose the cheapest which was about $25 more expensive than this year's non-compliant health plan that I was invited to keep. My experience with my present insurance company involves a yearly price hike of around 20%, so this increase in cost was in no way disappointing.

Having signed up for insurance in the past, I'd have to say this experience was better. If I had been less financially well off, I would have also had a break on price, which would have been nice.

I don't know what to say about the failed roll out of the Affordable Care Act other than the fact that at this present moment it works fine. Will it destroy American health care as we know it or cause an already overburdened system to implode? That remains to be seen. Will coverage for preventive care dramatically reduce costs by improving the overall health of Americans? Not sure. But on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5 PM the process of comparing and purchasing a health insurance policy was easy.

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