by Sue Ann Rybak
As a journalist who has been writing about healthcare.gov since October, you might think I would not have waited until the last minute to apply for health insurance for my husband who is computer illiterate.
But alas, I am a notorious procrastinator.
And because my job gives me the option of paying for my husband’s insurance at a bargain rate of $5, 604 a year, or roughly $467 dollars a month, applying for reduced health insurance on the marketplace was important but anything but simple – a fact I didn’t realize until after I called Margaret Fahringer, a certified application counselor for Resources for Human Development.
Fahringer said the first thing I had to do was download the employer coverage tool from healthcare.gov, which would document that the cost of health insurance for my husband through my current employer would be a hardship.
On March 18, I filled out an application online with a certified application counselor. After verifying my husband’s last three addresses, Social Security number, driver’s license and place of birth, I received an error message instructing me to call the marketplace at 1-800-318-2596.
The next day I instructed my husband to call the toll free number. He called several times only to be placed on hold for more than 30 minutes and then be disconnected.
On March 20, I received a letter stating that the marketplace records showed that someone in my household filed their income tax separately I should mention that I live in an apartment, and both my husband and I file joint income taxes. Obviously, they made an error.
After several failed attempts by my husband to contact a representative, I tried to log in and view our application online only to receive another error message telling me to call the toll free number. I did three times only to be informed that due to high caller volume, they were unable to assist me at that time.
By Friday, March 28, I was in a panic. Why did I wait so long? But, I would not be deterred. I gathered all our documents and took a deep breath as I dialed the numbers. There was no turning back. The clock was ticking.
After waiting on hold for what seemed like eternity, I was connected with a customer service representative who informed me that she was having trouble connecting her computer to the server. Huh? She suggested I call back in a hour. I did and after watching almost the entire new Star Trek movie with the cordless telephone pressed against my ear, a voice on the other end thanked me for holding. By now, I was blurry eyed. It was after 1 a.m.
The representative advised me to fill out another application, which we did over the phone. After an hour of reciting Social Security numbers, she attempted to enroll me in my health insurance plan. But guess what? The computer would not let her enroll me in the program, and even though I met the income requirements to receive tax credits, the system was not indicating that I was eligible.
She asked for my phone number so she could call me back. As of noon April 1, I still have not received a call back nor an email reporting on the status of my application. I guess I am just another glitch in the system. If you were one of the six-million people who were able to obtain health insurance through the marketplace, please write me and share your experience.