Sunday, December 01, 2013

Obamacare Adventures Update

I just got done going through most of the Obamacare application process on the Covered California web site. Whew! Seemed to be so much simpler the first time I went there in September. For some reason it took me a while to figure out where to start. I finally clicked on the "Open an Account" link, or whatever it said. Then it got a bit easier, at least for the beginning.

The application isn't that bad. I think it's the exact same thing that gal and I went through on the phone. Where she might have made a mistake is that after you have all the household members listed, you can specify whether or not the other household member needs insurance. Plus there's a question that asks about being the primary taxpayer she must have checked off wrong. 

Took me a half hour, or so it seemed, to get towards the end. Then you get to where you verify everything is truthful and you click Submit, or whatever the button says to finish the application. Something went wrong with that. A window popped up with a spinning progress wheel saying, "Please wait while we verify your information".  And it spun and spun. 

I couldn't even log out of the site at that point as all links were deactivated. I waited for at least then minutes and was considering just leaving the site without logging out, since I was kinda stuck, when a window popped up saying I was inactive for too long and they would log me out in two minutes if I didn't do anything. Since I couldn't do anything with that Wait window open anyway, I just let them log me out.

Took a break, went back and logged in. Got back to the verification page and pressed Submit. This time it worked fine. A bit confused how to go further I finally clicked on some link to select plans and it took me to some page asking my zip code and income. WTF? I thought they already knew that? Isn't that what the application was about?

They also had a thing that asked how much you used medical services and prescriptions. It specifically asked how much each household member used them. What difference does that make? It's supposed to be just for me. I gave them the info for both of us, anyway, and it took me to a list of plans. There was a couple $2 a month plans, after the tax rebate. The rest were way out of my range starting at two or three hundred a month and going much higher.

I went back and submitted the info for just me. That took me back to a slightly better selection with three $2.00 a month plans. The next one up was $126 a month. Nothing in between and $126 was a bit high for me although the deductibles were much better. A bit high, but not totally unaffordable. Would love to have seen that $35 one mentioned by the commenter on the list.

I was not happy with the page presenting the plans, though. The window was too small, obscuring the plan on the far right and I could find no way to widen it. Must not be compatible with Firefox, my screen resolution or maybe the fonts I'm using? I got a little fed up trying to check out each plan since it wasn't fitting my screen right so gave up. I'll deal with that later.

They also have a thing where you can upload your identification and income verification. I think they said something about having until March to do that. I'll get to that one of these days.


At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure why this was so much harder for you, than it was for me. The formatting worked fine for me. I use Google Chrome, maybe that was the difference?

If you try again and you're still having trouble comparing the plans, that might be worth trying to set up an appointment with one of the Enrollment Counselors at Open Door Clinic (if so, I wouldn't wait too long to try to make that appointment, since I assume they're getting busier and busier as the initial deadline approaches).

I'm guessing that the $2 a month figure was for "Bronze" plans (the relatively bare-bones, high deductible plans) and the $126 a month was for "Silver" plans? Is that correct?

If so, I'm guessing you must either be older, or have a higher income than I do. (45 years old, and just barely above MediCal eligibility). Otherwise, I'm not sure why the premium for a Silver plan would be so much higher for you than for me. Still only a fraction of what you'd have had to pay for a comparable individual policy without Obamacare, of course. But obviously that's not much consolation, if you still can't afford it.

If those are your choices -- $2 a month for a Bronze plan, and $126 a month for a Silver plan -- then I sympathize, it could be a tough choice. Even if your income is a couple thousand dollars more than mine, $1,500 a year is a pretty significant number. On the other hand, having the lower deductibles could quickly pay off in the event of a serious injury or illness. Or even a not-so-serious injury or illness.

But one thing seems pretty clear -- there doesn't appear to be any advantage to letting yourself go uninsured and paying the penalty. The $2 a month plan may not be great, but it's way better than nothing. (And supposedly much more comprehensive than CMSP, though I haven't specifically looked into that.)

I wouldn't recommend procrastinating on providing your ID and income verification, because I'm pretty sure they won't give you the subsidy until you do. Yes, there is a March deadline, but I'm pretty sure that's for plans that don't take effect until later. If you want to be covered Jan 1st, and you want to have the subsidy in place so that you don't have to pay the full premium out-of-pocket, I think you have to get the ID and income verification in ASAP. But I'm not 100% sure.

