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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The ACAs of Obamacare

During the whole national hoo ha about whether or not poor people, sick people, young people and unemployed people should be able to buy health insurance, I was firmly on the side of the poor, sick, young and unemployed, but in an abstract kind of way. It didn't really apply to me. ( It didn't apply to President Obama, either, as he has a doctor following him around 24/7.)  I got insurance from my employer, had for a long time, couldn't imagine getting it any other way and certainly couldn't imagine buying it on the open market, a concept more foreign than e-bay.

Well, guess what. I'm buying insurance on the open market.  I went to the library yesterday, where a trained facilitator walked me through the Web site, (Dallas Public Library, every Tuesday, 1-5.)  There are a dizzying array of options, but we found one that's very similar to what I have now.  It's a "silver" plan with a $3500 deductible, which is more than I'd like. But, if you're me, it's pay now or pay later.  I can see my Regular Doc for $20, my specialist for $55 (which is going to suck if I go through another crisis like I did six months ago, but let's just assume that's not going to happen) and generic prescription drugs, which are by far the biggest expense component of my whole health care mess, are only $4. Or maybe free.  I can't recall.  I have to go back to the Web site and stare at it some more.

Should you be one of those about to make the leap into buying insurance on the open market, please be aware that they HAVE TO SELL IT TO YOU.  They can't not let you buy it.  This is important; in the not so distant past, you had to be young, healthy, not pregnant, not afflicted with a chronic condition of any kind, and in other words not likely to cost the insurance company any money whatsoever before they would cover you.  This is no longer true.  So anybody can get on the Web site and look for insurance coverage.  Please note that it's really not as easy as that; you have to sign up for an account first, and have your identity verified (which was a bit creepy; how did you guys know I worked for the County of San Diego in the 1990s?) That took about 15 minutes.  Please also note that your state may have its own Web site that's different than the Federal web site mentioned above.  But if it doesn't, you're in good company.  About 34 states, including Texas, are referring people to the Federal site.

Some other stuff you might want to know: It helps to know what you made last year, and it really helps if you've already filed your taxes because they'll just go get that information when calculating your eligibility for subsidies.  If you're buying coverage for more than one person, have the other person's Social Security number handy.  But you don't need a whole lot more information. You don't need to have your health history handy, or your doctors' names, or a list of medications you've taken.  This Web site isn't as easy as buying something on e-bay, but it's nowhere near as complicated as, say, filing your taxes online.  In about 25 minutes, we found a plan I was comfortable with. There were other, cheaper plans, but I wanted to stay with Blue Cross if possible and I wanted a PPO, not an HMO, so as to be able to keep the doctors I currently have.  That was not a problem. Blue Cross had a number of available plans.  Some of them in the "gold" range were really nice, but again, pay now or pay later.  Am trying to balance that out as much as possible.

I should add, this is all new to me.  I have left jobs before, and I always went straight onto COBRA to continue my health insurance.  Well, this coverage beats COBRA by about $100 a month, which is not surprising actually; COBRA costs more to the consumer than it does to the company that was paying for it in the first place. (I did not know that until yesterday.)  Still, three times now I've gone onto COBRA.  Leave job, go on COBRA. Leave job, go on COBRA. So not going on COBRA - signing that piece of paper rejecting COBRA and putting it in the mail--felt like walking off a cliff.

Still, we live in a brave new world.  Something I wrote about and argued in favor of and got in people's faces about is now available to, of all persons, me.  God helps those who helps themselves, or something like that.  So, back to finding a job.  If you know anybody who needs a good paralegal, tell them I'm available.

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