I survived Obamacare enrollment

First Posted: 3/13/2014

I am not an intimidating presence. I have, however, chosen to make up for this by becoming incredibly dedicated to winning verbal debates, which I’ve since learned, only serves to encourage people to swing bar-stools at my head.

Having a particularly punchable face is one reason I felt that I should take seriously getting myself some actual health insurance, for that inevitable day when my mouth fails to win a debate against a stranger’s fist.

This month, I decided, I would sign up for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or as it is more popularly known: Obamacare.

With open enrollment coming to an end on March 31, this was a decision I probably should have come to a little earlier in the year.

There are a number of ways to enroll, including calling 1-800-318-2596, however I’m a glutton for punishment, so I chose the good ol’ fashioned way of sending my information via the series of tubes known as the Internet.

Healthcare.gov had an infamously hazardous roll-out. The site reportedly crashed if you so much as looked at it the wrong way, and by “wrong way,” I mean using a computer and a set of eyeballs. The whole debacle made many lose faith in the new health care law, even if the website’s functionality wasn’t necessarily reflective of the law itself. But if these guys couldn’t even operate a website launch, how were we to believe these folks could handle our health care enrollment?

We the media haven’t exactly helped. In the past two decades, we have become less about informing the reader of what is going on, and more about informing the reader of what someone else says is going on — and that has led to a lot of conflicting truths, so before I go into the details of my adventures filling out online forms, I thought I would retroactively eliminate some myths I have learned about while doing my research and hopefully undo a little of the damage done by my industry.

To keep me honest, please feel free to follow along using the actual bill, which can be found at housedocs.house.gov/energycommerce/ppacacon.pdf.

“ObamaCare means free insurance for illegal immigrants.”

Ah, when in doubt we can always count on xenophobia. The recipient of tax credits and all other benefits must be a legal resident of the United States. That is addressed on pages 122, 123, 125, and 132 of the bill.

“ObamaCare means free insurance! Woo hoo!”

Whether you’re a foreigner, a citizen, or a killer drone robot, no one is getting what is known as “the public option.”

Sadly my bank account next month will be able to testify to this.

When the bill was first written, there was in fact a public option available, but I’m pretty sure even the people who penned the bill knew that it wouldn’t make it into the final bill if it ever hoped to be passed.

Besides, no matter what anyone tells you, there is no such thing as “free health insurance.” You’re either paying for it out of your pocket, or in taxes.

“ObamaCare won’t let me keep the insurance I have!”

This one is actually true for some folks.

If you have changed your insurance since the passing of the bill, and you have changed it to something that does not meet the standards of the bill, then your insurance company can cancel your plan — however if your plan remains the same as it was when the bill passed, you are grandfathered in. That’s on page 55 of the bill.

Also, those who will end up having their insurance cancelled make up about 5 percent of the overall insurance market, as these are folks who have individual health plans, which is more rare. It is estimated that of that 5 percent, about half of those folks will get better coverage for a lower price thanks to many of them qualifying for government subsidies to help them pay their bill. I, by the way, qualified for one of those subsidies, which gives me a $173 a month tax credit to cut down on my costs. More on that in a few.

“Our elderly will be lined up and subjected to death panels!”

Hopefully, by now, there aren’t still people who believe this one, but it was one of the most prevalent myths in the early days of the bill’s introduction, so I am going to address it now.

There has never been such a thing attached to this bill — as cartoonishly evil as it sounds, we have fortunately not put together anything even resembling this in the bill.

The death-panel myth is born of the idea that if the government has a hand in health insurance, it will, naturally, want to decide who is worthy of being healthy and who is not … because apparently Barack Obama is that one Bond villain who wears mom jeans.

The bill actually outlines what amounts to the very opposite of a death panel — an appeals process, so if one’s claim gets turned down, one can challenge that decision. That’s on page 23.

“ObamaCare will cost trillions and put us in massive debt!”

No joke — ObamaCare is extremely, extremely expensive. Why on Earth would anyone decide to invest in an act that will cost us more than a trillion dollars during a time of economic turmoil?

Now, with the bill does come some new taxes, which should worry you if you happen to run a tanning salon, are an insurance company, a pharmaceutical company or make more than $200,000 a year and had already made plans for 1 percent of your taxable income.

Another way of trying to offset that trillion-dollar price tag is by making some deep cuts to Medicare, supposedly of things that are believed not to be working.

At the end of the day, according to the Congressional Budget Office, by focusing on preventive care, the bill is actually projected to help save the nation money we had already been spending on emergency care.

The claim is that this bill will reduce our annual deficit by $210 billion. Still, the bill isn’t projected to be paid off until the year 2021. It remains to be seen if we don’t all end up with pie on our faces. Though if this trillion-dollar debt turns us into a Third World country, pie might be a luxury.

OK — I have killed enough time. Here are my end results after enrolling.

As mentioned above, I qualified for a tax credit. I might have even qualified for Medicaid had North Carolina not opted out of the Medicaid expansion. I was also deemed eligible for health plans with lower co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles.

It took me an hour and a half to enroll, which I feel is somewhat insane, however I did manage to avoid having to answer a bunch of medical questions, as the new law makes it so that an insurance company must cover you, regardless of your current or past health problems. Much of my time was actually spent indecisively comparing plans. I found a plan with a $54 monthly premium, but it had a $6,500 deductible, which is bananas, minus the potassium. Still, paying that little a month was all kinds of tempting.

I ended up going with the Blue Cross BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina: Blue Advantage Silver plan, which while more expensive, at $109.94 a month, had a $1,000 deductible. Mind you, without the $173 tax credit I would be paying $282.94 a month, so thank you Uncle Sam.

Because I signed up before March 15, my coverage will start April 1, so please wait until next month before you swing a bar-stool at my head.