Everything I Had to Go Through to Get Healthcare for 2017

This process has too many steps.

Photo credit: J E Theriot, CC BY 2.0.

The 2017 Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment period ends on December 15 [EDIT: you need to sign up by Dec 15 if you want healthcare on Jan 1; Open Enrollment continues through Jan 31], so if you haven’t yet signed up for an ACA-compliant healthcare plan, you still have a week to get it done.

And it might take that long. Here’s a quick summary of everything I had to do to apply for healthcare in 2017:

First, I received a letter from Premera announcing that they were no longer offering my current plan, and that I would need to choose from one of their 2017 plans or explore the other ACA-compliant options available in the Marketplace.

Here’s what happened when I did that:

It’s Time to Play “How Much More Will Health Insurance Cost Next Year?”

The letter also advises me to visit WAHealthPlanFinder.org to learn more about my new health plan options, but after going through the trouble of logging into WAHealthPlanFinder and choosing a new password that didn’t contain any dictionary words (which, cOm3 @n), I learned that WAHealthPlanFinder hadn’t made its 2017 information available, and that I should check back.

Then I went to Premera’s website and found exactly what I was looking for: next year, my Bronze plan’s monthly premium will increase by 19 percent to $293.08, and I’ll have two deductibles: $4,500 for medical, and $1,500 for pharmacy. My out-of-pocket maximum will jump up to $7,150.

So okay, fine. Whatever. Everything costs more money all the time.

Then I went to Premera’s website to apply for my new Bronze plan, and learned that I had to do it over the phone, which, ugh, no, but I did it anyway, and the woman on the phone first asked for my permission to receive future sales calls at this number, because healthcare is about sales now, and second asked me if I had confirmed that my doctor would be covered by the plan I had chosen.

I hadn’t even thought about that. I don’t really have “a doctor,” I know you’re supposed to have a primary care physician but I’ve never done that, I go to an OB-GYN and a local Zoom-Care. Still, I checked the Premera website and discovered that my OB-GYN would not be covered by my new Bronze plan.

Which meant I told the woman on the phone that I would need to think about this before making a decision, and she gave me a number at which to call her back when I was ready to complete my application.

I thought about it. I decided that I had very little control over whether I got to keep my OB-GYN; even if I did the work of figuring out which healthcare plan (if any) covered him, he could still retire, or move, or something could happen. Better to stick with Premera, since I’ve never had any really bad experiences and it’s also the major insurer in the area. Also, I tried logging back into WAHealthPlanFinder and the website kept running error messages, so I couldn’t really evaluate any other options.

I called the woman back, using the number and extension she had provided. No response. I continued calling over the next two days, figuring she might as well get her commission for selling me a healthcare plan, since healthcare is about sales now.

Then I gave up and went back into the general Premera phone pool.

I got a different woman this time, and after confirming that I did still want this Bronze plan, she told me we were going to set up an account on WAHealthPlanFinder so we could apply for this Bronze plan together! Over the phone! With me dictating my username, address, and all that other stuff!

I told her I already had an account on WAHealthPlanFinder, and I was able to log in, but after that I only got error messages.

We discovered together, over the phone, that this was still the case. And no, you can’t just “create a new login,” since they’re tied to names and Social Security Numbers and all of that.

The woman recommended I contact WAHealthPlanFinder directly. I asked her if I could just apply for the Bronze plan directly too, if I really had to call her back and do this over the phone, and she said I could apply for the Bronze plan online at WAHealthPlanFinder, which is the first time Premera had presented this information to me.

SO FINE, OKAY, at this point I’m several days into the simple goal of trying to complete a healthcare application, but I call WAHealthPlanFinder and we troubleshoot my login and eventually the error messages go away.

At this point I’m presented with all of my available healthcare providers, so I figure I might as well take a few minutes to evaluate the non-Premera options. (This actually takes a day, because I only have time to do one frustrating health-care-application-related task per day, I am a busy person.)

I still decide that the Premera Bronze plan is the best option.

I apply for the Premera Bronze plan.

WAHealthPlanFinder asks me if I’d like to add dental to that.

I review the dental plan options—which aren’t through Premera—and the Yelp reviews aren’t great. (Yes, of course there are Yelp reviews for dental insurance companies. Why wouldn’t there be?)

I figure that I probably don’t really need dental insurance, especially from what seems like a “discount plan” more than an insurance plan, but before I go forward on this I decide to ask the smartest team of financial commenters I know:

Should I Get Dental Insurance?

We agree that I don’t really need dental insurance, and that I could just save my own money for dental expenses. So I go back to WAHealthPlanFinder, log into my account, say yes to health insurance and no to dental insurance, and finally get confirmation that I have health insurance for 2017.

All in all, it took nearly three weeks to complete these tasks, although I could have done it in two or three days if I smushed all of the tasks together. I should also note that I had all the privileges: I only had to consider my own healthcare needs, I could make calls during the middle of the day, I didn’t have to go through the process of applying for a healthcare voucher, and so on.

But I got my health insurance taken care of. How about you?

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