The deadline passed. Obamacare, ACA, the Affordable Care Act, the great grandiose pack of wonders or horrors depending on your point of view reached and surpassed its quota of subscribers. The wonders and horrors are already being touted. It sounds like the day after someone gets their first car; do you want to hear about the grand and glorious places they can go, or do you want to hear about the cost of gas and the vehicular accident rates? The systemic economic statistics won’t be available for years, but those of us that signed up by the December deadline have months of personal data to back up our stories.
To those who’ve shared their stories and their data with me, don’t worry, discretion will be maintained.
To those of you just finding this blog and my story, here are a few links along the way.
- One Confused Obamacare Applicant
- ACA And HAMP And Me
- Rube Goldberg Manages Healthcare
- Costs Up Benefits Down
To those of you who’ve been following my story, the slapstick fun never seems to end.
But wait. My pratfalls, banana peals, and whoopie cushion moments were supposed to be over. I finally got everything arranged. Provider chosen. Payments arranged. Premiums paid. You are a silly person, or maybe it is just me.
First I couldn’t log in. Then I got coverage but at a 60% increase. Then it turned out I probably didn’t have coverage. Then I got coverage and got the tax credit and the rate came back down to my pre-ACA rate plus ten dollars. Then I didn’t get billed, and only resolved it within hours of the deadline.
Welcome to March. I expected a bill in the mail because the fine folks at Washington Health Plan worked hard to set that up for me. I trust technology more than many, but enough had gone wrong that I wanted paper delivered that I would respond to with an envelope, a stamp, and a paper check. Ah, but an email came in that looked like an auto-pay, but hey, at least it was paid.
Or not. I watched my bank account and the money hadn’t been withdrawn. Open the email, click on the link, spend too much time and energy logging in and having to reset passwords again, to learn that the email has a link to the bill, not to a payment. I was supposed to print the bill myself. And the payment wasn’t due at the end of the month. It was due a week earlier.
The regular mail wouldn’t work in time. Even Express Mail doesn’t take a letter stamped at 10pm on the 30th and get it to its destination by the 31st. Bang my head slowly, otherwise it hurts too much – and for all I knew and know, I don’t have coverage.
Ah, but a glimmer of hope. There was a Pay It Now button, which I clicked, where I paid, and received a receipt. So, I don’t know if I have coverage, but I do know that they have my money. One spot of good news is that my premium dropped 10%. One spot of bad news is that friends tell me mistakes in the paper payment process take months to resolve.
Have you caught on to what’s missing in this discussion of health insurance? There has been no mention of health being cared for. No doctors visits. No prescriptions. Just payments in money, time, and emotional reserves.
Let us celebrate millions of people signing up for health care. Authentic anecdotes tell of people finally receiving medication, going to the doctor, not being bureaucratically limited by pre-existing conditions. But almost all coverage includes co-pays (usually reasonable), deductibles (which is $2,000) in my case, and some portion of the doctor’s visits, tests, and procedures.
I believe that healthier people will systemically decrease the cost of health care (duh, and yet that point isn’t raised enough), will increase the productivity of the nation, will free up ideas and time and energy and money to improve almost every aspect of society. But we aren’t talking about free healthcare. We’re talking about health insurance that costs as much as some people are paying for food, or housing; and those are the people who had to make tough choices about which bills to pay which may have been why they weren’t insured at the start.
Here, in the first days of April, I don’t know if I have insurance. Yes, I know it will be easy to find out. Just call. But I’ve learned that any such call can easily take two hours, and two hours chasing electronic ghosts is two hours I’m not billing hours that pay my bills.
Signing up for healthcare is simple. Enough of my friends have proved that. Maybe my issues have to deal with overwork, which could also be said about many of those who’ve signed up.
Personal finance is inherently simple. Saving for retirement is simple. Spend less than you make and invest the rest.
The simple stories suggest simple solutions. There are details that don’t fit in short articles, or even in episodic blogs. Especially in healthcare, every situation is different because we are all unique.
As the March 31st deadline approached I could tell that a lot of people were looking for help in unofficial places. My blog traffic grew every day until it set records. The most popular posts were of my experiences trying to sign up, pay, and confirm my health care coverage. Considering that healthcare tends to be tied to a region, there were a lot of people in Washington State looking for help; and Washington State is one of the better run systems (from what I’ve heard.)
I suspect I’ll know even more if I ever actually visit a doctor. In the meantime, I’ll continue my version of eating right, exercising, trying to get plenty of rest and fluids, and maybe getting a massage or visiting an acupuncturist. No insurance required.