My Healthcare Journey Part One, or, Our System Is Down Right Now
In this series of posts it's my intention to detail my journey through the Affordable Care Act. While I am fairly Libertarian in my political views I'm not in principle against the idea of the ACA, however my experience with the healthcare.gov website has been incredibly frustrating. My tale begins back in October when the website first came online. I enrolled in order to look into insurance options for my family. I am covered very well by my employer but to add the family to my plan would be unaffordable. They currently have an individual plan. It took several attempts to create a login at healthcare.gov, but I finally succeeded. After creating my login however, it was 2 weeks before the system would let me create an application for health insurance. At first I just got blank pages. These were followed by error messages with the "error id" listed as "unknown error." Finally though, I got an application submitted for my family.
Good news, my wife and both my kids are eligible to purchase insurance on the marketplace! Great! Where do we sign up?
This question was answered by over a month straight of "Select a health plan for: null" messages. I chatted and called the Marketplace call center several times and was always told that there are bugs in the system and to try back at a time that was less busy. Finally I spoke to a call center employee who thought I might just want to delete my application and try again. So I did that.
I then proceeded to reapply for coverage for my family. I told the system all the important things it needed to know for the second time. I told it that my wife was a woman. I told it that my 7 year old hasn't been employed in the past six months. I told it that my 1 year old doesn't have any alimony to report on her taxes. All the important stuff. My application went through, but this time, something was different. While my wife was still eligible for insurance through the marketplace, my 1 year old was eligible for Idaho CHIP (Children Health Insurance Plan) and my 7 year old was not eligible for any coverage whatsoever. The friendly government-issued pdf document said, and I quote:
Based on your application, you don’t qualify to purchase health coverage through the Marketplace. In addition, you don’t qualify for a tax credit, cost-sharing reductions, Medicaid, or Idaho CHIP.You still might be able to get health care at a lower cost. The health care law has expanded funding to community health centers, which provide primary care for millions of Americans. These centers provide services on a sliding scale based on your income. Learn more about getting care at a community health center on HealthCare.gov.
Sorry small child, you don't qualify for mandatory insurance that we will fine you for not having. Good news though, if you can find a "community health center" they might cut you a deal, as long as your income is low enough.
At this point, I knew something must be wrong. So, I deleted that application and started over. I had the same family for this application, same wife (still a woman), same children, but the soothing blue and green prompts asked me slightly different questions this time. (Does my 1 year old need help paying off the last six Huh. That application was successfully submitted and my wife is still eligible for health care. My 1 year old is now eligible for Medicaid, not CHIP and my 7 year old is still ineligible for anything.
Stay tuned for the next installment in this series where I call the Health Insurance Marketplace and hilarity ensues...