Does the Healthcare.gov website have issues? Yes, more issues than a virtual magazine stand. However, I'm getting more than a bit frustrated with the narrow focus on what hasn't been working because there ARE portions of the website that work quite well and could be helping millions right now get started on collecting the information they need so that they can get enrolled.
So, in the interest of promoting a solution, please forward this information far and wide, because there IS a way to get enrolled in the Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges, and part of that includes very functional portions of the Healthcare.gov website.
Here are the steps:
1. Use the "SEE PLANS NOW" button to explore your plan pricing options
2. Call 1-800-318-2596 to reach a friendly representative who can then talk to you about the details of those options and get you signed up.
3. Do the "I applied for health care insurance" interpretive dance.*
*this step is optional
The Healthcare.gov website has issues, to be sure. It took me a number of tries to get registered in the system, and understanding that there are going to continue to be issues due to traffic and other technical misfires, I started exploring some of the other links on the front page to see what other information could be gleaned there.
Turns out, there is a link right on the front splash page just under the two big green buttons that many of us have become far too acquainted with. It is a taupe bar that says in white letters, "SEE PLANS AND PRICES IN YOUR AREA", and then a big button that says, "SEE PLANS NOW".
CLICK the button, and you are taken to this link:
Now, this area will not show you what subsidies you may qualify for, and the pricing provided will just be estimates....and it says as much on that page you just clicked on. However, it is going to allow you to start hunting up valuable information about the plan options available to you based on the state and county you live in.
You answer six simple questions:
1) Are you looking for coverage for yourself/family, or your business?
2) Are you looking for health or dental coverage?
3) What state do you live in?
4) What county do you live in?
5) Who will you apply for coverage for (yourself, yourself/spouse/children, yourself/children, only children)
6) How old are you (49 or under; 50 or older)?
The system will come back to you with an array of plans under five categories:
When I searched under my location, I came back with a total of 138 different estimate options, which I could then narrow down by the categories listed above. You click on the Bronze button on the left side to just see Bronze plans, Silver for Silver, and so on.
Once you have your list, you can print those items out, email them to yourself, or even just make notes as to the options you want to find out more information about. But the point is, you now have some, if not LOTS of options to review. Frankly, having always gotten my health care insurance through an employer, they only have ever offered 2 or 3 at most. Having all of these possibilities to choose from is quite amazing! Keep in mind that the prices given by this route are just estimates, but they are a great start on your initial plan research.
If you continue to have issues logging into the website, your next step should be to pick up the phone and call the Healthcare.gov, which is 1-800-318-2596. You should then be able to review these different options with the representatives on the phone, ask questions about each of those plan options so that you can understand what is involved in terms of coverage, co-payments, deductibles, and any other out-of-pocket costs for each plan.
Once you have completed that process on the phone, they will send you some application forms to complete, and then submit back to them for processing.
Lookie there! You have accomplished that which so many have deemed impossible! You have put yourself on the path to having affordable health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act! Is it a seamless and paperless process when done in this way? No, but nor is it the impossible Herculean task that many Obamacare haters would like to make it out to be.
Buying health insurance is not as simple as picking something off of the value menu at your favorite drive through restaurant, nor should it be. Each person has different circumstances, and needs to carefully consider what is going to work for you and your family's situation. Also, it's HEALTH CARE, not lunch. Let's be realistic, shall we?
Unfortunately, the idea of actually having a workable solution isn't nearly as sexy and fun to talk about as the meme of trashing the entire health care reform program over a massively complicated website having (unsurprisingly) massively complicated technical issues. Frankly, if this thing had operated as intended out of the box, considering how many systems it has to interface with, the architect of it would have done the equivalent of finding the actual question to Life, the Universe, and Everything (the answer of which is 42).
Perhaps it is too much to hope that someone in the White House Communications Staff will even see this, and start pushing the idea that people can find plan pricing estimates to jump start their enrollment effort.....but I'm an American.....resourceful and perhaps sometimes unrealistically optimistic about the possibilities that solutions can be found amidst the complicated and often messy chaos of our lives.
You may now begin the interpretive Health Care Insurance dance of your choice.
Edit:Thanks to Sylv and other commenters for pointing out my typo on the Healthcare.gov phone number. This is what I get for trying to make sense before caffeine input.
Also, hey! Rec list, wow!