Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Healthcare.gov and the Small Church

So I spent some time on Healthcare.gov today, the questions being 1) How hard is this, really? and 2) Is there a comparable plan to my employer's healthcare plan (the UUA's Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield) that would cost less money?

Last night I created my user name and password, and then was booted out of the system because it was under maintenance.  Fair enough.

I went back in today.  I had to answer some security questions that prove that I'm me.  It turns out the government has more handy access to facts about myself than I do.  I had to chase down the information of what year my car is. 

Then I had to provide information on the members of my family, including how much money we make, before taxes.  That's complicated.  How do I classify my housing allowance?  I decided to just put it in as income before taxes, even though it won't be taxed.  What about my husband's income?  Well, he's an adjunct professor.  We never know how many classes he'll be given in a given semester.  I decided to just make a wild guess, and give an annual amount, because there's no way to figure out a monthly amount -- all the months are different, depending on where they fall in the semester and how many classes there are.  Then I had to look up how much I pay in student loan interest.  That was fairly easy, but required rebooting my computer, since Excel decided to crash, which is where I needed to go first to get access to that information.

After that break, I came back in the evening and put in some more information.  It was confusing to answer when I might be eligible for insurance in 2014 through my employer when they hadn't asked me yet if I had insurance currently from my employer, but I just said January 1st for 2014.

Finally, the demographic information was complete.  I am not, I was told, eligible for Medicaid.  Then it seemed to pause as if that was the end.  The screen wasn't completely comprehensible as to where I would go next.  But I figured that out, and found out that I had to tell them that we're non-smokers and a couple of other things, and then I could see plans.

So I think I can say that this wasn't too painless.  It was millions of times easier than when I applied for insurance 10 years ago coming here.  I was pregnant at the time (I did have to tell the government that I'm not pregnant right now, but I think that wouldn't have changed my eligibility, I hope, unless to make me more eligible).  I had to get a copy of my marriage certificate from Chicago, because my husband's last name is different.  Chicago momentarily lost it, making me think maybe we weren't really married -- a great thing to tell a pregnant woman going through a move, job change, pregnancy, and stresses about health insurance, by the way.  If it hadn't been the case that my previous insurance had been through my church, I would have not been eligible for any plan we could find in Michigan.  The plan I was on in Massachusetts was a plan that was local to that area, so there was no sense in keeping it.  Finally, we found the one single Blue Care Network plan in Michigan that was forced to take me.  Never mind that they had fired me back in 1993 following a health problem, I was glad to have them.  It took me MONTHS to get this worked out, even with a health insurance agent's help.  She still sends me Christmas cards -- they're always the first to arrive.  I will forever be grateful to her.  And that's a better story than two years prior to that in the enlightened state of Texas where because I was overweight (and hadn't been on an employer's plan) I was only able to get catastrophic coverage. 

MILES easier on Healthcare.gov.   OH SO MUCH easier.  MONTHS easier.  HOLY COW easier.  It took less than 24 hours of total elapsed time, and less than 4 hours of actively working on it time. 

So, what were the options?  My healthcare insurance is, I think, going to cost my church and me $1301 per month next year on the UUA's plan.  It's considered a "gold" plan according to the UUA.  What does healthcare.gov have to offer?  Well, they have no catastrophic plans or platinum plans to offer, and a lot of the others.  But I want a gold plan, as that's what I've become accustomed to, and because of the number of doctor visits, tests, and more that my husband has had in the last couple of years with some big-ticket health problems.  And I'm no spring chicken.  So there are 10 gold plans.  They range from $919.25 per month ($500 deductible, $10K out-of-pocket max, $30 co-pay/$50 specialist) to $1469.88 (0 deductible, $8K out-of-pocket max, $40 primary/$60 specialist).

The UUA plan for 2014 will have an $1600 deductible and family out-of-pocket maximum of $4800.  Our co-pays are $20 primary/$30 specialist. 

Turns out the closest plan to this, "Priority Health MyPriority MyHealth Access Gold 1000," with $2000 deductible and out-of-pocket maximum of $5000 with 20/20 co-pays is $1311 per month.  Other plans go up and down on the various numbers, but the closest ones are all in the same ballpark. So the UUA plan beats it slightly on all parameters, including price, except for the specialist co-pay.

So the good news is that the UUA's plan is very competitive with comparable plans.  And the bad news is that "Obamacare" didn't bring us cheaper, better healthcare.  It actually brought us healthcare for the average small business employee that is going up 9.3% this year along with deductible increases.  So that's sad for me, who had held out hope that while it would get all those uninsured people a better situation it might actually take a load off the small church, as well.  It seems that is not to be the case.

1 comment:

mekoopman said...

On behalf of our small church, thanks for going to all that trouble!