by Shaira Frias,
Like a lot of other people, I jumped on the opportunity to get lower cost health insurance. But the roadblocks in the system were really annoying. It took me five days to apply and I’m not finished. My quest started on October 1st when I logged on to the New York State of Health website. To say that the site frustrated me is an understatement.
I tried five times before I got a username. Once I passed that hurdle, I thought we were on a roll. But then it it all suddenly stopped. A message popped up on the white screen, “site currently unavailable.” It said that over and over again.
I thought it was my Internet connection. But I soon realized, it wasn’t me. It was them. The website was riddled with glitches. I stopped and started again. At exactly 9:51 I tried once more. When “site currently unavailable” reappeared, I yelled, “I give up!” and shut it down.
Seven attempts on Oct 2nd, and still no luck
Oct. 3rd I was not successful, again.
I tried to psych it out. Why not give it a go late at night when everyone is asleep? So at around 11:40 p.m. I tried to log in. My strategy was a failure. A new notice said, “session timed out.”
On October 4th, I was able to sign in and was beyond excited. I got to the third page of the application and “session timed out” popped up again. But I was still excited because there was a small victory. After five days of attempting to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, the application was almost completed.
Once I got in and the frustrating messages stopped, I was surprised because the application process was easy. It asked for simple things like household members, income, and my work information. I finished the entire process in less than 20 minutes.
At end of the application a message of congratulations popped up. That was nice considering how much time I spent trying to get there. A new message informed me that I was eligible to enroll in a health insurance plan, and that I would get a letter or e-mail alerting me when to go to the online Healthcare Marketplace to pick a health plan best suited to my needs. After all this effort, I thought that I’d be able to really sign up for plan.
I’m ready to go. I know the choices because I looked at them in advance. I’m a healthy girl in my twenties and I’m pretty sure I’m going to choose the Bronze plan, which is the cheapest level. If had a medical problem or needed to go to the doctor more regularly, I’d choose one of the silver, gold or platinum plans if I could afford it.
Anyway, even though I submitted my application successfully I was still unsure what would happen next. I contacted a local organization called the Community Service Society of New York (CSS), which is one of the so-called Healthcare navigators paid by the federal government and New York State to help people like me.
I was told that that what I did online sounded right and that people like me who complete applications prior to December 15th 2013 and pay their first month’s premium, if it’s required, will get coverage starting January 1, 2014. That’s good news. But I wish that I didn’t have to spend any more time on this.
Now about the navigators. Let just say, I’m pretty independent and like to do things on my own. So I didn’t really need a navigator. The glitches I encountered were impossible for anyone to get around. They required technicians to make the fixes. But if you are not sure what plan to choose or have any questions during the application process, don’t be afraid to contact a Health Care Navigator. I recommend it if you have a number of people in your family who contribute to your monthly budget. A navigator can help you figure out the money part.
States that agreed to participate in the marketplace system have their own navigators. The services are free, and you can sit down and talk to a real person face to face. I’m familiar with New York because that’s where I live. If you go to the New York State of Health website, look on the left side of the page under the options tab. Click Manage Broker/Navigator and you can search to find Navigators in your county to answer all of your questions. New York has 400 throughout the state. You can also call 1-855-355-5777 to get a list of local organizations in your area.
My bottom line is that I want the health insurance and wish they’d speed up the process.