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Short version, for those who hate wading through a dozen paragraphs to get to the nut graph as much as I do: My wife and I have replaced a truly junky policy that cost us $396.34 a month with a better (although still high-deductible) policy that costs us $3.09 a month - a decrease of 99.22 percent. It is very well worth it, but the process was not easy. Follow me below the squiggle for the gory details.

We live in Colorado, which has its own exchange. Even though it did not have as serious problems as the federal exchange, it nevertheless took me several days to create an account, and several more before it was running smoothly enough to enter information.

Once you have an account, you can browse plans. However, you must take two more steps before you’re able to shop.

First, you must check whether you’re eligible for Medicaid. That site is very bare-bones, but I had no trouble creating an account or entering information. The application requires a fairly detailed income survey, and it takes a while, but at least in our case, we received our anticipated rejection immediately upon completion. My one gripe would be that it’s not optimized for today’s I-have-four-jobs-but-all-are-part-time-one-is-self-employed-two-are-contract-work-and-one-is-seasonal sort of resume. It would be both quicker and more accurate to be able to fill in annual income for various jobs instead of pay-period income.

Medicaid rejectees now have a case number to enter when returning to Connect for Health Colorado. This allows you to begin the shopping process. Your second task is almost the same as the first: Re-entering vast amounts of information that largely duplicates what you entered on the Medicaid site. The exchange page at least has the good manners to apologize for this.

Aside from creating an account, our biggest problem was entering some of this information: For two days, I got a message that automatic verification of Social Security Number, citizenship status, and income was not working. I decided to “Proceed With Manual Verification,” which I would not do again unless time were truly pressing. It meant uploading scans of this information, a minor pain, especially since it’s not information I want to have sitting on my computer, so the files had to be scanned, uploaded and then immediately securely deleted.

This turned out to be easier said than done. When I tried to upload the first file on Nov. 27, I got this message: “Upload failed. Try again.” Which of course was the message I got when I tried again.

Later that day I was able to upload some - but not all - of the documents. I’m still not sure what the problem was. A few days later, I had trouble uploading income verification, and it appears that you may have to avoid one or more of the following: Largish files (I had trouble with a 3.8mb file), spaces in filenames, and “jpeg” suffixes instead of “jpg.” But honestly I’m not sure what the problem was, because I never changed just one of these things. The first batch loaded on a change from “jpeg” to “jpg,” and the second loaded on being shrunk and having the spaces removed from the name.

The Social Security and citizenship documents are pretty straightforward. However, the income documents are a bit of a clusterf@@k. These are the acceptable income documents:

• Prior month's pay stub(s)
• Employer letter of gross pay
• Self-employment ledger
• Social Security benefit letter
• Unemployment benefit letter
• Retirement/Pension amount doc
• Amount from Retirement/Pension [sic - this is a duplicate of the line above]
• Net cap gains financial stmt
• Invest income financial stmt
• Net rental/royalty income doc
• Net farming/fishing ledger/P&L
• Spousal maintenance-court doc
• Canceled debts official doc
• Court awards documentation
• Jury duty pay stub(s)
• Other official documentation

Several of these apply to us, and I made one massive file because the site suggests that you can only upload one document per category, though that may well not be the case. This meant scanning individual documents and ganging them together in a graphics program.

On Dec. 6, we knuckled down for the actual signing up. This turned out to be easy, and in just a few clicks we had our new policy at a cost of $3.09 per month instead of the $396.34. We received our confirmation bill from Kaiser Permanente on December 17. They cashed our check on Christmas Eve. The cost of the stamp was a significant portion of our insurance premium.

I didn’t track all my time, but it probably came to 8 to 10 hours, several of them in a state of enhanced frustration. But it was nothing considering that our savings will be at least $4,000* a year and considerably more should we have the misfortune to get sick, since our new policy has a lower deductible, a lower maximum out-of-pocket expense, and includes features that our old policy lacked entirely such as prescription drug coverage.

Those of you who have waded through this, I salute you!

* The savings will be somewhat less than our old policy’s total $4,756.08 premium because that premium was tax-deductible, and odds are we’ll be paying tax on most of the savings.

Mon Jan 06, 2014 at 8:54 AM PT: Grateful and honored to have had this featured on Community Spotlight!

Originally posted to PianoGuy on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 10:33 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good report! Although.... (7+ / 0-)

    I do not believe anything about ACA will be ho hum, at least not with the media, until a few more million are echoing your sentiments.

    And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 KJV

    by looking and listening on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 10:55:11 AM PST

  •  I was put on Medicaid immeadiately when I applied (7+ / 0-)

    because my kids were already on it and they had my info already and most importantly my kids had already been approved. I used the "self employment ledger" option though I don't think small businesses have used ledgers since they invented the wheel.

    We also go rejected without notice after we were on for a month due to lack of citizenship proof, and no we couldn't scan it, we had to go to the county building and get them to fax a certified copy.

