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Frank Gray

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Health policy worries eased by 1 more try

It appears Ted Baumgartner has managed to find some insurance for his wife.

We wrote about Baumgartner last week. He’s retired and on Medicare, but his wife still works part time and has relied on an insurance policy provided by her employer.

Then she got a letter. Apparently the policy she had didn’t meet standards – all health insurance will soon have to cover things like maternal care and drug rehab and that – so the insurance was being canceled.

So Baumgartner did the reasonable thing. In early September, he went onto healthcare.gov and started looking for a policy for his wife.

That’s when the government’s website went into action. It just locked up on him, and after 80 hours on the Internet, 10 different conversations with people on toll-free lines and half a dozen online consultations, Baumgartner still had no insurance for his wife.

He thought he’d signed up for a certain policy, but there was no confirmation, no information on what doctors or hospitals accepted it, and no news on how to pay for it, and he had to have that all settled in a few weeks.

It was making him nervous – you’ve got to have insurance – and it disgusted him. The website was a mess, the people on the phone could answer none of his questions and the online consultations were pointless.

The people manning all these posts should just take their paychecks and go home, he said. They knew nothing.

Well, after a few days Baumgartner decided to try again.

“I gave it one more shot and somehow I fell into a log-in page that I couldn’t get to before,” he said. “I don’t know how I got into it.”

In short order the computer system confirmed that his wife had insurance and the insurance company would be sending him all sorts of information in a few days.

Baumgartner is still in the dark about which doctors and hospitals are part of the plan, but when he gets the information he’ll go over it, and if it isn’t good enough, he’ll try again.

If everything works out, he’ll just pay the bill and rest easy.

“My blood pressure went down immediately” once the ordeal was completed, he said.

The policy is a pricey one but his wife will get a decent subsidy so it won’t cost that much, though it will be more expensive than the insurance she has now.

Looking back, though, “I just wish they would have left us alone,” Baumgartner says.

So maybe the kinks are being worked out.

Now we’ll all just have to wait and see whether people who don’t have insurance, especially young people, bother to sign up for insurance or decide they’re still invincible and decide to save some money and go bare.

Considering one in seven drivers doesn’t bother to buy auto insurance, it’ll be interesting to see how many people step forward and how many decide they’d rather have the cash in their pocket than insurance.

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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