Obamacare – A Convincing Win In Arizona

singingupforobamacareI decided to enroll on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace Monday (November 18, 2013). I am now in the “Plan Select” phase and probably won’t show up as a blip in either leftist or rightist counts of anything related to “Obamacare”.

Noise From Both Sides

Like everyone else in the world with any sort of connectivity, I’m well aware of the trouble the web site was having. My extremely technically competent Bea tried early in the life of the site to register and complete the application process. She came away unsuccessful and frustrated, having wasted literally hours, as did most people after the October 1 launch of the site.

Maybe it’s no coincidence that the website’s project manager at CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is Henry Chao, one letter away from chaos.

The government shutdown designed to “de-fund” the Act destabilized the country and failed miserably in the stated goals.

Yeah, “It’s just politics.”

With that in mind, I decided it was time to see for myself what the facts were in my case rather than listening to anecdotal evidence with a spin one way or the other.

Experience Shades Opinions

Next year marks my 30th year in the computer software business, nearly twenty of which designing, coding, implementing and supporting web applications with an extra five or more doing the same for online mainframe applications used internationally.

So, while I am stupified by the complete lack of quality assurance on a ridiculously overexpensive and important project, I have a good grasp of the underlying difficulties and the traps the implementers fell into.

I voted for President Obama twice, but I am a registered Independent and have voted for Republicans when they were the better choice.

Health Insurance… Priceless

I'll be right back, Mr. Fallar

I’ll be right back, Mr. Fallar

I attempted to purchase health insurance some years ago while self-employed. I was unable to purchase health insurance AT ANY PRICE. While nobody ever uttered the explanation, I assume I was repeatedly rejected because of my pre-existing Muscular Dystrophy.

The funniest “rejection” was a salesman that made his call to my home office, having been conveniently not provided certain information prior to scheduling his sales call. After some discussion about why I rode a mobility scooter (parked in the office), he remarked in a friendly fashion that he had to get “another rate book” from his car and that he would be right back.

I knew he wasn’t coming back when I saw him tearing down my dirt road a minute later. Laughable, actually, but not helpful in my status as an uninsured adult male.

Some people have listened to my story and concluded there were means, other than private insurance, for me to procure medical coverage. When pressed for details, however, none of them have had an answer other than vague generalities about “government insurance”.

Many of these people assume I already collect disability and other benefits. I don’t.

Most of these same people are also quick to decry the new “trend toward socialized medicine” in the US while at the same time suggesting I could have availed myself of same over ten years ago. Actually, I couldn’t.

No Palatable Options

One option for me would have been to file a Social Security (socialized?) disability claim and shut down my business. Of course there would be “work for cash” options if that’s the way you roll. I don’t. The 2008 revisions of the “Ticket To Work” program might have helped, but essentially the penalties for being on disability far outweighed any benefits.

Another option some assume I’d be eligible for is Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) benefits. However, owning a house and making anything over minimum wage ruled that out.

So, I could sell my house, quit my job and receive health care coverage on the government dime. Or I could go the other way, my decision at the time, and live without any health insurance coverage.

That’s my personal background with health insurance. Yes, I’m very likely to approve of ANY program that offers an answer, and health coverage, to people such as myself. So, yes, I’m biased.

Let’s Do This Thing

I was registered and logged in with my new ID in eight minutes (7 minutes, 43 seconds to be exact) including completion of all optional fields and receiving and replying to the verification email sent from the HealthCare.gov web site. Everything worked flawlessly.

I continued with my registration, including entering my income and some deductions. I was finished and presented with 111 options for healthcare insurance in another 12 minutes. Every single plan cost less than my company is currently paying for my coverage and I could begin weighing my options in twenty minutes from the first click on the site.

Your Mileage May Vary

I did NOT have to enter a lot of deduction information because my income level obviated any government subsidy for my insurance premiums and my dependent situation is not complex. It could take considerably more time to complete an application for people that are less organized in their record keeping or have a complex tax return that might qualify them for assistance.

That said, the site works well and doesn’t force an individual to complete all their work in one session. One could conceivably register (in eight minutes or so) and then log in to continue the application when time allowed.

HealthCare_ScreenShot2Results Are Impressive

Out of the 111 plans presented to me, four companies provide fourteen “Platinum” plans that are described as covering 90% of the total average costs of care.

The most expensive “Platinum” plan cost 45% LESS than the renewal cost for my company health insurance through UnitedHealthcare. The coverage is markedly better for me and my company, as well.

None of the plans drove away, at speed, from my office.

Keep My Doctor

I still have research to do and decisions to make. One of the common complaints on the Interwebs, blogosphere and mainstream media is that people will not be able to retain their existing physicians. I like my doctors and want to keep them.

We called physicians and crossed off the plans that they didn’t accept, leaving a bunch of plans to decide from.

I can go with an HMO or a PPO. All of the information I need to make my decision, except for the physicians accepting the plans, is available on the web site. Detailed pricing information in a format I can actually understand and use for comparisons is right there.

That’s new. Most people have never “shopped” for health insurance, please rest assured that the process is difficult even under normal circumstances. This is significantly better.

There are tax implications of reimbursement and some other details to work out. The end result will certainly be reduced costs for my company providing healthcare insurance AND reduced costs to the individuals covered.

Conclusion

In this case, “Obamacare” is a huge win all the way and has no resemblance to “social medicine”. It’s not even close.

Bea has similarly good results with her plan search. Both adults in this house will be covered with BETTER coverage for SIGNIFICANTLY less money than before with our company health insurance through UnitedHealthcare.

Our small business will have REDUCED expenditures and will be able to provide our valuable employees better coverage. Much LESS money will come out of their pockets for the balance of their medical expenses. We assume that will help increase their job satisfaction and, hopefully, productivity.