Monday, February 16, 2015

Our very brief experience with Obamacare...

I know politics are a sensitive subject, but I thought I would share our very brief experience thus far with "Obamacare" in case someone ends up in a similar situation.

As long as Devon and I have been married (11 years in April <3), we have been fortunate to have jobs with access to excellent health insurance. With this access has come hefty insurance premiums as we are probably all familiar with, but I am grateful for having it. Having been in a bad car accident over a decade ago, I understand first-hand how incredibly important health insurance is. Even though the majority of the major expenses were at the time of the accident when thankfully I was still covered on my parents' insurance (thanks Mom & Dad!!), I have had several CT scans, x-rays, specialist visits, etc. since, and insurance was critical in ensuring I had access to the care I needed. While I don't agree with many things about the healthcare system, I recognize generally how it works, and so maintaining health insurance is very important to me.

I take good care of my screws. 
About a month and a half ago, a great job opportunity presented itself, so Devon applied for the job. He fortunately got the job, but the company position is a three month contract to hire position. Devon has always been hired on with immediate access to benefits as a salaried employee, so this is kind of new for us. As a contract employee, at least for now, we had the option to keep our insurance with his previous company (COBRA), get insurance through my workplace, forgo insurance temporarily (definitely my last choice), or we could consider "Obamacare." My inclination was to just keep what we had because it was very good insurance, but COBRA would mean our monthly premium would double because Devon's company had been paying half of the premium. We could pay the full premium plus a 2% administrative fee which was going to come close to being a second mortgage payment. While I considered trying to get insurance through my workplace, I have heard lots of complaints from my fellow employees, so I wasn't particularly excited about that option. Going without insurance was not an option in my book, so the final option was to try to figure out what Obamacare was. While I am sure I probably know several people who have purchased insurance through the "health marketplace," I haven't actually talked with anyone about it. I will admit, that while I am strong proponent of universal access to healthcare, I had serious reservations about even messing with Obamacare. Everything I have heard has been pretty negative - the website is horrible, the time to speak with someone on the phone could be hours, I wouldn't be able to see my own doctor, and on and on. Had the COBRA option not been so expensive, I would not have even considered looking further.
He has a point!

One night after the boys had gone to bed, I decided to peruse the website. There was an option to type in my zip code and search for options. The only information I had to provide was my zip code, the ages/genders of the individuals I was seeking coverage for, and whether the individuals were parents and/or tobacco users. After I put in this information, 24 plans pulled up organized into categories (bronze, silver, gold, and platinum) and by price ranging from lowest to highest. As expected, the least expensive packages had the highest deductibles and the more expensive plans generally had lower deductibles and better coverage. This part of the process was honestly a little overwhelming because there were quite a few options. I tried to find a plan that was comparable to what we currently had, so I could try to compare prices. As it turns out our previous insurance company did not have a comparable plan available on the Marketplace, but there were several other options with other companies that were either similar or even better.

I had a few questions about how it would work, since I didn't want there to be a lapse in our coverage, so I called the number listed on the website. I braced myself for a long wait, but a nice lady immediately answered. She answered my questions, and while I felt a little better about this possible option, I was still a little skeptical. The next day I discussed everything with Devon, and we looked at the different choices together. For each package, there is a link that you can click on to check and see if your doctor is covered under that plan. I found that for the plans we were considering, our doctors were covered providers. While the plan we chose certainly wasn't cheap, it was still going to be about $500 a month less than our COBRA option and from what I could tell, our coverage would be slightly better than what we currently had (i.e., cheaper prescriptions, lower office copay, same deductible, etc.). In addition to choosing medical coverage, it also gives you an option to purchase a dental and/or vision plan. Like the medical plans, the plans are categories and labeled as HMO, PPO, EPO, etc.

I filled out the online application (SO MUCH EASIER THAN FILING TAXES!!), and then it took me to a separate website to arrange payment, so that we could be covered by the first of the month. I could either pay online or be billed, but since our coverage would be ending very soon, I opted to pay online. I received an e-mail confirmation from our new insurance company, and within the next couple of days we received our new insurance cards, packets of information, and so on.

So, I felt pretty good about everything, and then a urinary tract infection hit. YEA! Today I got to test out my new insurance. I went to my doctor who I LOVE, and I paid my usual copay (less $10), and this evening I picked up my antibiotics ($0) because they're a generic brand. I don't know why, but this morning when I handed my new insurance card to the receptionist I halfway expected her to say, we don't accept Obamacare here! As it turns out, they do accept Blue Cross-Blue Shield even if I enrolled through the healthcare website. :)

City goes with Blue Cross/Blue Shield for employee health insurance

I know that this is just the tiniest tip of the iceberg, but so far, I have been pleasantly surprised by this experience. In the future, if we have insurance options through work, we will certainly consider them especially if our workplace is paying part of the premium, but I will also keep the marketplace in mind. I like the idea of having choices and being able to choose a plan based on my family's needs and budget. There are no questions about pre-existing conditions, and there are lots of major companies to choose from (Cigna, United Healthcare, Aetna, Blue Cross, etc.).  I'm not sure, but I think the deadline to enroll was yesterday unless you have a change in jobs (as we did), but if you do have a change in jobs, it's worth looking into especially if you're considering paying for COBRA.

1 comment: