The Top Five Things I Learned Signing Up for Obamacare

The Top Five Things I Learned Signing Up for Obamacare

Eileen St. Pierre, The Everyday Financial Planner

Depending on who you talk to, I finally achieved the impossible – I signed up for health insurance on the Exchange in December 2013.  Yeah! I can say goodbye to expensive COBRA health insurance.  Because I have been following the implementation of the health care reform law, I thought I knew what to expect when the site was finally fixed enough to allow me to enroll.  It was still a learning process for me.

Here are the top five things I learned signing up for Obamacare:

Having a Ph.D. didn’t help me navigate the website.

I never received official word when our application was complete (I had to send in some income information).  So I just kept checking back.  It took some trial and error to get the right screens.  When I finally did find out where I needed to go, I couldn’t always re-trace my steps.  Some of the government terminology threw me.  I ended up calling the Marketplace Call Center to get some help.  You have to give the representatives on the other end credit for doing their best.

Estimating my 2014 income is a total crapshoot.

Having started my own business in June 2013, I have no idea what my business will earn in 2014.  This information is needed to estimate the amount of our tax credit, which will reduce our monthly premiums.  Our actual tax credit will be determined when I file our 2014 taxes.

If I am too optimistic about my 2014 income, we may not qualify for tax credits and cost-sharing, but we may get a larger tax refund.  If I underestimate my income too much, we will qualify for lower monthly premiums, but may have to pay back some of the credit when I file our 2014 taxes.  We decided to error on the side of underestimating income.  I liked the way my husband put it – if my business takes off, we could handle paying back the tax credit.

Choosing a plan was not as daunting as I thought it would be.      

There ended up being only 21 plans we were eligible for, offered by just two insurance companies.  Since we intended to just look at Bronze and Silver plans, that narrowed the field to 14 plans.  After looking at the plans’ details, the top three were obvious to us.

Don’t focus solely on the monthly premium.

There was one Bronze plan that would have cost us only two cents per month (after the tax credit), but the out-of-pocket costs were enormous.  After considering how my husband and I use health insurance, we decided on a Silver plan that closely mirrored our health insurance in the past – reasonable co-pays for doctor’s visits and prescriptions, large network of doctors, and level of deductible.

Don’t reveal your health and prescription drug history to your new insurer.

This last point is important.  After enrolling, we received a call from our new insurer asking us if we would consent to having the company access our prescription drug history.  Say no – OPT OUT of this!  The company then wanted to design wellness programs that would be tailored especially for us. Would we answer some questions about our health history?  Absolutely not!  Only after I informed the representative that the Affordable Care Act does not require us to reveal our health history did she say that our responses to these questions were voluntarily.  But someone who is not well-versed in the legislation may think he/she needs to reveal this information.

Visit my Health Care Reform page for more information.