December 4, 2013
Healthcare.gov: Betty's Experience
In October I wrote about my attempt to buy health insurance with the post, Retirement Advice: My First Hand Experience with Healthcare.gov.I don't need to recap all the disasters of the government web site. I am not sure I will ever understand how something so important to the president was allowed to be so bad. I will leave that to all the books that will eventually be written about the ACA (Obamacare) launch.
For me, little did I know I would be one of the handful of people who managed to work through that seriously flawed system to actually purchase a policy that was both superior and cheaper than the one I have been stuck with the last dozen years. I did have to come back several times to complete the application, pick a policy, and enroll. But, it did work.
At that time, Betty had yet to try her hand at finding a replacement for her truly miserable private policy. A few days after I was successful, we went on-line to start her application process. I had convinced her it might take a little time, but the process was working.
Immediately, things started to go wrong. Time after time, her application would get stuck on a page and not advance. Or, after clicking the Next button, the screen would go blank, and stay that way. Information that we entered was not saved, so each time we were bumped from the system everything we had entered was lost and we started all over again.
Finally, after a solid week we managed to finish the on-line application. Within a few days the screen told us her application was being processed. That sounded good. A week later, still processing, two weeks, three weeks....still processing.
At that point we called the 800 number several times. No one could tell us why nothing was happening but to keep checking back. The phone operators quickly acknowledged the system's flaws but were powerless to help us.
At last, the application showed it was complete and to check a box to see Betty's eligibility results. Nothing happened. We tried over a several day period and each time we landed on a dead page. Again, back on the phone we went. Now we were told someone from the Advance Resolution Center would call us. They had the power to help.
Apparently, they didn't have the power to call. Two calls requesting help from these all-powerful people and five weeks later and we still stuck with a completed application that we couldn't access to actually buy a policy. In fact, now we were kicked from "View your eligibility" back to a new application and told to start all over again. Except the system had a wrong Social Security number for Betty and wouldn't allow us to change it.
By this time Betty's current insurer had told her she'd have to pay $80 more a month starting in January to keep the half-baked coverage she had now. We were facing a real deadline just a month away.
On December 2nd, with everything still stuck we called again. This time the operator couldn't find her application at all. Apparently it was complete all right...completely lost. This time we insisted on being switched immediately to the Resolution Center. The nice lady there couldn't find Betty's policy either. It had simply disappeared.
There is a happy ending.The very patient operator told us she could complete a new application for us, get it approved in 30 seconds, and allow Betty to purchase a policy immediately. And, that is exactly what she did. After another 30 minutes of answering the same questions, she pushed the right buttons and had Betty signed up for a policy that saved us $70 a month with a tremendous increase in medical coverage.
Persistence paid off. I will never be able to understand why my attempt went through with only minor hitches at a point in October when almost nothing worked, and Betty's attempt fell so far through the cracks that it disappeared.
Betty and I are some of the people the new law was designed to help. But, there is no excuse for such an amateurish launch of such an important program that is frustrating so many people and wasting so many millions of dollars.
If you are attempting to navigate this web site and having real problems, I have three words for you: Advanced Resolution Center.
Update: As of this morning, December 6, Betty's information has been properly received by her new health insurance company, payment has been made for the first month, and she is now officially signed up. The long and winding road has been traveled successfully.