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While waiting for healthcare.gov
Old 10-13-2013, 08:13 AM   #1
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While waiting for healthcare.gov

As the healthcare.gov folks labor to make their website functional, there are some parts of the "plan selection process" that can be done elsewhere. Premium is not the only thing that matters, network scope is a critical component for us (DW & I) and we still have to choose among all the cost sharing alternatives.

Using the widget that shows the plans available in my county (here) (hat tip REWahoo) I was able to make a list of all the plans offering coverage, which totals 7 insurers and over 130 "plans". Not really that many, as they count one plan with four cost share options as four different plans. Still, even knowing the prices, there remains a lot of work to narrow down that list, and I have been able to make progress here. After researching them, two of the insurers do not have the network reach we expect, another I've never heard of, so no need to see any more from these. About half the plans are offered by one insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and they are providing detailed quotes and specific plan information directly on their website. Their plans include three different network options, so I was able to exclude two, then build a spreadsheet with the premiums, coverage variations and cost share for the remaining options. This I was able to narrow to three choices, ranked. This is my fallback.

Not final yet, as I still would like to see plans from two national insurers who have no details on their websites. When they do, however, I already have the template to compare them and have made a default choice. If I need to deal directly with BCBS, another insurer, or a navigator, I know exactly how to direct the conversation to what we need.

Wondering if anyone else has a helpful hint on other steps we can take while we wait.
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Old 10-13-2013, 09:14 AM   #2
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I've been doing what you describe (not as much detail, spreadsheets etc.) I have only 2 insurers to chose from so my choices are limited. However since there are only 2 it makes researching their plans easier. I'm guessing most DR's and facilities will include these two as part of in network. I've seen signs of that on the Payers and Providers web sites.

So yes I'm shopping despite the limited information available through healtchcare.gov. I do understand all the difficulties they are having, so just trying to make the best of what information I have.

Many thanks to all that have provided information here.

MRG
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Old 10-13-2013, 10:11 AM   #3
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I've done similar. In my case not much to pick from as there seems to be only one carrier selling plans. I'll take whatever network is available. I'm also not sure some other plans may arrive before enrollment ends.

I've looked at the paper process, saved a link to the paper enrollment form and looking up local signup/navigator options.

Also it looks like ehealth is still involved with the Fed exchange to sell approved plans in the future. But it seems some of the problems with Fed backend is also a problem for ehealth as it is for individuals as they have to use it for verification. Here's an update from one of their press releases Open Enrollment Begins at eHealth on October 1 | eHealth Pressroom

In addition, eHealth continues to work with the Federal government to launch subsidy-eligible qualified health plan enrollment capabilities for the states where the Federal government is operating an exchange. These subsidy-eligible plan options will not be available at eHealth until eHealth’s integration with the Federally-facilitated exchange (FFE) is completed and tested.
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:08 AM   #4
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Not final yet, as I still would like to see plans from two national insurers who have no details on their websites. When they do, however, I already have the template to compare them and have made a default choice. If I need to deal directly with BCBS, another insurer, or a navigator, I know exactly how to direct the conversation to what we need.

Wondering if anyone else has a helpful hint on other steps we can take while we wait.
You might try your state insurance agency records. I was able to view the plans in my state months ago based on filings already made. They should be public but may take a little digging to find. I didn't know exactly which of the plans would be available, but the details were there including deductibles, copay assistance, and the plan materials themselves. It will probably be hard to determine exact rates from those filings because the tables are complicated. But other details should be in there. If you have an idea of which plans will be on the Marketplace, you can look for those within the state insurance agency records. The filings might be large, so it could take some searching through them (perhaps one large PDF per insurerer) to find the plan details you're interested in.
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:30 AM   #5
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I did something similar, focusing on 2 insurance companies out of the six whose plans are listed. One is our current insurer and I know all of our providers are in their network and we have been pleased with their service and processing in the past. The other one is a familiar name in our area with a large network of hospitals and providers. From one of these insurers I am looking at one gold, one silver and one bronze. From our current insurer there is 1 each of gold, silver and bronze and then 2 additional bronze plans and one gold with HSAs. I found the particulars of the plan coverages by googling the plan names.

I have a spreadsheet with our current years premium and expenses compared to a few of these plans if we had all our same doctor visits, bloodwork, prescriptions, x-rays, etc. Then I also have hypothetical expenses (additional office visits and diagnostics costing $1500-$3000)and how they would happen for possible plans.

