Is It Really That Bad?


marengo sunset-ae2I hate navigating the landscape of health insurance.  Before I became self-employed, I weighed the pros and cons of the insurance programs my employer offered.  Loved-One and I are both healthy, so in all our years of working for The Man, we rarely met the deductable.  As a self-insured free-lance writer, I hemmed and hawed about purchasing health insurance.  Sure we’re healthy, but the what-ifs plagued me.

After much research and policy comparisons, we purchased high deductable insurance coverage from Aetna.  It costs more than $10,000 a year.  In anticipation of the Affordable Health Care Act, each policy every insurers offered covered routine testing and an annual physical.

I read the Affordable Health Care Law.  Ask me a question if you want.  I can find it and give you the answer, and quote page number.  I can tell you that (page 22) you cannot be penalized for lawfully owning or using a gun.  I can tell you that States are not penalized for refusing to cover

English: Barack Obama speech "Fighting fo...
English: Barack Obama speech “Fighting for Health Insurance Reform” delivered 8 March 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

abortion (page 64,) nor can any health-provider or institution be penalized for refusing to perform or take part in an abortion.  I can tell you that all insurance levels must cover essential health benefits and preventive care.  I can tell you about the Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of insurance.  I can look up many of the details, because I have it highlighted, bookmarked, and saved.  Yes, it’s long: 478 pages, but I’ve read many books longer than that.  Some of them a lot less intriguing.   Anyways, a lot less talked about.

I waited with baited breath for October 2013, when I could join my State’s insurance exchange and hopefully get better and more affordable health insurance.

I knew my premiums would be lower.  I just knew it.

I’m computer savvy, so I welcomed on-line sign-up.  I expected a few glitches.  What computer systems roll-out is glitch-free?  I experienced my fair share of bumpy roll-outs in my life as a Quality Assurance professional.

The website was easy-peasy.  I entered a user id, and a password.  I put in the answers to the security questions.  I got through the questionnaire.  What a breeze.

I clicked Next.  Nothing happened.  I clicked Next again.  Nothing happened. I clicked Next again.  Still, nothing happened.  Not even an error message.  (When my IT professional, computer geek son was 12 years old, he installed a “voice” on our computer that droned out “idiot” if I hit the wrong key.  I repeatedly hit the same wrong key.)  Maybe if I hit the Next key one more time, the computer will understand me.  Idiot.

I let it rest.

I got an e-mail letting me know I successfully created my account.  I tried to log in.

I got an error message:  my user name or password was incorrect.

Yes, I wrote it down.  I’m not that much of an idiot.  I must have written it down incorrectly.  Maybe Siri did one of her clairvoyant acts and auto-corrected to what she thought I meant.

I pressed “forgot password” on the website.  The system asked me the security questions.

“Who was you childhood best friend?”

Susie, but did I enter Susie, or Susie Brown, or Susan Brown?  None of those worked.

“What is the name of your first pet?”

Drat.  I used Ladybird.  Or was that Lady Bird, or Lady-Bird.

Hoisted by my own petard.

DSC03191Like the Little Engine that Could, I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could.  I chugged on.

The Contact Us link gave me a choice to get help locally.  I entered the info required.  Nobody is in my area.  Nobody?  Wait a minute.  There must be somebody in my area.  I don’t live in Outer Mongolia.

Oh my, the default radius is too small.  No wonder.  I expanded the radius.  Two days later I got a return call.  Mary explained that Sunday afternoon was the best time to access    She resets my user name and password.  She tells me, when the system is busy, it will lock up.  I wrote everything down, including the questions and correct answers to my security questions.  I tell Siri to take a hike.

I successfully log in.  I do not advance.  This time I know it’s the website, not me.  Wait a minute.  I never noticed that button:  Apply by phone.

I call the toll free number.  1-800-318-2596.

 “Is your phone charged?  Do you have 45 minutes to an hour.  Can you give me a phone number to call if we get disconnected?”

Laura stepped me through the process, waited patiently while I ran around the house collecting information, and was true to her word. It took about 45 minutes to complete the application form.

Although the Federal sign-up told me the State would contact me, the Federal and State sites do communicate well, so I went through the process the State’s website.

20121116-064355.jpgSame song, second verse same as the first.

I looked for the phone number, and called for help right away.   The auto-answer prompts led me down rabbit holes, forcing me to start over a few times.

Marie gave me the prompt numbers so I could bypass the auto-messages.

Mark redirected me to the website with some helpful hints.  Nope.  Still unsuccessful.

I called the telephone number again.  This time I talked to Delinda.

“This will take 45 minutes to an hour,” Delinda said.  “Do you have that much time?  Is your phone charged?  Is there a number I can reach you at if we get disconnected?”

Delinda and I completed the application.

“That took an hour and five minutes,” I said when we finished.

“I’m sorry,” Delinda said.  “I appreciate your patience.”

“No,” I said.  “Now I know what’s going on behind the scenes, while I’ve been on hold all that time.

Yes, the websites are glitchy.  The phone systems took perseverance.  Each time I got put on hold for many minutes.  I put my headset on and went about business listening to piped-in music, while I caught up on e-mail, did laundry, and edited my manuscript.  Once I reached a real person, the service was stellar.  Whoever hired and trained these people deserve a Congressional Gold Medal.

I started in October, and by January 15, I completed the process.   That may seem like a long time.  Then again, it took Aetna three months to decide whether removing a blood clot from Loved-One’s thigh was necessary; and have yet to complete a claim for a mammogram I got in March of 2013.  The place where I got the mammogram is in-network (good,) but the radiologist that read the mammogram is not (bad.)  Aetna assured me that since I did not have a choice of who read the results, they would cover the claim.  I got another bill yesterday.

We have health insurance starting February 1.   4th of July 9Insurance at a much-reduced cost.  Insurance that has a wide network.  And our coverage includes dental.


Was it worth it?  Yes.  Will it be better?  I’ll let you know next January.

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