Me And You And Obamacare.

December 21, 2013 at 9:33 am (Uncategorized)

Since today is a traveling day for me, I thought I’d bang out a blog post or two to pass the time. In fact, having just paid my first new premium for my Anthem/BCBS insurance policy bought through Healthcare.gov, I thought I’d maybe say a few words about the ACA. You know. Obamacare.

My initial impressions were a bit mixed. I got through online somehow back in October. Yes, really. My experience playing Day One in MMO games served me well, here. Getting in was no more difficult than playing Guild Wars 2 on a beta weekend in 2012…except, of course, that no one is legally mandated to have tried to get into a GW2 beta weekend, and we’re all mandated to have health coverage. Because of that, yeah, I get the frustration folks had.

For me, though, I felt like I was ahead of the curve. Got online, did some comparison shopping. Before I pulled the trigger on buying a policy, I decided to do some research about which policy to buy by checking some satisfaction rates and also to see which nearby doctors are more likely to be in which networks around me. I logged off that day in October, and my email informed me I had three messages waiting at Healthcare.gov that I’d need to respond to. Fine and dandy. Given the time frame, I didn’t try to log back in for weeks. I knew they were fixing the site to make it work better. I’d wait it out.

I decided to check back and finish my application process around November, but when I did, I ran into roadblocks. Those three notices I’d received an email about? Yeah, the system forced me to read them or respond to them before I could proceed. Problem: there was no way–none–to read the notices. I could temporarily dismiss the notifications that I had messages, but I couldn’t read the actual messages themselves! The system forced me to read them first before I could continue with setting up my policy, too. It was kind of Kafka-esque, and very frustrating. A person on the phone I spoke with was little help. We went around in circles. It became clear to me that to apply for my policy by phone, I’d have to start over from scratch and spell out everything phonetically and that would be an awful chore.

I should also mention feeling a bit under the gun now, too. My individual policy would be cancelled by the ACA in January because it failed to offer a prescription benefit or the necessary preventative care stuff required by the new law. It also was costing me an arm and a leg to pay for this nonsense, awful coverage. Even as bad as it was, though, the thought of having NO health insurance was worse. I needed to get my Obamacare on, and stat. And so every few days from Thanksgiving onward, I’d check in with Healthcare.gov to see if they’d rectified the glitch I was experiencing. It didn’t seem too hopeful. I couldn’t log in with Firefox, for one thing, only the Chrome browser. I was getting worried.

This past Tuesday was the most recent time I decided to give it a try. I’d forgotten to use Chrome, and didn’t realize until I was logged in that it had actually worked again for me in Firefox. Well. That was a promising start. Even so, once I was in, there were the three notifications of messages awaiting me…and there was still no way to see the messages themselves. Nuts. Before I logged off and figured out a way to budget an entire day on my phone setting up my insurance, I decided to go to the part of my online application that was blocked until I responded to the messages I couldn’t read…the stuff I’d started back in October.

It was like a Christmas miracle. The system let me proceed with my application. I nearly jumped out of my office chair fetching my nearly 6-week-old notes on which coverage to buy. I found the policy I was seeking out quickly. I clicked it. I clicked through a few more pages. I confirmed I was ready to buy. I got a notice that I’d be contacted by my new carrier ASAP….and then a screen message telling me I was good to go and all signed up. It took, honestly, about 10 minutes total from the point I logged back in to the point I was done.

The upshot of all of that goes like this. I have health insurance, and pretty decent health insurance going forward now. I’m also paying about $12 less per month to get it than I was for my previous policy. More stuff is covered for me, too, including prescriptions and copays. It was a bit messy, a bit vexing, and not a little bit frustrating from October to December getting signed up, but from my personal experience I can tell you the damn website works 100 percent better in December than it did in October or even November.

I also feel happy and relieved about having good coverage again in my life. This is a wonderful feeling. I see that, according to the government, about two million folks have signed up for coverage either through Medicare expansions or through private carriers now. I also see a few people–including people I follow in social media or who are people who I’m friends with–skeptically posting up doubts as to the extended viability of the ACA and still talking nonsense about repeal.

This is silliness. It’s here. It isn’t going away. There are two million of us signed up now. There are going to be millions more by the close of Open Enrollment in March. You thought there were media “horror stories” ginned up about cancelled coverages in November? Imagine the stories out there if they tried to yank back a useful thing like health insurance from millions of people like me who were able to finally get good coverage. The political reality is that the votes simply do not exist to repeal the ACA in the near or perhaps even longterm future. It’s a dumb point.

What isn’t a dumb point is talking about ways to make this new system better. It isn’t dumb to talk about Medicare expansion for states that stupidly didn’t accept it but need to. It isn’t stupid to talk about ways to make the application process better. It isn’t stupid to talk about ways to continue to change and alter the system for the better. It isn’t a dumb thing at all to critique the way things lie right now, and to talk about useful ways to continue to evolve our broken healthcare delivery system into something better. I’m willing to read and listen to pundits and politicians and friends who have realistic and legitimate ideas or means to help build on the ACA’s foundation and make it better, and I really don’t care who’s name is attached to it. If Louie Gohmert and John Cornyn come up with a bill that makes the system work better, I’ve no problem with calling those improvements LouieCare. I still think it’s ridiculous that I’m paying hundreds of dollars a month for health insurance, for instance. My income hardly qualifies me for any sort of subsidy. I personally do not believe that healthcare is a benefit, but more of a right. Maybe. I’m probably on the fence enough to listen to arguments either way.

That being said, here’s where I’m going to get fairly irrational. When I see people I know–people whom I’ve been friends with, had a beer with, commiserated with–still polluting my timelines and news feeds in social media with nonsense about trying to do away with the ACA, I can’t help but read such things with a different set of eyes now. If you’re one of those folks, realize this:  when you talk about repeal and doing away with the ACA, what I’m reading is that you’re wishing upon me ill health and poverty. If someone wishes upon me ill health and poverty, I tend to take such things rather personally, as you will. I tend to respond by telling the ill-wisher how I feel about that, and it very likely would be using language one normally only hears from angry sailors.  It isn’t a “cloak of the internet” thing, either. I’m perfectly happy to tell someone who’s wished me ill health how I feel about them in person, as well. Not in a threatening manner, mind you, just in a “Hey, you’re being a jerk” kind of way.

The point? The ACA is here. It’s real. It probably isn’t going away for a long time, if ever. Do you hate it? Ask yourself why, and try to divorce political agenda from it. Realize and understand that people you know, and perhaps people you care about, will be depending on the protections and provisions of the ACA for health insurance. Understand that these people–regardless of political affiliation–may be very grateful that this flawed, hopefully work-in-progress system now exists, and that for some of us who pay for things like cholesterol meds every month that it represents one hell of a benefit (and one that allows us to sock more money away into the economy in a perfectly capitalist, trickle-down libertarian sort of way.) Think about those things, and think about urging political forces that tilt quixotically against Obamacare to maybe channel that energy into making those windmills work better instead.

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