I'm ready to narrow it down and BUY A PLAN as soon as I can get the %&$#@ site to cooperate!
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:46 AM   #6
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MichealB- How did you find the actual Exchange Plan networks? According to all news reports in my state, a carrier's network for Exchange Plans will vary markedly from what they offer currently in non-Exchange HI.
Anthem to omit some big hospitals [Indianapolis Business Journal (IN)] - Top News - InsuranceNewsNet.com
This is looking like a HUGE issue for me as there are only 2 carriers listed in my region & all Plans (except 1 Bronze) are HMO. Only 1 carrier is offering HSA-eligible Plans, and its the one with the smallest network
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:04 PM   #7
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MichealB- How did you find the actual Exchange Plan networks? According to all news reports in my state, a carrier's network for Exchange Plans will vary markedly from what they offer currently in non-Exchange HI.
Anthem to omit some big hospitals [Indianapolis Business Journal (IN)] - Top News - InsuranceNewsNet.com
This is looking like a HUGE issue for me as there are only 2 carriers listed in my region & all Plans (except 1 Bronze) are HMO. Only 1 carrier is offering HSA-eligible Plans, and its the one with the smallest network
I called the insurer. It took multiple calls (6), and they weren't very helpful in the beginning, but they finally got around to giving me specifics. Another forum member was quite helpful, details in this thread Yet another health insurance shopper
From the title in your link one of the insurers is BCBS. In other states they are providing quotes and plan details directly, so you might want to try calling them.
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:17 PM   #8
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From the title in your link one of the insurers is BCBS. In other states they are providing quotes and plan details directly, so you might want to try calling them.
We were able to get an ACA quote from BCBS before Oct 1 for 2014. They were also able to give us a subsidy estimate which seems very close. We are still not able to get to the government insurers page.
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Old 10-13-2013, 12:33 PM   #9
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I have been staying off healthcare.gov, based on posters' reports here.

I have used ehealthinsurance.com quite a bit, and looked at different plans in my area. A total of 50 plans is offered by 5 insurers. Perhaps this is just a subset of the total, but as I believe in competitive free market, the above 50 should be quite representative.

My current insurer, whom I am happy with, chose to not participate in ACA at all. So, to see if I can save any money, I need to select a different insurer.

Among the above 5 insurers, I found 3 insurers with 3 PPO plans that looked similar to what I currently have. The site ehealthinsurance does not have much info on the participating doctors and hospitals for each plan. So, I go directly to the web site of the suitable-looking insurers.

At each of the potential insurers, I found good info, and verified that I would be able to keep all 3 doctors that I am currently using. They are in the network of all 3. Ditto for the 2 hospitals that I like.

One thing is worth mentioning here though. At first, one insurer's web site did not show a specialist that I am using. Then, the next day, I rechecked, and now his name showed up, with this qualifier "available 1/1/2014". A hospital that was initially not included also showed up this time.

So, it appears that insurers are also scrambling to sign up doctors and hospitals, or trying to update their web site on the daily basis.

Anyway, so far it looks like the premium will go up for me by $500/month if I switch to ACA. There might be something about all that deductible and/or copay differences that make up for it, but I doubt it.

Now, if one includes subsidy, then the situation might be different, but I need to look into that next.
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Old 10-13-2013, 03:17 PM   #10
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Using the widget that shows the plans available in my county (here) (hat tip REWahoo) I was able to make a list of all the plans offering coverage, which totals 7 insurers and over 130 "plans".
Wow. That link worked like a charm. I suspect thousands of visitors would be glad to browse plans like that, waiting until the back end gets sorted to sign up. Heck -- set that as a prominent link on top of the home page saying "Browse Plans in your State Without Enrolling" and you would drain off a lot of the load. How did you find it ReWahoo, is it on the home page somewhere?
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Old 10-13-2013, 03:21 PM   #11
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How did you find it ReWahoo, is it on the home page somewhere?
One of our local TV stations mentioned it when doing a bit on all the problems with the healthcare.gov site. Found the link on the station's website.
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Old 10-13-2013, 03:46 PM   #12
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One of our local TV stations mentioned it when doing a bit on all the problems with the healthcare.gov site. Found the link on the station's website.
Unbelievable. If it works as well for other states as it did for my obscure VA county (weekend home) I think it would be a real help to a lot of people who just want to see what is up. They should pop up a temporary home page apologizing for the delay while they improve the site and inviting users to browse plans if enrollment is slow.
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Old 10-13-2013, 03:54 PM   #13
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I just tried that. Surely, it was fast and showed 119 plans available for me, compared to the 50 plans on ehealthinsurance as I reported in an earlier post.

And the premiums are so low, compared to what I saw on ehealthinsurance.com. At these prices, who needs subsidy? What's going on?

Wait a minute! This site did not ask for our age! Are those premiums for 18-year old youngsters?

Bait and switch alert!!!
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Old 10-13-2013, 03:54 PM   #14
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They should pop up a temporary home page apologizing for the delay while they improve the site and inviting users to browse plans if enrollment is slow.
You're suggesting whoever is in charge of this web program demonstrate initiative, common sense, logic and foresight. Don't hold your breath.
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:55 PM   #15
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Wait a minute! This site did not ask for our age! Are those premiums for 18-year old youngsters?

Bait and switch alert!!!


After I answered "Only you" to the question "Who will you apply for health coverage for?" it asked me if I was 49 or under or 50 or older and specified "Premium amounts in this tool are based on specific ages."
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:56 PM   #16
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It did not ask me anything about my age!

Was I directed by the web site to something else
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Old 10-13-2013, 04:58 PM   #17
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OK. Did you respond "only you"?
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Old 10-13-2013, 05:03 PM   #18
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No. I selected "You and your spouse", as that is applicable to my case.

PS. Tried again with "Only you", and it indeed let me select between "the below 49" and "above 50". Well, what does that mean for my case?
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Old 10-13-2013, 05:07 PM   #19
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No. I selected "You and your spouse", as that is applicable to my case.
When I did that it asked the age of both me and my spouse (over/under 50). Maybe try a different browser?
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Old 10-13-2013, 05:08 PM   #20
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The age questions only pop up when selecting "Only you" when I try the available answers. Who knows why...
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