    Next up is figuring out a way to get off Medicaid and onto regular insurance without a gap in coverage.

    It works but the process here in CO sucked. And it doesn't need to.

    The applying for Medicaid first was a pain. They could have just made us submit prior years 1040 as proof that we aren't eligible and not have to wait for rejection.

    I think it was a turf battle with Maximus our private for profit  company that processes Medicaid not wanting to get cut out of the equation. So it took many much longer and our sign ups for normal insurance were in the "worst case" category.

    We need to fix our Tabor thing and start getting state employees for doing state type jobs again.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 11:12:50 AM PST

    •  They really need to refine self-employment calcs. (6+ / 0-)

      The current system for determining subsidies on projected income is nuts, and puts a huge burden on the self-employed to track next year's income carefully lest we wind up having to pay thousands of dollars in taxes to repay subsidies. (I don't know why they don't subsidies on the prior year's income, which would correlate with filed taxes.)

      I think it was Charles Ornstein over at ProPublica who pointed out that one of the deductions for the self-employed used for calculating subsidy eligibility is the 2014 amount paid toward health insurance premiums… so you're expected to be psychic and know the end deduction you'll end up with before even knowing the premium amount.

      They could really use a self-employment working group to brainstorm stuff like this at HHS, and get feedback from those who are self-employed.

    •  What did you put in your "self employment ledger"? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      My employment situation is much like PianoGuy's and my records are not electronic, nor do I have pay stubs, employer letters, etc. I'm already on Medicare but my work schedule in 2013 was so bruising I haven't been able to pursue what I hope may be something like catastrophic coverage via ACA.

  •  I went to the wine shop yesterday.... (7+ / 0-)

    they have a tasting booth. I started shooting the breeze with the guy pouring. He told me that, due to PECs, he had been paying 1500 a month. He just signed up through the ACA for a better policy. For 300 a month. Yes, it will take a while, but it keeps happening. And as has been said time and again, it's good for all of us when people are insured, and damn it, it's good for the whole country. People don't go bankrupt, hospitals don't get stuck for huge bills, and life is just a little better.

  •  Congratulations. (5+ / 0-)

    Now the key question (that I'm not seeing anyone talk about): What will you do with the extra $393 a month that you're no longer paying for insurance?

    That's a serious chunk of change, multiplied by some fraction of the 2.1 million ACA policy-holders (the ones who had insurance before, but paid way too much for it).

    In theory, it should be spent elsewhere (even if it's only paying off the arrearages in the electric bill), which means serious juicing of the economy.

    (I'm in the other fraction, the ones who have been self-insured with fingers crossed for several years, so I don't have extra money; I have a much lower anxiety quotient.)

    •  Not sure yet, but indeed ... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      True North, oceanview, Rolfyboy6, Sirenus

      I promise to spend it!

      •  Save half. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PinHole, ladybug53

        Unless you need it to eat and pay the bills, save some of if.  You never know when a few hundred bucks in the bank can make all the difference in the world.

        Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

        by Sirenus on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 07:31:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  money saved on ACA policy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hmi, ladybug53

      I don't know exactly what the laws are about health savings accounts, but I believe that is pre-tax money. The best thing would be to establish one and put some of the  money aside to pay the deductible if need be. I would think the peace of mind would make this worth it.

      •  HSA accounts are good for those who have (0+ / 0-)

        the funds to fund them. HSA accounts are something that rich people dreamed up as one more way for Wall Street to make money on the money sitting in them.

        In Indiana the solo silver HSA option on the exchange was also more expensive which I have never understood. Then again ...

        "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

        by annan on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 10:37:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Ha - Texas Homeowners Rates rising (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, Rolfyboy6

    Some of those insurance rates going up 14%.  Saw it tonight on Fox News.

    Thanks Obama.

    •  Just looked it up. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Creosote, PinHole, ladybug53

      Luis Sahagun, a Farmers spokesman, said the insurer needs to account for "increasing costs associated with covering the risks faced by customers" in Texas, including damage from tornadoes, hailstorms and other severe weather.

      Read more here:

    •  Well, why not? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      As well as floods, droughts, wildfires and tornadoes, we now have EARTHQUAKES!  (I am smack in the middle of  Ground Zero. The epicenters of the 30 quakes we've had in the last two months literally surround me. Oddly enough, I am also surrounded with probably a hundred NG wells within a five miles radius. But of course, that has nothing to do with suddenly having multiple earthquakes in an area that even our oldest citizens can't remember ever having earthquakes before.)

      Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

      by Sirenus on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 07:35:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not to mention being in the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      neighborhood of a fertilizer plant, or one of those other locations which have gone  BOOM!! lately due to lax monitoring & safety regulations.

