Signing up for Obamacare: Call an insurance man, first
Editor's note: This is a first-hand account on signing up for health care under the Obamacare system.
First off, I am not on the dole, I work. Not one job, but three - three part-time jobs. Here at the paper and two more teaching at the college level in two different schools, so obviously, I'm busy. However, because of my part-time status at all three jobs I am unable to receive major medical health insurance. And, for the longest time, I was unable to afford it, until now.
A few years ago, I left my full-time job and lost my health care coverage. Not long after that, my wife cut her finger bad enough to require stitches to stop the bleeding (an emergency room visit) and surgery to repair the severed tendon. The bills totaled somewhere over $5,000. Because of our earnings on our prior income tax statement and the way bureaucracy works we were unable to receive medical assistance (even though I wasn't working anywhere at the time). Thankfully, due to the charity system of Shamokin Area Community Hospital (Note: I did not write, Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital - that's another story in itself) and Evangelical Community Hospital, we were not saddled with bills that would have taken us years to pay off.
Basically, with all that said, it does not behoove anyone to go without health insurance in this country. Hospital bills, whether visiting the emergency room or anything else that requires a doctor's care, especially surgery, can be financially catastrophic. Make a visit to your local doctor and I'm certain the receptionist will ask for your "major medical." Don't have any? Get ready to pay up-front. The bill, I assure you, will not be the small amount your parents used to be charged when they took you to see one of the old-time doctors in town.
Now we have the Affordable Health Care Act, or, as it is commonly known, Obamacare. Despite the technological glitches that greeted its introduction to the American health insurance seeker, these glitches seem to be ironed out. And because I needed health insurance before this year is out lest I get fined for it through my federal income tax, I decided to get insured. Here's what I did, and the process is fairly easy.
First, get on the Internet and type in healthcare.gov/contact-us/. When you do, I suggest that you call the toll-free number at 1-800-318-2596 so that you can talk to a human and get answers to questions you may have. Also, make sure you have last year's income tax forms on-hand because you will need information such as social security number(s), how much money you earned last year and a guesstimation of how much you expect to earn this year. There are also other questions they will ask and will give you important information in return. The most important, for you, will be how much credit (money) you will get toward purchasing health insurance. They will recommened going onto the Healthcare.gov website to start shopping for an insurance policy, but here is where I part ways with that idea. That is, unless you are well-acquainted with health insurance contracts.
As a former insurance agent who sold life insurance, I am not well-versed on health insurance, so I went to someone who is - my local insurance broker. He, in turn, gave me quotes on different health insurance products and gave me the information I needed to purchase health insurance based on the amount of credit I will be receiving from the government and the amount of money I will need to pay, and, more importantly, can afford. After that, he set up my account on the healthcare.gov website and my insurance was purchased. Nevertheless, let me stress this fact: You get what you pay for.
Don't expect the kind of coverage you used to have when you had a job and your employer took out anywhere between $50 to $100 (or more) per pay; the kind of coverage where you had a co-pay of maybe $15 per hospital visit. No, that probably won't be the case. Expect a high deductible of over $1,000 (some are much higher) that will be your responsibility. Also, if you plan to add your spouse and/or children, your health insurance will cost you more to purchase. This means, if the government does not give you much toward purchasing health insurance you will pay more for it out-of-pocket. What you reported on last year's income tax form will determine what you receive. Earn more, get less. Earn less, get more. Get it?
Yes, with a decent amount of credit the insurance is affordable, but don't expect the same kind of health insurance that President Obama, our senators, congressmen, or even full-time workers possess. Why do I say this? Because the insurance I used to have through my job cost me over $2,000 per year; my employer's share was well over $9,000. This was an insurance policy in which my out-of-pocket costs to have a medical procedure done was somewhere next to '0'. My sneaking suspicion is that this insurance is basically to help cover a medical catastrophy requiring "major medical," meaning, instead of paying $50,000 for surgery, you may only have to pay less than 10 percent of that cost.
Affordable health coverage? For some, yes, maybe. Fantastic policies? Not necessarily. But with the expensive cost of doctor/hospital visits in this country, having no coverage at all and paying the government fine is not the position you'll want to take.
I guarantee you, sooner or later, you will get sick. And with or without insurance, the hospital will get their money.