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October 17, 2013

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RJ

Hi Syd. Thanks for the great review of the Affordable Care Act. You covered many of the bases of the plan. I just wanted to say a few things.

Being a retired IT (information technology) guy I can understand that glitches are discovered in software system even after they are released. That is one of the reasons that Microsoft issues almost daily updates to their programs. So be patient and realize that the DMV has been in operation for years and the ACA only days. It just takes time...

I know all the interviews that show people intend to work well beyond 65 but in reality the vast majority retire earlier. I myself was downsized and then went on to open my own business for a few more years.

Al the negative hype about ACA is way overblown. I think it will turn out to be much like Medicare. There were many who fought it tooth and nail but after more than 50 years it is one of the best rated and most efficiently run healthcare systems in the country.

Cathy Severson

Syd,
This isn't my thing and I want you to know this is most clear, succinct summary of the Affordable Care Act that I have read. I'm going to share it around the Internet. Thank you.

Cindi

Thanks for the info Syd. I've encountered two separate problems trying to get health care. The first is, when I physically call to speak to a human to ask questions, the human on the other side really doesn't know the answers. For example, what is the difference between meeting my deductible or co-insurance? I've been told that if I have a $600 deductible yet the policy lists I must pay for a hospital stay $1000 AFTER I meet my deductible, the humans tell me once I meet the $600 my hospital stay is free. Then why list a $1000 co-pay since the $600 would be met regardless? Duh? Doesn't make sense. Others say the co-insurance (20%) part is if I have a bill, say $4500, 20% of the $4500 I must pay, right up front, which is applied to my deductible and then the balance of my bill is free. Wouldn't I just have to pay the $600 deductible?
Confused yet? So am I.
Lastly, when I go on the exchange to sign up, I keep getting stuck at where I put in my previous health insurance policy number. The software just doesn't recognize the policy number. I've called my current insurance company to clarify and the numbers they have given me don't work either. So, I am at a standstill and I don't know what to do? No one seems to have a solution.
To me, as the clock ticks, my only solution would be to buy my insurance from the broker (who also incorrectly answers to my questions) sometime in late November if things don't improve and forgo the subsidies.
Very frustrating, confusing and right now, a solid time waster. I have spent hours on this. :(

Rick

This is a continuing great service by you to all the readers for you to spend the time and effort to get informed and then share your knowledge. Thanks!

I know my wife and I are not the only otherwise uninsurable "early retirees" who are grateful that this option to obtain insurance is available.

Accidental Retiree

I was fortunate to have been able to complete the CoveredCA enrollment yesterday. I must have hit a sweet spot or something. That, or a spoof website.

The message told me to expect my enrollment packet no later than November 15.

Retired Syd

Accidental Retiree: So I had no trouble getting enrolled on California's website either, it's just the part where I select the actual plan I want to buy. Were you able to do that or did you get the impression that maybe we can't do that until after we get the enrollment packet in November? Maybe that's the issue I'm encountering.

Retired Syd

Rick and Cathy: Thank you so much for your positive reinforcement! I appreciate it.

RJ: Thank you too. Now that I've seen Accidental Retiree's comment, it's quite possible that our exchange will not accept my specific plan choice until after I get my enrollment package. Unfortunately, none of the people I've talked to on the phone at the exchange have had a real answer to this yet, but maybe that's just because they don't really know this yet. It's also possible one of the screens that I glossed over while enrolling might have said something like that and I failed to read the fine print. So it may be user error in this case! I'll stay tuned and stay patient.

Retired Syd

Cindi: I totally understand your frustration. I called Blue Shield this week to see if I could get an inside scoop about why I was unable to sign up for their plans through the exchange. I won't go into detail, but she gave me two pieces of information that I know to be totally wrong. At least I know so I won't make a mistake in signing up, but what about all the other people she told the same thing too?

Is your state on the Federal Exchange or are they running their own? We are not required to put in any policy information from our old policies in signing up. In fact they really didn't require us to give them much information at all (I know you mentioned on your blog that the questions were very intrusive on yours.) From what I'm hearing, the states that opted out of running their own exchanges aren't working as well (the federally run exchange) as those that are running their own, I hear Kentucky's is running really well--and I heard from a reader in South Carolina, who's state is on the federally run exchange, that he has yet to even be able to log in.

Cindi

Syd, I'm going to try again and skip the part of entering previous health care policy numbers (if I can). Maybe that will help solve the problem. It's the NY State exchange, which is supposed to be the best working one in the country right now (I haven't been on in a week, so perhaps things are better). NY did NOT use the same software system the govt did. So, that's a plus. Also, NY is separate from the govt with their own structure. Perhaps another plus.
I'll try, try again and keep you posted.
Thank you again for a very informative post!

deegee

Cindi, I don't know if this is of any help, but I was able to access the NY exchange back on Friday, October 4th. I had some trouble that day and evening but things got better the next day (Saturday, October 5th). It was responding more quickly but I hit a few minor snags related to a few questions I did not answer properly (but did not realize it; I asked in another forum and was pointed in the right direction). I also decided, after checking out the IRS website, to forgo having the federal subsidy paid as part of my monthly premium, electing to pay the full amount before reconciling it fully with my 2014 federal income tax return to be filed in early 2015.

