Short version, for those who hate wading through a dozen paragraphs to get to the nut graph as much as I do: My wife and I have replaced a truly junky policy that cost us $396.34 a month with a better (although still high-deductible) policy that costs us $3.09 a month - a decrease of 99.22 percent. It is very well worth it, but the process was not easy. Follow me below the squiggle for the gory details.
We live in Colorado, which has its own exchange. Even though it did not have as serious problems as the federal exchange, it nevertheless took me several days to create an account, and several more before it was running smoothly enough to enter information.
Once you have an account, you can browse plans. However, you must take two more steps before you’re able to shop.
First, you must check whether you’re eligible for Medicaid. That site is very bare-bones, but I had no trouble creating an account or entering information. The application requires a fairly detailed income survey, and it takes a while, but at least in our case, we received our anticipated rejection immediately upon completion. My one gripe would be that it’s not optimized for today’s I-have-four-jobs-but-all-are-part-time-one-is-self-employed-two-are-contract-work-and-one-is-seasonal sort of resume. It would be both quicker and more accurate to be able to fill in annual income for various jobs instead of pay-period income.
Medicaid rejectees now have a case number to enter when returning to Connect for Health Colorado. This allows you to begin the shopping process. Your second task is almost the same as the first: Re-entering vast amounts of information that largely duplicates what you entered on the Medicaid site. The exchange page at least has the good manners to apologize for this.
Aside from creating an account, our biggest problem was entering some of this information: For two days, I got a message that automatic verification of Social Security Number, citizenship status, and income was not working. I decided to “Proceed With Manual Verification,” which I would not do again unless time were truly pressing. It meant uploading scans of this information, a minor pain, especially since it’s not information I want to have sitting on my computer, so the files had to be scanned, uploaded and then immediately securely deleted.
This turned out to be easier said than done. When I tried to upload the first file on Nov. 27, I got this message: “Upload failed. Try again.” Which of course was the message I got when I tried again.
Later that day I was able to upload some - but not all - of the documents. I’m still not sure what the problem was. A few days later, I had trouble uploading income verification, and it appears that you may have to avoid one or more of the following: Largish files (I had trouble with a 3.8mb file), spaces in filenames, and “jpeg” suffixes instead of “jpg.” But honestly I’m not sure what the problem was, because I never changed just one of these things. The first batch loaded on a change from “jpeg” to “jpg,” and the second loaded on being shrunk and having the spaces removed from the name.
The Social Security and citizenship documents are pretty straightforward. However, the income documents are a bit of a clusterf@@k. These are the acceptable income documents:
• Prior month's pay stub(s)
• Employer letter of gross pay
• Self-employment ledger
• Social Security benefit letter
• Unemployment benefit letter
• Retirement/Pension amount doc
• Amount from Retirement/Pension [sic - this is a duplicate of the line above]
• Net cap gains financial stmt
• Invest income financial stmt
• Net rental/royalty income doc
• Net farming/fishing ledger/P&L
• Spousal maintenance-court doc
• Canceled debts official doc
• Court awards documentation
• Jury duty pay stub(s)
• Other official documentation
Several of these apply to us, and I made one massive file because the site suggests that you can only upload one document per category, though that may well not be the case. This meant scanning individual documents and ganging them together in a graphics program.
On Dec. 6, we knuckled down for the actual signing up. This turned out to be easy, and in just a few clicks we had our new policy at a cost of $3.09 per month instead of the $396.34. We received our confirmation bill from Kaiser Permanente on December 17. They cashed our check on Christmas Eve. The cost of the stamp was a significant portion of our insurance premium.
I didn’t track all my time, but it probably came to 8 to 10 hours, several of them in a state of enhanced frustration. But it was nothing considering that our savings will be at least $4,000* a year and considerably more should we have the misfortune to get sick, since our new policy has a lower deductible, a lower maximum out-of-pocket expense, and includes features that our old policy lacked entirely such as prescription drug coverage.
Those of you who have waded through this, I salute you!
* The savings will be somewhat less than our old policy’s total $4,756.08 premium because that premium was tax-deductible, and odds are we’ll be paying tax on most of the savings.
Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 8:54 AM PT: Grateful and honored to have had this featured on Community Spotlight!