Healthcare.gov is a mess and in the process (hopefully) of being fixed by a “surge” of expensive coders. At the same time, a group of 20-year old programmers from San Francisco designed a health insurance shopping program in about one week. You can read the story from CNN here.
This shopping site is very good, but it is not a replacement for healthcare.gov. The site, thehealthsherpa.com, provides only one step of the many that make up healthcare.gov. But it is the step that will make people in Arizona want to enroll in a health insurance plan because it shows the premiums and it calculates the subsidy a person might get (based on their income).
The plans seem to be sorted by cost, from lowest to highest…..and surprise, surprise, Health Net plans are at the top of the list. I’m pretty sure these young programmers are not being paid by insurance companies to put their plans first – like some of the commercial health insurance shopping sites.
So check out thehealthsherpa.com and see the premiums with and without a subsidy. The plans I like are plans that have dollar amounts in the titles, like “$45/$65/$1500″. This is the name of the Health Net Silver plan that comes up when I put in a 30-year old non-smoker. This plan has unlimited doctor visits for a co-pay ($45 for PCP and $65 for a specialist), and a $1,500 deductible.
But here’s the catch with thehealthsherpa.com: It doesn’t give you any more information on the plans. It tells you to call the company and ask for more info. I suppose they could email you the “summary of benefits”. Here is a link for more details on Health Net plans where you can see premiums and plan details (but not subsidy amounts).
The site also says you can enroll by calling the company – but if you want a subsidy, you must go through healthcare.gov. If you don’t qualify for a subsidy, you can enroll directly through Health Net or any other insurance company. A Health Net sales manager described the enrollment process as being “like signing up for a library card”. Of course, this is if you go directly through the company and do not need a subsidy.
I was showing the Health Net HMO Platinum plan to a friend with two kids who is self-employed. She pays $800 now for a high-deductible plan that covers nothing until she pays out $4,000. She would pay $200 less for the Silver plan which has no deductible – and she would pay $400 less if she get a subsidy.
This woman is waiting to hear from healthcare.gov about her subsidy. She used the 800-318-2596 number to get signed up through healthcare.gov in order to get her income and her subsidy verified. Only problem is that it has been three weeks since she talked to healthcare.gov…. and she hasn’t heard anything yet. That worries me because it’s not supposed to take three weeks. And of course, if the website was working, the process should take 30 minutes.
So if you don’t qualify for a subsidy, be happy that you have good income! And just go directly through Health Net or any other company you choose. Your choice could be affected by your list of doctors because some plans (like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona) are offering their entire network for their plans. Other companies have more restricted networks. Health Net has its statewide PPO network and its local, smaller network. But even the smaller networks are pretty good in Tucson.
So go shopping at thehealthsherpa.com and check out options for yourself, or your kids, or your grandkids. You will see some very reasonable health insurance premiums in Tucson.