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The insurance exchanges and .gov website that are at the center of the affordable care act have gotten a lot of bad press lately. Much of it deserved given how glitchy it still is after nearly 3 weeks.  But there is a nice big workaround that hardly anyone is talking about: going straight to the insurers.

The website has been billed as the for health insurance and I'm sure it will get there. But for many people who are purchasing insurance without subsidies, the site doesn't do anything that you can't easily do on your own. Once you know which insurers are offering plans in your state, which you can find here you are free to do all the comparison shopping you want. All of the insurer's websites I visited were very clear and easy to use. The enrollment process is essentially the same as (same questions in the same order) but they dont have to be everything for everyone so it's more streamlined (and much less glitchy). The policies offered are identical.

Perhaps putting so much emphasis on the website wasn't a great move. The real healthcare reform is not by making another kayak. The real reform is changing the rules that the insurers have to follow and expanding the risk pool with the individual mandate. I've enrolled my family in a great plan that we never would have been able get previously and the website had nothing to do with it!

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Comment Preferences

  •  Can you get the subsidy later do you know? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    weck, GeoffT, Carol in San Antonio

    I mean can you file for a refund on your taxes if you don't apply through the exchange web sites?  

    Considering how horrific the web sites are I'm also wondering if they'll be able to get quality feeds of data to the carriers in time to issue policies.

  •  Yes (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FlyingToaster, weck, tle, Sylv, kurt, raines

    I thought of this in the last few days. I happened to see the provider offering a plan for my state/county and went to their website to see if you could bypass

    The long and short of it is, I enrolled for a policy earlier today.

    The huge weight of worry caused by has been lifted from my shoulders. Naturally, after I had coverage for the New Year, I went to and saw it still floundering with my "identity verification pending."

    Identity verification pending, eh? PEND THIS!

  •  Is there a simple way (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    to find out if you qualify for a subsidy?  Like a tax table or something?

    "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, a comedy for those who think" - Jean de la Bruyere

    by Tinuviel on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 02:23:01 PM PDT

    •  The kff generic calculator should of some use (6+ / 0-)

      There may be specific instances when it spits out the wrong data (say your state is not participating in Medicaid expansion). But, as a first step, kff should work.

      •  Ha! "should be" of use, yes, but it isn't. (0+ / 0-)

        They say that "the types of income that you don't have to declare can be found at the FAQ" but I haven't found it yet.

        We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

        by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:07:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The FAQ contains that information (5+ / 0-)


          What is included in household income? How do I know what to enter for my income?

          The calculator allows users to enter household income in terms of 2014 dollars or as a percent of the federal poverty level. Household income includes incomes of the taxpayer, spouse, and dependents. In determining eligibility for exchange subsidies, income will be based on your attestation of your expected income in 2014 and will be verified by the exchange with documentation from your most recent tax return, with consideration of reasonable changes you expect. Exchanges will calculate enrollees’ household incomes using Modified Adjusted Gross Income, or MAGI.  The MAGI calculation includes such income sources as wages, salary, foreign income, interest, dividends, and Social Security. MAGI calculation does not include income from gifts, inheritance, and Survivors Benefits, and some other income sources are partially excluded. More information on MAGI is available here.
          •  thank you. I was busy looking for the words "don't (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            have to declare" and skimmed right past the obvious "what is included?"
            Mea culpa. (my apologies for the vehemence of my reply too.)

            I was very afraid that I might have to explain this stuff to people, because originally we were told that library staff might have to. I found out after all, that in our area at least, the official navigators are to be found at Planned Parenthood.

            We are all pupils in the eyes of God.

            by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:47:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Kaiser have a calculator (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nuclear winter solstice, raines

      Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

      by GeoffT on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:47:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Don't publicize them too much (0+ / 0-)

    These guys are so stupid, if they become famous the Republicans might run them for Congress.

  •  Also you can use online brokers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sylv, ybruti, raines

    and even if you qualify for subsidies it's possible you can use an online broker. It depends on your state. says

    Federal regulations make it clear that states have the option to enable online brokers to enroll people in subsidized insurance, but some states may elect not to pursue this option.
    some states may choose to require low income people to apply for insurance using a subsidy through their state exchange.
  •  Thank you for writing this. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbird, gramofsam1, Chas 981

    It's very useful information.

  •  Excellent title. Gives me important information (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbird, gramofsam1, Chas 981, raines

    without having to click on your diary, which is certainly
    click-worthy, by the way.

  •  I found that the price difference between the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, Wee Mama, Sylv, BadKitties

    exchange offered plans and the same plan offered directly by the insurer was only a few dollars per month in NY.  The best price offered at any level was the exchange plan price, but the direct plans were only very slightly higher.

    One of the insurance companies I talked to said that NY made a mistake when they showed the prices for the duplicate policies, and that the lowest price was the exchange plan.

    I am not eligible for subsidy.

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. &

    by weck on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:21:42 PM PDT

  •  I'm pretty sure I should hug you (11+ / 0-)

    right now! I don't qualify for subsidies, and I'm in lovely state of Texas, that link was perfect!

    Now to give everyone an idea of what I'm looking at cost wise, I had a quote done last October, 2012 from Humana. My insurance quote, as a single mom, 2 daughters, 1 who is bipolar, ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder: $1,309 per month. Almost as much as I pay in taxes as a self-employed business owner.

