there's been a fair amount of local press about the state of ObamaCare here in Minnesota, but not a lot of national press. You probably know that we had a badly botched roll-out, and may have heard that the woman in charge took a Caribbean vacation soon after, and resigned not long after that. There were also bonuses paid to the corporate consultants who delivered on-time! The State promised to get it straightened out. I'll tell you my recent experience below the golden scroll and you can decide if they have...
I was laid off a few weeks ago, and started trying to get registered several days before the mid-March cut-off date. I had no luck getting through the identification process, where you have to fill out your address, age, ss number, birth date, phone, email, sex etc. so they can check it against their database and ask you some questions to verify. The page doesn't size to my screen so I had to zoom out to see the 'continue' button. Half the time the squiggly verification letters at the bottom don't appear and if you don't scroll down to see if they are there you can waste your time filling the form out and have to refresh and start over. Then half the verification questions with multiple choice answers would include none that match me, so I would check none of the above and submit. Then I would get a message that they couldn't verify me and I should try again. I have some time on my hands (though I shoud be job-hunting!) so I tried many times, called (and waited 48 minutes to get through), to no avail. Thought maybe I could sign up through the national Obamacare website, but they redirect to MNsure.
So I eventually figured out that I was going to have to print out a form and mail it in, effectively forcing me to miss the cut-off date for the April start I needed (I can't afford to extend Cobra benefits from my former job; fortunately I am pretty healthy right now). So I did, and a few days later I got an email saying I was registered, now I can fill out the application to see if I can get financial assistance. As I did that, I tried to put in the income I had earned so far this year, but there was no way to do that without claiming it as a job I currently hold. Then I put in my unemployment income per week, which it multiplied times 52 even though there are not 52 weeks left in the year, and of course there is no current guarantee that the rebublicans will extend it beyond 26 weeks. Well, I figured that the two mistakes balance out to some extent, so I went ahead and submitted, having read elsewhere on their site that I should be able to get free healthcare through Minnesota's Medicaid program. The result I got said that I was eligible for assistance, 0 dollars and 0 per cent. Now I am able to shop for any number of plans that I can't afford!
At this point let me remind you, gentle reader, that Minnesota has had 6 months to get this botched roll-out straightened out, and they've had their best people on it let me tell you. I am not one to criticize government much, and by saying this I mean the corporate consultants that Minnesota has paid a lot of money!!!
So I called up again, getting a 'busy, call back later' recording for several days!, then finally got through and waited 38 minutes before getting an assistant (btw the State has said they hired a lot of people to help). They told me that the system was just waiting to get verification of my wife's social security income, and gave me a number to call to help them get that. That number was the wrong department (after waiting another 26 minutes), but close enough to get transferred to the right department, and after waiting another 15 minutes they told me that her ss income was confirmed and I just needed to call MNsure to get them to fix the hang-up in my application.
Finally got through to them, explained that I was hung up, and by the way their unemployment calculator is screwed up, so they fixed that and told me that it would take a few weeks for that change to go through before I could get my assistance determination and find out what plans were available. Will I be notified? 'No, call us in a few weeks'. I'm pretty frustrated, and out of insurance for a while. So glad Minnesota did the right thing and started their healthcare exchange early!
At least I can look to the east and see how badly my former State of Wisconsin is doing... I see Obamacare as a differentiator that will eventually contribute to the success of democratic states, so I remain optimistic for the long game.