- Posted by Canopy
- On December 11, 2014
- 0 Comments
- shopping for healthcare.gov plans
At the center of the ACA (Obamacare) is the website Healthcare.gov (commonly referred to as the “Marketplace”), which is promoted as a government run “health insurance exchange” which allows individuals to shop for health insurance from multiple carriers. Wikipedia defines Healthcare.gov as a “health insurance exchange website operated under the United States federal government under the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, designed to serve the residents of the thirty-six U.S. states that opted not to create their own state exchanges.” There isn’t a health insurance exchange in Missouri and there isn’t a health insurance exchange in Kansas, so residents of those states will use the Federal Healthcare.gov website. The new world of health insurance also has some new rules, several of which we pointed out HERE (ADD LINK)
The website is at the center of the TV commercials and media campaigns distributed by the government that promote getting covered by using the site to buy health insurance. Last year, the commercials largely featured young people and promoted how easy it is to get signed up while using a few “celebrities” like Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, two former NBA stars who have since been diagnosed with serious health conditions since their days in the NBA. The commercials painted a feel good picture of ease and a stress-free process where signing up was as easy as a few clicks of a mouse.
Things They Didn’t Tell You About Healthcare.gov
What the government didn’t tell anyone was just how challenging Healthcare.gov was to navigate and use at times, when it was actually working. The website experienced long periods of downtime and glitches that almost forced a delay in the implementation of the law. They also didn’t tell anyone that while everyone is eligible to buy through Healthcare.gov, there’s no real purpose in buying through the website UNLESS you are eligible for a subsidy. Why is this? Well, because if you don’t qualify for a subsidy, you can use any number of different websites to buy direct through the carrier of your choice and the application process will be much simpler and quicker. If someone qualifies for a subsidy due to income, Healthcare.gov is the only place for them to buy coverage and receive that premium assistance. However, if an individual does not qualify, the application process is more difficult and time consuming on Healthcare.gov so consulting with an agent and buying direct through your carrier of choice is generally a much quicker process.
So what does the application process on Healthcare.gov entail?
- Set up an account. Setting up an account for a website you don’t frequent or plan on buying through very often can be annoying, but it’s the first step on the Marketplace. This includes setting a User name and Password and setting up security questions. Great…another user name and password to remember.
- Complete your subsidy application which includes providing information on your household income and data on members in your household like SSN, DOB, etc. This application takes about 10-15 minutes assuming you can provide complete answers on all of the questions.
- Receive subsidy results and determine how you would like to apply the subsidy. Most people choose to apply the subsidy to the monthly premium in order to lower the monthly premium. You will also find out if you or anyone in your family is eligible for Medicaid or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program)
- After receiving your subsidy results, you can then select a plan on the Marketplace. In some cases, the Marketplace plans are different than what’s available on the open market, away from the Marketplace. For example, in the Kansas City market, there is a carrier whose plan on the Marketplace uses a smaller network than what someone can buy through that carrier, off of the Marketplace.
- Once you’ve selected a plan, you have to complete your enrollment for that particular plan (yep, you’re still not done). Once you’ve completed your enrollment, you’ll be prompted to contact the carrier you signed up with to make your first payment as there is not an option to pay the premium at the time you make your selection and complete your enrollment. Payments are due before the effective date or your coverage will not go into effect.
Healthcare.gov Can Be Cumbersome
So as you can see, the process on Healthcare.gov is a little bit cumbersome, especially when compared to carrier websites. For example, people shopping for Healthcare.gov plans in Kansas City will find Blue Cross Blue Shield is the prominent carrier in the market. For those buying without a subsidy, the entire application process on their website can be completed in roughly 10 minutes and you can also set up auto payment at that time. With the help of an agent assisting you through the application after you’ve already made your plan selection, it might take closer to five minutes. Obviously a much quicker, simpler process. The key is consulting with an agent and shopping your options before you decide to sign up. Once you’ve decided which plan you want, your agent can go to the carrier website and get you enrolled in short order. Read here about choosing the right plan for you.
In summary, using Healthcare.gov should really be based on whether or not you qualify for a subsidy. If you don’t, you’re free to roam and sign up where you choose. If you do qualify, you’ll want to enroll through the Marketplace in order to receive that subsidy. Again, it’s imperative to get assistance through an agent that knows the plans and can help navigate you through the Marketplace application process. While it is a bit cumbersome, it’s well worth it if you qualify for a subsidy and can get your premium reduced and with the help of an agent, the process should be easier and less stressful. Happy shopping! Be sure to download our FREE Health Insurance Buyers Checklist for more tip and helpful insight on purchasing a health insurance plan.