It's four days later and I am still a little freaked out about my multi-day ordeal trying to get Affordable Health Care insurance for my family. My first foray was in October when the Healthcare.gov website seemed to self destruct. Two months later, I attempted to register again before December 23 so that our insurance would kick in January 1, 2014. Because of the impending deadline, I fixed my mind ahead of time to anticipate Healthcare.gov glitches, snags and guffaws, but Jeez Louise, why does reform of any kind have to have a monkey wrench thrown in? A massive undertaking such as the shifting of the national healthcare paradigm surely brings challenges.
I "Whoo-sahed" to a calmer state, opting to exercise patience as my weapon of protection. Enrollment was going to be a tedious, bumpy ride. But for seasoned uninsured folks with pre-existing conditions like my hubby and me, living without Affordable Health Care was not an option. We hadn't a chance in Hades with the previous health care system. We either would be denied or charged nearly four figures for hospitalization alone.
I assumed the position: Upright posture on kitchen chair with social security numbers, W2's, birth dates, pen, pad and credit card in hand. Whatever it took, however long it would drag out, I was would endure it. I had to get coverage plain and simple.
I decided to call the Healthcare.gov 1-800 number because I forgot my online password. Got an operator right away. Her name was Alice, very pleasant, no run-around. She read me the terms. Cool. As she pulled up my application, she warned me that the computers were running slower than usual. It would take a few minutes. Our silence greeted each other as we waited. Alice suggested I go and make some tea.
Make me some tea? It’s gonna take that long to pull up my application? Hey Alice maybe I should take a dump and fold some laundry while I wait. (I didn't say that). Okay, I prepared for this delay. I’m good. I took her advice and made me some tea. I opted for plain predictable Lipton over my exotic brands. It seemed appropriate. By the time I poured my hot water into my mug, she had my app up and ready.
Alice asked me the standard questions: Name address, birthday, spouse, dependents…we were on a roll. There was a slight hesitance, then silence. “The system went down, Ma’am. I’m sooo sorry.” said Alice in her calm yet concerned voice. She proceeded to tell me that the system lost all my info,. We had to start all over again? Deep breath. I was still in patience mode. I expected this. Okay. We got through the questions, then silence; The system went down again. Alice apologized, as she had been doing throughout the process, and thanking me for my patience.
"Ma'am, it was working as smooth as butter yesterday…" she said. I was cordial. This wasn't her fault. We waited for the application to come back up. I hung in there. Then she put me on hold with canned music. Uh oh, flutes and piccolos played its boring melodic tune in my ear. It reminded me of my annoying cup of tea. The app was retrieved intact. Hallelujah.
“I appreciate you, and your patience." Alice said sincerely. Then the system went down again. This was getting stupid. Alice shared with me a fun fact: It took an average of eight minutes for the application to reload. Thanks Alice. She said she was willing to keep trying until we got through this application. Alice speculated that it might be the snowstorm in her region that may be causing the difficulty. Yeah right. She shared another fun fact: We've been on the phone for 59 minutes . I could’ve watched the View. Alice pulled the document up yet again. Then it crashed again. No need for apologies. Silence from both ends were getting to know each other intimately. But I in my growing frustration was determined to sign up for affordable healthcare. She pulled it up yet again . Then...
After two hours of this, we finally got the applications filled out and confirmed. But the system wouldn't allow her to go to the marketplace to help me select a plan. She said for me to call back in an hour. And thus began my rocky four day ride.
I tried again a couple of hours later. Turns out Alice filled out my application wrong, so my new rep, Rebecca had to do it all over again. The computers crashed on her. I called back later and after 10 minutes Cameron insisted he couldn't help me because he was unable to retrieve my application. By this time my patience was thinning like the heel of an old sock. He promptly switched me to the exit survey.
In the course of four days I talked to a total of 12 representatives, 8 of them from Healthcare.gov., four from Blue Cross Blue Shield. I experienced a total of eight computer crashes and break downs; got cut off once, Got hung up on once. The longest time I was on hold: 2hrs and 17 min: Blue Cross - 1 hr 11 min; Three males and nine females; the women were by far more pleasant ; Face-to-face reps called "Assisters" were referred to me by Healthcare .gov because of the constant snafus. When I called the two local agencies, the reps were unavailable.
Where was my patience by this time? Well, I'm still trying to find it.
The good news: My family finally got insured (unfortunately) without a tax credit. But it's less than what we would have paid without reform. Those who experienced technical difficulties and was blocked from getting insured, will be looked at. The flexible dates offset the monkey wrench.
The moral of this story: If you need to enroll through Healthcare.gov, brace yourself for technical difficulties. But DO get your family insured - no matter what March 31 is the final deadline. Call 1800-318-2596 for more information. It may be hell, but look at yourself as a pioneer paving the way toward easier enrollment for the next generation. Yeah, my grandkids owe me big time.
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