As a health care consultant, it was critical that I understand the various options that are available to individuals and families on the public health care exchanges. I decided to help my sister, who is a Pennsylvania resident, establish an account on the healthcare.gov site. Pennsylvania is one of the 34 states that is a part of the federal health insurance exchange program. She and I also decided that for illustrative purposes, she could adopt my two sons so that I could see what family coverage cost in that marketplace.
The fun began when I tried to set up an account. After I entered her name, email address and state of residence, the site read “Important: Your account couldn’t be created at this time”.
It suggested I return to the create an account page. Mmmmm. Wasn’t I just there?
I went back to the home page and thought I might look into the ” See plans now” feature of the site. Maybe I could get some information there. I answered a few questions about family, state and county of residence and information regarding eligibility for premium subsidies (I indicated we weren’t eligible). Twenty seven different plans from two providers running the gamut from catastrophic to platinum level coverage were displayed.
There was no information about what specifically was covered in the plans. (i.e. drugs and network providers). That seemed strange to me: the essential benefits component of plans is well documented in the media, but what about features that would be important to a participant and dependents?
Undaunted, I engaged the email chat feature to see what could be sent to me or a website that I might visit to read the details of the plans accessible through the exchange. Lorrie, who responded to my questions, didn’t know the answer. She thought I should just enroll through the call center and that anyone there could answer my questions about plans. But before I enrolled in anything, I wanted to read thr plan and make sure it met my needs. It didn’t seem like that was possible until I could set up an account. I think. I don’t know if Lorrie knew how to enable me to do that, and she wrote that she had other callers she needed to help out. Good luck to them.
So my little experiment goes on. I’m glad that my sister (and her “dependents”) don’t need the exchange. It seems like a dartboard to me–you decide how much you want to spend, and pick the plan by throwing a dart. I didn’t even go the route of premium subsidies–way too much information required for that.
Of course this experience is no surprise to anyone. It’s front and center in the media. Hopefully once the kinks are out of the system, applicants will actually be able to access information and select the most appropriate plan, so that it meets their needs in a affordable way.
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