So healthcare.gov is not ready for primetime, but there is a way to get the process started for enrolling in health insurance through the Marketplace.
My neighbor, who is self-employed and has two teenage daughters, told me she called 800-318-2596 and got a representative right away. Casey provided the healthcare.gov representative the information necessary to set up an account and get a determination on the subsidy she will receive to help her pay her health insurance premium.
At the end of the phone conversation with the healthcare.gov representative, Casey was told she will receive a letter confirming that her identity and income have been verified and how much of a subsidy she will receive for her health insurance cost. This letter will arrive in two weeks.
With this letter in hand, Casey will be able to call back the 800-318-2596 number and enroll in a health insurance plan – or she can go online and enroll through healthcare.gov (once it is working right). In the meantime, Casey and I will review the plans available in Tucson to identify the one she wants to enroll in.
Casey is currently paying $800 per month for a plan with a high deductible that has no co-pays for doctor visits or other services. Everything comes under the deductible. Casey thinks she might get a gold plan through the Marketplace for her family because she is willing to pay more to get a more comprehensive plan.
Casey and her daughters are very healthy, but she knows how important health insurance is. You see, a few years ago, one of her daughters was bitten by a rattle snake. The high-deductible insurance turned out to be good as protection against catastrophic costs because Casey paid out $10,000 while the total medical bill was around $80,000. But Casey and her daughters never go to the doctor for regular checkups because of her high deductible plan. So she is thrilled about being able to provide her daughters with a more comprehensive health insurance policy with help from an Obamacare subsidy.
Back to enrolling in health insurance:
Casey’s experience with healthcare.gov made me realize that people who want health insurance can get the ball rolling now by calling 800-318-2596 to set up an account and apply for a subsidy verification. In the meantime, I can help my clients look at their numerous options and identify the health insurance plan they want. I wrote about shopping for plans yesterday.
So let’s not panic and give up on helping people get health insurance. I tried the 800-318-2596 number last night around 8:30 pm and got a representative with no wait. It’s a painless process, though the caller needs to have the right information to get their subsidy confirmed correctly. This requires a person to know what their adjusted gross income was on their last tax return (I wrote about this recently), or they need to estimate their 2014 income if it is expected to be higher or lower than last year.
People like Casey, who see the value in Obamacare for her family, are not going to listen to the politicians who want them to give up the program. Casey found out help is just a phone call away at 800-318-2596.
FOLLOWUP: I called the 800 number and got an idiot. He told me he could not help me figure out my subsidy and verify my identity. He said he could help me review plans. Arrrrghghghg. I told him he was useless to me and hung up. I then called the number again and talked to a very nice young woman who said she could help me fill out an application. “What application is that?”, I asked. It’s the application for the tax subsidy to help pay the premium. This involves providing identity info and social security number so they can check income tax records and citizenship status.
SOME ADVICE: If you call the 800 number and get an idiot, hang up and try again and you will likely get someone who can help you start the process so you can -eventually – apply for a health insurance plan.