Obamacare — December 6, 2013 at 11:50 am

Michigander gives healthcare.gov a second chance — and she’s glad she did


A vastly improved website made it much easier to compare plans and see the real benefits.

Sharon Baseman always wanted to find coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As a freelance graphic designer, she has to buy individual coverage and thought she’d save money thanks to Obamacare.

As it turns out, she was right.

In the beginning, Baseman wasn’t so sure. The website’s glitches made it difficult to sign up, complete an application and enroll. She was only able to compare premiums — not the other benefits of the plans — so what she saw in October and early November didn’t seem like a value compared to her existing coverage.

But the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Baseman decided to try again.

I deleted my original application and started over, which was easy to do. It only took me five minutes to get my application approved and start looking at the plans again.

Right now, I have an Aetna plan. My premium is $332 a month, but it’s got a $5,500 deductible. I almost never hit that, so I pay for everything except preventive care. And my medication coverage isn’t as good as it could be. I also have a Health Savings Account (HSA) that I send about $2,500 a year to.

I didn’t think I wanted an HMO, but I found one, a gold plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, with a $250 deductible and a $5,000 out-of-pocket maximum. I did the math. Even though my premium will be higher at $750 a month because of my age, the extra $400 a month I’m paying comes to just $2,800 for seven months until I’m eligible for Medicare in 2014. I won’t need to contribute to my HSA and with the much lower deductible my new insurance will start paying for things much faster. All my doctors are in there, too.

Worst case scenario, changing plans will be a wash financially. Best case scenario, I’ll save a little money.

I’ve been hearing success stories like Baseman’s every single day. Her experience underscores two important points. First, healthcare.gov is working much, much better than it had been. That means it’s easier to get covered than it was a month or two ago.

Second, it’s a reminder that you can’t just compare your current premiums with those under the ACA. You also have to look at the other variables, including deductibles, co-pays, out-of-pocket costs, hospital and physician networks and limits on how much you’ll have to pay out of pocket each year beyond your premiums. A gold plan like Baseman’s covers 80 percent of all costs.

It’s true that shopping for health insurance can be complicated, especially if you’ve never done it before. That’s why there are local navigators available to walk you through the process. You can find them or enroll for coverage at healthcare.gov.

One more thing to consider: I spent far less time enrolling for coverage over the last month than I did sorting out issues with my phone and cable TV provider. Which time was better spent?

You have until December 23 to enroll and pay the first month’s premium to get covered by January 1, 2014. You can enroll through March 15, 2014, without incurring any penalty for not having health insurance.

[Photo courtesy of Sharon Baseman.]