One of the issues with being out of work again is health insurance. We have been lucky in that part of my severance package from the lay off last year included one year, employer paid COBRA coverage. Guess what, that one year is up at the end of this month.
We got the paperwork for continuing COBRA coverage and learned the premium would be almost $1,200/month, just for C and I. (Pop Tart does not need coverage as she is covered by the state.) I have been out of work since January; $1,200/month is NOT something we can afford.
However, something like this is what is known as a “qualifying life event” when it comes to being able to enroll in (or change yourenrollment) healthcare. So, today I went online to the Washington state health care exchange website to see about getting C and I healthcare coverage. Here is my story.
Let me start by saying that most of the frustrations I had came from me not being prepared. I needed the following documents, some of which I had to search for (and one I could not find, but I had a way around that): current insurance information for C, Pop Tart, and myself, SSN’s for the entire family, most recent unemployment award letter, COBRA letter stating the employer paid benefits were about to end, last year’s tax returns. Let me state that I had none of that with me when I started the process, so I had to keep getting up and finding the information. Naturally, I could not find my current insurance card and so had to call the company in order to get my group number. And the only documentation we have proving our rental income is the tax returns, so that is why I needed those.
To go along with that, our scanner scans to C’s computer, not mine. And it buries the documents in a hard to find place. And for some reason, his computer does not have full access to mine (even though I have full access to my laptop via my tablet), so I could not copy and paste the documents from his computer to mine, I had to email them to myself.
The “big” problem came when I was entering the information about why we are now eligible to sign up. It asked for the last day o healthcare coverage, which is the end of this month. The website then told me that event dates could not be in the future. It seemed odd to me that I would be penalized for trying to plan in advance, so I called the customer service line.
Given that we are not in an open enrollment period, I had no wait. I went straight to a very nice and helpful representative. She apologized for the website’s stupidity but did tell me her system allowed her to put in future dates, so she helped me finish up the enrollment. Then, she logged out, I logged back in and chose our plan.
I chose to stick with the same company our current coverage is through (my old employer, and a managed care organization) so that we can stick with all of our same providers. Given the C has his migraine meds, and I am now on thyroid meds, it just seemed simplest. That, and I like all my doctors.
What I did not do was look at any plans beyond the “silver” plans first presented. I simply signed us up, at a cost of $128/month (just over 10% of what COBRA would have cost) after our tax credit
I did ask if I could decline the tax credit, as I am currently unemployed but am actively seeking employment. She told me no, but that once I became employed, I would just log back on to the system and report the change, at which point it would reassess our eligibility for tax credit. (And even without the tax credit, the monthly cost of our plan will be less than what we were paying monthly on our new windows- and that payment ends this month).
The only other “problem” I have found is that I cannot now go and look at other plans, even though our coverage will not start until June. I tried to log on and look at other plans, but apparently once you choose a plan, you do not get to look at others.
Still, it was an overall success, and the whole process took less than an hour, with at least half the time being spent by me searching for, scanning, and emailing documents to myself. And, I will still have health insurance on June 1, which is really the important thing