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Frank Gray

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New insurance anything but simple

Ted Baumgartner’s wife works only part time, but she was still able to buy health insurance through her employer.

It was a good policy at a good price, he said.

But she, like a lot of other people, got a letter saying the policy didn’t meet new standards set by the Affordable Care Act and it would be canceled at the end of the year.

So Baumgartner did what you are supposed to do. He went online, jumped through all the hoops and signed up his wife for a policy that looked satisfactory.

“I was just about to get it for my wife and the computer locked up and said they were down for maintenance,” Baumgartner said.

That left Baumgartner with a lot of questions. How does he find out exactly which doctors and hospitals are accepting the policy he chose? None of that is explained. How does he pay for it? He’s gone online repeatedly, using what he says is a confirmation number, “But when I go to finish it, the whole site locks up, period,” he said.

In all, Baumgartner said he estimates he’s spent 80 hours online, made 10 calls to various phone numbers, and taken part in online chats at least half a dozen times trying to get answers, and came away empty handed.

“You can’t do anything with a phone call because they don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “They have a site where you can talk to someone, but they may as well just take their paycheck and go home. They’re dumber than a box of rocks.”

Baumgartner is frustrated.

“Am I supposed to contact the insurance company, or will the insurance company contact me?” he asks. “When do I get an insurance booklet? Who are the doctors? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. But nobody is listening to me.”

The insurance is important to Baumgartner and his wife. They’ve always been pretty healthy, but he knows how important insurance is. When he was 61 he developed cancer and had to stop working at 62. He said he paid through the nose for COBRA, but that insurance paid all his medical bills. Now he’s on Medicare.

But his wife isn’t, and she has to have insurance by Jan. 1.

Baumgartner isn’t getting political about it. He doesn’t rant one way or the other about Obamacare or prices, though he says it still isn’t clear whether his wife will get any kind of subsidy for her insurance. He’s accepted that he has to go into the marketplace to buy insurance for his wife. He’s just worried what will happen come Jan. 1.

“I don’t give a damn who’s at fault” for the boondoggle, he says. And though plenty of people have started apologizing for the disastrous rollout, “I don’t want an apology.” He just wants what he needs, what he was told he had to buy and what he did buy online, he says.

We’ve all been assured that everything will be better by the end of the month, that everything will be fixed.

Baumgartner, though, hasn’t been reassured by the results of his telephone conversations and online chats and other responses he’s gotten.

So what do I do next? he asked me.

Well, I’ll have to try to get an answer for him.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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