So if for some reason it's a real hassle for you to submit that info now, and you'd rather wait a while if you can, then I'd recommend calling the helpline and asking that question, because otherwise you might be in for an unwelcome surprise when your first premium bill arrives.

If it's no big deal for you to scan your documents and submit them, I'd recommend just going ahead and doing that as soon as possible, once you've selected a plan and completed the application. Better safe than sorry.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Yeah, I think it might be browser incompatibility. I'll try in in IE next and see if there's any difference.

I didn't write down the name of the plans the second time I looked. The first time, when I listed both our medical use info, there was a Blue Shield silver plan for $96. For some reason that one didn't show up when I submitted just my needs the second time.

As it is now, I'm more than happy to pay out of pocket for all my medical stuff as I have been. I go to the doctor maybe 3 times a year to have my blood checked and renew prescriptions. That's pretty much it, even though when I do have an issue I haven't been able to afford it.

For instance, I have problems with my shoulder and elbow joints. Was in there last time and she said she could set me up for an xray. I told her I couldn't do that because I pay share of cost, which is a very large amount of money for me. She goes, "Oh, that's right", and we moved on.

Some of the plans save me money for doctor visits and lab tests, but I'd spend more overall except with the lower $2 premiums. But then, as you mentioned, if something happened, which is a good possibility with every day I get older, the deductibles would just about leave you homeless. Saw one mention of $10k for one thing or another. be nice to find the right balance of cost vs everyday need vs possible needs.

I'm not sure just what CMSP covers since I've paid cash for pretty much everything since they switched me to share of cost. It actually works well for me as I know I'm covered if something really bad happens and I prefer to pay for services rendered myself, rather than dump the bill on someone else. Years ago I did get an xray under CMSP when I wasn't on share of cost. That didn't cost me anything, at least in the conventional sense.

I'll pick one or the other plan, eventually. Have to have something.

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Oh, and our ages and stuff are a bit different. I'm 58.

As far as income, I was surprised to see the web site total our income to considerably higher than our tax returns. In fact, looking at our long form, I can only find my income listed, not the wife's SSD. That's probably because hers isn't taxable?

What kind of gets me about this site and MediCal/ CMSP, though, is they want my gross income before expenses, or so it seems. If I had business expenses of 10% my income, that apparently isn't taken into consideration. What's with that?

On the upside, maybe, is if I send in my Schedule C form to them, it's going to show considerably less income than their system shows me having.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't realize you were 58. Hey, you look good for an old-timer! ;)

Yup, the premiums are higher for older folks. I'd rather see a flatter premium structure as far as age goes, but I guess they don't want to push the premiums on younger folks too high too fast, because they want them to get on board with paying something into the system.

Interesting point about the income. Again, might be worth getting some help from Open Door or the 800 number or whatever. While I keep harping on the importance of getting this done before time runs short, you do still have some time, and it's definitely worth getting it right.

In my case, about 1/2 of my income is from self-employment. Like you, I use Schedule C to calculate profit (after business expenses).

Then that profit number goes on my 1040, is added to my wage income, and these are totaled up on line 22 of the 1040 form. That is my "total income" (as opposed to "adjusted gross income" or "taxable income") so that's the number I divided by 12 and reported as my monthly income. As far as I could tell, that's what they were looking for. If that's not the number you used, what number did you use?

At 5:26 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I just went to Quickbooks and ran up a report for the last month I had figures for, which was October. I haven't done November yet. It should be about the same.

I just chose the monthly option and the site calculated it for me. I did see something before the calculation where they mentioned certain deductibles but business expenses weren't among them, although they alluded to something along that line. I just went back and subtracted $100 from my personal monthly income to make up for expenses.

At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I see. In my situation, my income varies a lot from month to month. So I used the annual figure.

At 6:59 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Mine doesn't usually vary too much from month to month, although it can. Probably depends on expenses more than anything else.

I mostly chose to use a month because it seemed easiest. They wanted "this month's" income. This month was December, which hadn't happened yet. I hadn't done my Quickbooks stuff for November yet. So, I just went to October and used that. The web site changed it to annual income after I entered the figures.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Just tried Google Chrome. No log in link shows up with it. Probably because it doesn't recognize me with the different browser. Site was so slow I didn't want to waste time finding a place to log in.

Tried Internet Explorer, too. Same thing.


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