Point of View

Into the healthcare.gov vortex, out with no insurance

December 31, 2013 

My wife and I have been struggling with healthcare.gov for over three months, so I have insight on how this promise for a better future has translated into a nightmare of bureaucratic bungles and misinformation.

My wife and I do not have access to employer-sponsored health care. For years, we have participated in a catastrophic care plan with a $10,000 deductible associated with a Health Savings Account. While this has not been optimal, as an individual with a family, “real” coverage has been prohibitively expensive. The strictures of our current plan made us ration our own health care in ways that added responsibility and reason to a burgeoning system.

Unfortunately, we watched our premiums skyrocket year after year with zero claims made. We had neither bargaining power nor redress in a state dominated by a single provider like Blue Cross.

When the ACA became law, we were very excited about our prospects. Subsidized premiums that might make my out-of-pocket more similar to my employer-sponsored friends was a welcome prospect. In the ensuing five years since passage, there has been absolutely no information released about the types of plans that would be offered. There was no way to preview how much I might be paying. There was no way to tell whether the actual coverage was better, but we were thrilled to think that insurance companies might “compete” for our business.

Not only is there no competition (the only true offering is Blue Cross), there is absolutely no follow-through on the part of either healthcare.gov or Blue Cross.

We fought through the glitches in October to get our application into the system after much consternation and a couple of full days and nights of hurry-up-and-wait. With the news that the website was not up to the task, we decided to wait to choose a plan until November, when it was supposed to have gotten better. To our surprise, the quoted premiums had gone up across the board by $50 a month on every plan we had looked at.

After reviewing pros and cons, we decided on a bronze-level plan for our family (we have four kids). We selected it and waited for the notice to come from Blue Cross for payment.

When we received the notice, it was a complete surprise. My name was not on the list of covered individuals. All five others in the family were there, but not me. We reviewed our healthcare.gov account, and guess what? All of us were listed online.

We called Blue Cross, which curtly informed us that this was a healthcare.gov issue. We would have to call the government to get it straightened out. There was nothing else Blue Cross would do.

When we called healthcare.gov, we were told that everything on the government end was correct, and the representative didn’t know what to do other than to cancel the current policy and resubmit. This turned out to be where the nightmare began. There was no way to cancel the current policy. The cancel button on the website was disabled. We were left to recheck the site for days to see whether the button would reappear. When it finally did, another obstacle greeted us.

In order to “progress” to the next step, I had to choose or decline “optional dental coverage.” There was no way to decline this option. I tried for days to get it to go through. Called “help” repeatedly only to get hung up on. I finally found a workaround where I accepted dental for myself, then dropped it at the final confirmation page.

Wonder of wonders, our application was transmitted to Blue Cross for the second time, somehow before the “final deadline.”

We received our notice from Blue Cross on Saturday. Again, I am not listed. Again, we were told it was our problem, not theirs. Again, there is no solution.

I now have no insurance.

Thanks, Blue Cross. Thanks, healthcare.gov.

George Eubanks, a Democrat, lives in Raleigh and works in the home-furnishings industry.

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