The only thing I want to do, after reading about this in another forum, is to contact the insurance company I signed up for starting in 2014 (which happens to be my current HI company; my current plan is not ACA-compliant). This way, I can verify that I have signed up with the plan as I intended. I did receive a confirmation number after I finished the application process so I am probably in good shape.

Ramona

Syd, thank you. As a Canadian managing the payroll for an American firm, your synopsis is invaluable. I've been somewhat in the dark on this new wrinkle, but it seems that I'm not alone!

Accidental Retiree

Syd, I chose the Anthem Bronze HSA plan and put it into my shopping cart. If there is more to it than that, I am unaware but will share what I know when my packet arrives.

Madeline

VERY frustrating--in Arizona we are on the federal exchange and I have not been able to access the site for these 2 weeks.My old plan is grandfathered in, but I had hoped to be able to get better insurance for less money on the exchange.I can't get onto the site to compare.

Buying a plan through an independent broker would be over $1200 a month--not affordable.My current plan is good through 2014 without a rate increase but heaven knows what will happen after that.. maybe by then the ACA sites and plans will be smoothed out.

Retired Syd

Madeline: That is frustrating! Here's my advice if you just want to try and see how much the premiums will be to compare. Go directly to the websites of the insurers you think will be offering on your exchange. In California, I did that and all the prices were exactly the same as on the exchange. Then at least you'll know what you're comparing with on a gross premium basis.

You'll have to wait until you can get into the exchange to verify and see if you qualify for any credits, but at least you'll be able to get some idea in advance. In fact ehealthinsurance.com showed the same prices as well, so that might work for you too for comparison shopping in advance.

Good luck and keep us posted.

Retired Syd

Accidental Retiree: So I was actually able to put my plan choice in my shopping cart too. When I did the last thing, electronically signing the page and entering my PIN I get a message that says unable to complete transaction at this time. You can look at your account on-line when you log in, and it lists all my information except the plan that I chose.

But now, from your experience, I'm thinking, maybe they already did accept my plan choice but it won't show up on-line until after I get the enrollment packet and sign some forms or something. It sounds like you did a better job of actually reading the screens that popped up--I was so excited I just kept hitting "continue" without really reading all the fine print.

Keep me posted and I will do the same.

dgpcolorado

My experience with the Colorado exchange was a little different. The website does have a glitch and finishing the enrollment required doing it on the phone, which worked well with minimal hold times; kind of a surprise.

Here, one of the most tedious parts of the process is going through the Medicaid application; I think this is to verify that one really is NOT eligible for Medicaid. I wasn't aware of it before, but applying for Medicaid requires extensive financial information. (I'm now more sympathetic to those in my tiny county government who help people apply for Medicaid, it helps to be an expert.)

Once I got my expected Medicaid rejection number the Colorado website wouldn't accept it and just told me to call. The phone reps say this is a known bug and the programmers are working on it.

So, after finishing the initial application on the phone and researching plan providers over the last few days, I finished signing up for a plan today, again on the phone. I'll be getting the enrollment info from the insurance company and make the first payment in mid November.

One nice thing about my state's website is that one can research and compare plans by zip code pretty effectively. That part of the website works well. I did have to go to the plan companies' websites to get a handle on provider networks though. You can look up providers on the state website but the networks they are affiliated with are pretty obscure and hard to match with the insurance companies IME.

So, I am signed up for a plan and done! And, yes, it is affordable thanks to the tax credit.

Tom Sightings

Syd -- Thanks for the info. Just one question: I just signed up for Medicare, but can I get a refund for all that money I spent on individual health insurance from age 53 - 65?

Jon Haver

Great information!Enrolled into CoveredCA and suppose to get the enrollment packet with in November. Little bit worried about it.

retireby40

Thanks for sharing. I'm trying to get insurance for my mom. I haven't been able to enroll online at our state's site though. We'll have to wait a little longer. I'll try to call soon.

Anne @ IRA vs 401k Central

Great post! Yes, it is really true. Large number of people are retiring before they really expect to mostly because of health issues or layoffs. I actually like the idea that starting next year, everyone is required to carry health insurance.

bluex

I'm not American but I think this is a sensible policy based on the facts you've shown. So can I understand why the Obama government is doing such a poor job communicating it to the American people when you've managed to illustrate in ONE single short blog post?

Retired Syd

bluex: Maybe they should hire me to explain it!

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