    Right now I'm looking at the same deductibles and it would cost me: $402.78 through Humana.

    And we wonder why Republican heads are a'sploding?

    It is every person's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what they takes out of it. - Albert Einstein (edited for modern times to include everyone by me!)

    by LeftieIndie on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 03:51:14 PM PDT

  •  I'm ambivalent. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You point out something that is quite important, and I hope that people not receiving a subsidy will take note and follow up.  OTOH, you provide me a rude slap in the face with reality, via the link listing the companies available; 3.  One is BCBS, which I despise, based on personal experience.  One is Aetna, which I've heard is worse than BCBS.  One is Coventry, which doesn't even operate in my county right now.

    Thank you.  Ow!

    I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

    by tle on Fri Oct 18, 2013 at 04:16:09 PM PDT

    •  Aetna (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raines, tle, T Maysle

      FWIW: My elderly mother-in-law had an Aetna Medicare Advantage plan and she had no problems with it, it operated like a PPO and it worked fine. She had a ton of serious medical treatment and it cost her only her co-pays.

      I think some of the problems that people have had with all insurers are going to be reduced because now private insurance is going to be subject to some of the reviews and regulations in terms of coverage and benefits that previously applied to the Medicare Advantage plans.

      There will always be problems, don't get me wrong, but there is a sheriff in town now.

      •  I think that's probably right. (0+ / 0-)

        I read comments on a site evaluating insurance companies, and a lot of the complaints were about claims rejected for (bogus) pre-existing conditions.  That should be, simply, gone.

        I still want a national health service, but there are some very good baby ateps in the ACA.

        I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

        by tle on Sat Oct 19, 2013 at 11:44:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Funny thing: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raines, tle, T Maysle

      I've had BCBS of Illinois which was amazing insurance. I had BCBS Regence (WA) which always looked for ways to not cover claims.

      Last year, I had Anthem Blue Cross, which was great snd handled my high deductible policy (thru my employer) so perfectly that I knew two days after I hit that high deductible, so everything else was paid fully (there wasn't any lag time where I was still paying after coverage should have kicked in).

      Blue Cross/Blue Shield seems to be as varied as walking into any one of the family of Kroger stores. King Soopers, QFC, Ralph's, Smiths, Frys, Food for Less, Freddy's Loaf N Jug, etc...

      You may find some things in common at each, like "Private Select" generic brands at Kroger corporation stores, and certain formularies with BCBS.

      But generally, I've found they're really quite different depending on the individual plan.

      © grover

      So if you get hit by a bus tonight, would you be satisfied with how you spent today, your last day on earth? Live like tomorrow is never guaranteed, because it's not. -- Me.

      by grover on Sat Oct 19, 2013 at 01:07:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Many thanks! (0+ / 0-)

    I live in MA and employed as a private nanny in the 11 yrs. I've been here. The famous "Romneycare" aka Commonwealth Care has been a true lifesaver for me, both when I was raising my teenage daughter and on my own. I lost my subsidized premiums last month as my income changed and I will make too much next yr for federal subsidies but I'm frustrated with the new state exchange as it it making me wait weeks to verify income! Now I know I can just go straight to my most recent insurance provider and find rates on my own! The different companies have had advertisements up all around public transportation stations so this looks like this is a viable option for MA.

  •  Kaiser (0+ / 0-)

    This is great.  I've not spent much time on since I buy insurance already and don't qualify for a subsidy.  Great to be able to see this pricing.  It looks like it's slightly less than what I'm paying now, but I currently have United Healthcare Goldenrule and all the plans in cuyahoga county Ohio are Kaiser, of which I'm not a huge fan. I am concerned that I'll get hit with an increase from goldenrule when my policy comes up for renewal in April and it will be too late to switch to a plan on the exchange by then.  Not sure what to do.

  •  that spreadsheet of insurers isn't complete (0+ / 0-)
    Once you know which insurers are offering plans in your state, which you can find here
    Good advice, but that spreadsheet you linked to doesn't have all the available insurers.

    For example, in Florida it lists only Blue Cross, but I know for a fact Cigna and other companies also offer plans in Florida for 2014.

    Another good source is — they seem to have more complete information about available insurers.


  •  Check with an insurance agent (0+ / 0-)

    In my state an insurance agent can enroll people in subsidized or non subsidized, marketplace or non-marketplace plans at no additional cost to the individual.

  •  Thank you, thank you thank you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What a relief! If had simply had a link to that site on their frontpage, also with instructions about how to simply purchase through an insurance broker as well as the website, they would probably have millions of enrollments right now.

    But FINALLY we can see the plans and compare at least the basic costs and get the name of the plans and then research them online. From what I can see right now, we are going to save many many shekels even without the subsidy we will qualify for.

    I can't thank you enough. I have been stuck at application stage for about 2 weeks now without being able to see the plans.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Sat Oct 19, 2013 at 04:13:24 AM PDT

    •  New account (0+ / 0-)

      I also got stuck at several stages on  It seems like once you're stuck, you stay stuck. I found the best way to get through is to make a new account and start over. My 3rd try went all the way through no problem.

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