After a two month stint in website rehab, it appears healthcare.gov has stepped out clean and sober and ready to handle your information.
Now that you can complete the process from start to finish without wasting half your life, I wanted to breakdown the process and help explain each step of this process.
When you first land on healthcare.gov you are greeted with three different options, you can "Apply Now" "See Before You Apply" or "See If You Can Get Lower Costs"
Let's walk through each step and help you understand what's going on.
See Plans Before Applying
If you decide to do a little window shopping before going through the application process, there are a few things you will want to look out for when viewing the information.
After you provide the necessary information about you or your family, age, location, etc. you get a list of 37 different plans available in Ohio from five different health insurance companies. Those companies are listed below.
- Medical Mutual of Ohio
- Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield
- Kaiser Permanente
The 37 plans breakdown into the following medal tiers.
- 9 Gold
- 11 Silver
- 13 Bronze
- 4 Catastrophic
If you find yourself clicking the big blue "details" button next to any of the plans there are a few broken links and misleading wording you will want to be careful about.
The details section includes four links for every company at the top.
- Summary of Benefits
- Plan Brochure
- Provider Directory
- List of Covered Drugs
These links are suppose to direct you to additional documentation, usually on that company's website, to provide you more information on the plans.
Every company except Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield had at least one link that took you to an error page or the wrong page all together.
Medical Mutual's Provider Directory link takes you to their page to look up dentists and three of the four links for SummaCare didn't work.
Since you asked, yes there is.
As I examined this comparison tool further I noticed some VERY confusing language in the details section for Health Savings Account (HSA) plans.
Under the Copayments/Coinsurance section it says "No Charge" next to all of the services. As you can see in the screen shot below, there are services like Primary Doctor, Emergency Room and Prescription Medication listed.
If I asked you to tell me how you interpreted that list, you are more than likely going to say, "that means I don't have to pay for any of those services."
That's where the trouble starts.
Every service on that list for HSA's will be paid by you in full (after the companies "negotiated" or discounted rate) and applied to your deductible. Only after you've reached the policy's out-of-pocket maximum or maximum out-of-pocket will there be no charge for those or any other covered medical services. There is a more accurate description in the details section of the application process which reads "No charge AFTER deductible in-network. Very important difference.
The only other complaint I have about this comparison tool is that is has limited filtering functionality. Meaning the options you have to narrow your search are by medal or by company. Nothing for deductible, plan type or cost. You also can't select two or three plans to compare side-by-side. This only happens after you've gone through the application process.
See If You Can Get Lower Cost
This option simply takes you to a page with a link to the Kaiser Family Foundation subsidy calculator. The same calculator I've been telling you to use for a long time.
Beyond that it just gives you a mini history lesson on the calculator and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Main Event - Applying
Before you go anywhere, you are going to want to make sure you have the following information on hand before you sit down to complete the application.
Social Security Numbers for everyone in the family who's applying.
DOB for everyone on the application
W-2's or 1099's for everyone in the family
First you will need to create an account, pretty straight forward.
Then it will be time to handover your contact information, again fairly basic stuff.
Now they will ask if anyone will be helping you apply for coverage. You can choose from the following list.
- Certified application counselor
- Non-Navigator assistance personnel
- Agent or broker
- None of these people
If you've spent any amount of time on our site - reading blogs, watching videos or downloading ebooks - and felt that information has provided you with advice and/or guidance, I might suggest checking "Agent or broker" (that's me).
IMPORTANT:Doing this will NOT change the price of your health insurance. You will pay the same rate regardless. That means if someone is helping you, you better make sure they are credited on the application because they're services are essentially free.
This will allow me, or another agent, the opportunity to do the heavy lifting for your health insurance all year long.
If you do have someone you are working with, they will ask you to set a security question for that authorized user.
Step 5 (The Big One)
This is where you will tell them you want to find out if your are eligible to get help paying for your health insurance.
You will obviously click "Yes."
NOTE:If you click no, you have no business being on healthcare.gov in the first place as this will only limit the health insurance options available to you.
This will then take you through a series of questions to determine your eligibility and figure out how many people are in your family and that will require coverage.
Step 6: Income
This is where you will need your W-2, pay stubs or other income information.
You will need to provide the annual income for every working member of your family.
Step 7: Additional Information
This section will double check any optional information you did not provide the first time around, which oddly enough could be your social security number.
Step 8: Review Application
Now you will have an opportunity to review all the information you provided on the application to make sure it is correct and make any changes if needed.
Step 9: Sign & Submit
All that is left is to answer a few more question and to put your digital John Hancock on the application and send it off to Washington.
Step 10: Selecting a Plan
First you will need to "set" your tobacco usage status for the last six months.
Now you will be able to FINALLY see the plans, with subsidy discounts, that you can purchase.
I'll tell you one thing, I REALLY like (and need to give the healthcare.gov folks credit) the little green bars that indicate how close you are to the policy limits for benefits like deductible and out-of-pocket max. That could just be the video gamer in me talking though.
This is where you might want to review the best plans I recommend inside Ohio's Health Insurance Marketplace. It will help you figure out which plans are worth paying attention to.
Once you have your plan picked out, click enroll and you're pretty much done.
The Bottom Line
It works, it's pretty easy but a lot of people are going to find the prices not very "affordable." That post subsidy sticker shock could very well be the next debilitating factor of "Obamacare" and could prevent you from wanting to buy coverage.
Of course not everyone will see prices they're unhappy with, others will qualify for subsidies that will have you questioning if it's too good to be true.