Today begins open enrollment for individuals via the Affordable Care Act. If you have been following the antics of the House of Representatives this week, you would think life as we know it is ending today.
For many of us, myself included, nothing has happened. I have employer-provided health insurance, so I have to do...nothing. Those of you who do not have this luxury can now start shopping for health insurance with substantial subsidies, even those of you with chronic diseases and pre-existing conditions. Some of the prices I have heard make me wonder if I should go look. I mean, it is online shopping, one of my prominent skills.
Here is a little overview of the HealthCare.gov site:
So what happens at this evil online lair of the ObamaCare monster???
- Answer a few brief questions that directly route them to state-specific information about coverage options and subsidies.
- Evaluate side-by-side comparisons of benefits, premiums, and cost-sharing requirements.
- Call a 24/7 customer service center with trained staff who can answer a range of questions in English, Spanish, and over 100 other languages.
- Use a 24/7 live “Web chat” option to request assistance (available in English and Spanish).
- Get application materials and a checklist list of key deadlines.
- Read or view consumer-friendly summaries explaining ACA coverage requirements, how the Marketplace works, eligibility for Medicare or subsidies, special information for young adults, and many other topics.
- Access broad variety of other consumer-friendly resources.
As a physician, I have seen the disastrous results of not having health insurance. People either have bad health outcomes because of delayed treatment, or they suffer incredible financial losses. After all, medical bills are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the US.
Here is another information sheet about things to consider when choosing healthcare.
If you have no coverage, it's about time you protected yourself and your loved ones from the unexpected. It's not as much fun as buying shoes, but get over there and shop!