December 13, 2013

In A Marathon Search for Insurance, Healthcare.gov Gives Way

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Kelsey Barrow, who assists people shopping for health-care coverage on the new marketplace, speaks about the improving prospects for enrolling applicants on healthcare.gov. (Videos by Evin Morrison.)

Barrow outlines various options for shopping on the marketplace:


Breakthrough! Yes, the Obamacare website is working. At least for me.

After 20 rounds of unsuccessful sign-up attempts and nearly 17 hours spent online or on the phone, I finally made it through the registration process and received my eligibility confirmation on Round 21.

Quick recap: My employment status is changing on Jan. 1. I will no longer qualify for employer-provided health insurance. My wife and I were turned down for private market insurance in mid-2013 because of preexisting conditions.

We need a new plan.

Under provisions of the Affordable Care Act that take effect Jan. 1, insurance companies must provide coverage to us, as long as we’re willing to pay. So I’ve been trying since Oct. 3 to shop for a new policy on the ACA health insurance marketplace.

Until now, however, the marketplace wouldn’t let me in. Like millions of Americans in the 36 states where the federal government is operating the online exchange, I was stymied every time I tried to get the Obamacare website to process my application.

The eureka moment came after Kelsey Barrow, a certified application counselor at the Variety Care clinic in Norman, advised me to abandon my existing sign-up profile and helped me submit an entirely new application from scratch.

(Note to Obama administration: Next time you announce the number of people who have created marketplace accounts, please subtract two. They’re just previous versions of me.)

“This is looking good,” Barrow told me soothingly as I fidgeted in her small sign-up office. It has hand-painted farm animals frolicking on the walls because it used to be a pediatric exam room. They cheered me up.

I pushed the enter button, for what felt like the thousandth time.

Eligibility confirmed, the website declared!

The website displayed an intimidating list of 61 health plans for which my wife and I qualify, grouped into metallic coverage tiers: bronze, silver, gold, platinum. The unsubsidized premiums range from $274 to $1,076 per month, per person.

More recap: My wife and I are both 60, which means our premiums are nearly three times as high as a 21-year-old’s. Because we have some non-wage income, we’re slightly above the subsidy cutoff and don’t qualify for federal tax credits that would reduce our premium costs.

It was too much information to process in one session. I’ve got to spend some time researching our health care spending, comparing plan provisions and determining which policies include the doctors we’ve been seeing.

I gave Barrow a hug and said goodbye. I think I can finish up on my own.