We signed up for Obamacare yesterday, and I’m a satisfied customer.
I’m here to report that the process of applying for and obtaining health insurance on the much-maligned website is much easier than applying for private insurance the old-fashioned way. We encountered an initial glitch in logging in, but it turned out to be our own fault, not the site’s. No questions are posed about hospitalizations over the past 5 years, prior surgeries, prescribed medicines, most recent blood pressure readings, diagnosed health conditions, and all the other data that the companies insist on collecting from you every time you change insurers. As I recall, the only health-related information we provided were age, whether we currently smoke, and whether we have difficulties in performing activities of daily living (eating, dressing, toileting).
To determine the amount of your government subsidy for covering insurance premiums, the site asks you to estimate your income for 2014. It’s possible to enter varying estimates offline to see how much of a price break you might get for varying income levels. The discounts turn out to be quite steep, even for income levels that don’t fall below the officially recognized poverty line. Since this is a program administered by the federal government, it will be possible at the end of the year for the Obamacare administrators to identify, via your income tax returns, how much income you actually made. If it turns out you make more income than you estimated, you will have to repay unmerited subsidies. If you earn less than you estimated, then you get the additional subsidy refunded to you or applied to the subsequent year’s insurance premium.
When you’re ready to buy insurance, you’re presented with a list of insurance plans offered by private insurers that have agreed to participate in the Obamacare program. I thought that maybe there would be two choices, but there were maybe 40, clumped according to comprehensiveness of coverage (bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, of course). For each option the website displays the basic features: deductible, coinsurance, copay, maximum out-of-pocket expenses, prescription prices. The price of each option is displayed: the unsubsidized full amount as well as the amount you would have to pay after your calculated subsidy. Even if you don’t quality for a subsidy, the site’s method of displaying comparative costs and benefits of various options is extremely helpful.
We selected a plan from the list that best suited our preferences for coverage and price, then clicked the button. Congratulations! You’ve successfully signed up for Obamacare-administered health insurance. Presumably we’ll receive an email from the insurance carrier within the next couple of days instructing us on how to pay. Coverage goes into effect on 1 January 2014 — a mere 14 days after applying.
In conclusion, Obamacare is the easiest and best way of buying private health insurance that I’ve ever experienced. The website lets you shop for features and compare competing products head to head. And the program does make private coverage much more affordable to people with low incomes.