Like millions of other grateful Americans, I will receive healthcare insurance through the Affordable Care Act. I made the payment today and am officially enrolled in a bronze health insurance plan. This is good as I suffer with hypertension and must take costly medications—medications that I have been paying for out of pocket since I left my job in the House of Representatives when my boss retired last January. I have been working to get our nonprofit off the ground with healthcare coverage. I have been blessed not to have needed any medical care and am enormously relieved that Republicans were unsuccessful in their multitudinous attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
My story pales in comparison to other Americans who have benefited from the new health reform law. Countless lives have been lengthened by the fact people will be able to afford life sustaining medications that they would have had to forgo without health insurance. The new law has brought healthcare to thousands who would have been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Nearly 8 million young people between the ages of 19 and 26 years old are covered as a result of the ACA. More than 4 million additional Americans are receiving health insurance through Medicaid. A significant segment of the public remains skeptical about the success of “Obamacare”, but millions are reaping the benefits and those numbers will continue to rise are the system improves.
Getting coverage was not an easy task. I waited a couple of weeks past the October 1st start date anticipating a deluge of applications. As the news got out about the mechanical failures of the federal website and other glitches in the system, I decided to hold off until mid-November. As a resident of Maryland, I began the process on the Maryland Health Connection website. However I never got beyond the initial registration page. After entering all the pertinent information, I could not get to the next screen. I carefully reviewed all of my entries to be sure I had entered all the relevant information correctly. Still nothing happened. Undaunted, I was able to locate a connector entity with navigators who would walk you through the process. After sitting in the waiting room for about 20 minutes, I was offered a computer to begin the process. Again, I entered all the relevant information and nothing happened. The navigator offered assistance, removed the “Jr” suffix from my name and presto, I entered the portal gates.
Once I was able to get registered, shopping for a plan was relatively easy. What was difficult was determining how much I would have to pay for the plan. I had been out of work for nearly a year and my last income tax return did not reflect my true ability to pay. I had some income from part-time work I had done, but had difficulty factoring it into the equation. I did receive a modest subsidy and settled on a fairly inexpensive plan. Then I had to wait to receive notification that my registration had been processed by the healthcare company.
I finally received a notice a couple of days ago from the healthcare company stating that I had until the 15th of January to pay for the plan. So when I could find no way to do this on the company’s website, I called the number and as expected was warned that they were experiencing high volumes of calls and I might want to call back later. I put the phone on speaker and listened to the mind-numbing music for 30 minutes until some came on and provided me with a policy number and told me I could not make the initial payment on their website—it had to be done by telephone or mail. I was transferred to the billing department and once again warned of the high volume of calls. I listened to more music for 20 minutes and a pre-recorded message came on and said I would have call back at another time. I called back to the original number and got a pre-recorded message that no representatives were available and I would have to call back at another time. Refusing to be denied, I called a third time and after a 30-minute wait got a representative who took my payment over the phone.
Getting coverage through the Affordable Care Act can be an ordeal and I can understand why some people would be discouraged. But it is not all the government’s fault. This healthcare company touts itself as the largest in the Mid-Atlantic region but has a registration process that is decades out of date. You would think they would streamline the process to accept new customers. Things will get better and the Affordable Care Act will be here to stay. I’m in baby!
Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D
My Experience with Obamacare was originally published @ Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy » Charles Lewis and has been syndicated with permission.
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