  •  I just got through paying my (7+ / 0-)

    first premium online for my Obamacare-approved health insurance policy. If I didn't qualify for a large subsidy, the monthly premium would have been $351.76. With the subsidy I'm eligible for, the monthly premium is $1. I said, $1. For all of 2014, my out-of-pocket premium expense as an individual subscriber will be $12.

    They absolutely hate this. That's why they're so hysterical right now, and, oh, Obamacare is the beginning of the end, and, oh, death panels, and, oh, fascism, and, oh, scary brown Muslim getting his way all the time, and, oh, the end of 'Murca as we know it.

    It's really about little nobodies feeling their oats. When people aren't worried about their confiscatory, health-insurance premium, or being dropped by their health insurer, well, they get uppity. They quit horrible jobs they were hanging onto "to keep their health insurance." They have more money in their pocket to spend...on?  

    That's where it starts to get interesting. That's why the rest of the economy will improve, as a direct result of Obamacare, for the 99%.

    The haters are out of their minds.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sat Jan 04, 2014 at 06:05:21 PM PST

    •  I got mine through (7+ / 0-)

      Piece of cake once they changed the site so you could check through the plans before signing up. I picked a plan, called in, 15 minutes later, done. I estimated my revenue at $20,000 (last year it was $26,000) so I'll put a little aside each month so that if I make more, I can pay back the gov'mint.

      Meanwhile, my former BCBS policy had increased three times in the last two years! I was getting the ACA BCBS policy, but trying to contact BCBS to get it changed was a real problem. 60 minute wait times! I finally sent them a registered letter, with signature confirmation, tell them to switch the policies as of 1/1/14 and enclosing my premium of $85.

      I now have a new white card with blue lettering, much better insurance....and a monthly premium less than a quarter of what I was paying a month ago.

      Thank you, Mr. President!

      Freedom has two enemies: Those who want to control everyone around them...and those who feel no need to control themselves.

      by Sirenus on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 07:46:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Stories like yours and mine (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        foresterbob, ladybug53

        are going to be repeated time and again...and the Republicans are damn worried.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 07:57:28 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  AWESOME. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        karmsy, PinHole, foresterbob, ladybug53

        I'm still in limbo with fingers crossed that my story will end like yours.

        I purchased an Anthem policy on the exchange. I started the process on October 6th, had several delays and finally wrapped things up on December 19th with a phone call to I was directed to an Anthem site to pay my first month's premium where I entered checking account info for monthly ACH drafts and thought it was a done deal.

        However, the first payment hasn't cleared and as of Friday, January 3rd Anthem can't tell me whether or not I'm even in their system.

        When I called Anthem the pre-recorded message said they couldn't help me, so I tried a live chat. The live chat person assured me that they are seriously backed up, but didn't have access to any information. Sit tight he said. Sigh.

        "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

        by annan on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 10:46:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Personally? (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annan, PinHole, foresterbob, ladybug53

          In your exact situation, waiting for that debit to show up in my checking account so I'd know I was out of the woods, I'd start wondering if there was any way I could hand-deliver that payment. In my case, my health-insurance carrier has allowed until the 15th for my premium payment to clear. So I have plenty of time. If it gets close to the 15th, and that payment still hasn't cleared, I start hassling them. Fortunately, it's pretty easy to reach a live person in their administrative office.

          Good luck.

          It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

          by karmsy on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 11:39:18 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Anthem's customer service has been terrible (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annan, ladybug53

          for a lot of people.

          I figure that they're going to work it out. After all, they WANT you as their customer. That's their business: selling insurance to people who want to buy insurance.

          •  That's essentially what the online chat person (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            PinHole, ladybug53

            told me. I had a pre-scheduled annual physical for January 9th and needed bloodwork beforehand. According to the Anthem chat line, my doctor and/or the lab could theoretically find me at Anthem using my ss#.

            However, I chose to reschedule for February instead of intentionally walking into quicksand. Patience, right?

            "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

            by annan on Sun Jan 05, 2014 at 12:25:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Obamacare costs (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I finally got around to looking at the plans active in my county, which is in eastern Pennsylvania. (I am otherwise insured, but really want this thing to succeed!) There are over 60 plans. It is bewildering. Some of them are terrible and some of them are great. Some have $6000 deductibles and some, with not much higher premiums, have $0 deductibles. Some require you to pay the deductible before you get anything other than the basics,  but some apparently don't--you can see primary and specialist docs with a modest copay, which I believe goes toward the deductible (this wasn't spelled out, but I met a navigator who told me this). some of the plans are so terrible (especially Aetna's) that I don't why they are bothering. But some are awesome. I had to provide some specifics, so I invented that I was 60 and made $60,000 a year (I did this because I want to be able to advise a friend whose grandfathered plan will be ending), so none of the figures included subsidies. Maybe the terrible plans look better when a subsidy is applied. but if I were a self-employed person making decent money, I would spring for one of those gold or platinum plans in a heartbeat!

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