Monday, November 4, 2013

My Experience With Obamacare Sign Up in California

          Since I became unemployed, medical insurance coverage has become a major concern. I can apply for COBRA from my previous job but it's very expensive. Private insurance although slightly less costly, is still high and the co-pays and deductibles are high as well, meaning more out of pocket expense. I may be able to cover COBRA or private insurance up to the end of this year, but what about if I become long term unemployed? This where the advantage of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act kicks in. So the day after I got laid off, I immediately applied at California's health insurance exchange - We've all already heard about the problems the federal site ( was having so I'm not even going to say anything about that. I've previously researched this issue several months ago which I wrote about here: An Obamacare Loophole for Early Retirees?

          So I explored the website and clicked on the Individuals and Families link, then Start Here, which took me to another site - This where you can create an account and put in all your information. You can also Preview Plans so you can estimate how much you can expect to pay for your premiums depending on your income. I entered all the information as prompted by the website and when I arrived at the part where it asked to verify my citizenship, I hit a wall. Each time I clicked Continue , an error message appeared. I tried several times and it showed a different error message number each time. I gave up and contacted a customer service agent via Online Chat (you have that option or call them at the toll free number). I told them my problem and was informed that they were having some glitches and they don't know when it was going to be fixed, and for me to try again later. I tried again but encountered the same problem and this is when I noticed that from about 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the website was down for maintenance. So I tried the next day and the day after with the same results. Finally after the third day of trying, the website suddenly accepted my citizenship data. By the way, just to let you know, I'm a naturalized citizen. So with the website finally cooperating, I was able to finish my application. Next was to find out what kind of insurance coverage I qualified for based on my income. I'm going to spare you the explanation of Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans. They are all based on how much federal subsidies you qualify for and how much you are willing to pay out of pocket. Anyway the best one I could find to fit my limited budget was the Silver 73 plan with co-pays of $40 for a doctor's visit and lab tests, $50 for x-ray, $250 for CT, PET, or MRI's, $19 for generic drugs, $250 after deductible for ER visits, etc. Well you get the idea. The most affordable I saw was with Healthnet at $137 per month.
          Next was to check if the primary care physician I've been seeing for years was part of that insurance plan. So you click on a link called Find your doctor and type in your doctor's name and zip code. Well my doctor was in the system but did not accept Healthnet. He accepted Anthem Blue Cross, but  my monthly cost would go up to $196 for the same coverage as Healthnet. I wanted to continue seeing my doctor so I signed up for Anthem Blue Cross. I could have picked another doctor I knew who accepted Healthnet but that would have meant establishing a new relationship and history with that doctor, whereas my current doctor already knows my history.
          This brings me to the matter of my unemployment. Since I'm jobless, I no longer have an income and from my research, I knew I could possibly qualify for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). I contacted customer service again via online chat and was informed that since I had a major life event change, I could either call in that information or click Report a Change after I log in on the website. Since that happened on a Friday, I waited until the weekend was over before trying it. On Monday (November 4), I reported the change in my income. The website asked me for my income but it would not accept $0.00 as a value, so I ended up putting in $0.01 as my hourly income. The website accepted that value and it proceeded to ask me for identification to prove that I live in California and qualifying papers to prove my new income. I was able to scan my California driver's license, WARN Act Notice, and Notice of Termination and uploaded it to the site. The only thing I have to do now is wait for the California Health Exchange to review and verify those papers and notify me if I qualify for Medicaid.

          So other than that initial 3 day glitch in the system and at times having to log off and back in to get back to where I wanted to be in the website, it worked pretty well. No doubt much better than the federal website. I can now only hope and pray that I qualify for Medicaid because that's going to help a lot in reducing my monthly bills in case I don't find work for the long term.
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