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Frank Gray


Insurance woes add to holiday worries


In its own way, this is the season when you worry a lot.

Did I remember to buy celery and canned cherries?

Did I remember to get the special little things that various family members asked for?

Am I going to be able to pay the credit card bill once January rolls around?

But this year there’s a new worry. Will I really have health insurance when the new year arrives?

There does seem to be some confusion, which should come as no surprise when you consider the events of the last three months.

The website didn’t work. People were seeing their regular health insurance policies canceled. Deadlines loomed.

Then deadlines were extended and special exemptions were offered, meaning some people wouldn’t have to worry about having to pay a penalty if they didn’t buy any insurance at all.

Fortunately I don’t have to deal with the Affordable Care Act. I get my insurance somewhere else. But I’m still confused.

The last time I looked, I was told that the deadline for signing up for insurance had been extended from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23, and that if you paid your premium by then, you’d have insurance on Jan. 1.

Then I saw news stories saying that wasn’t true, that if you paid your insurance premium within the first two weeks or so of January, you’d have insurance retroactive to Jan. 1. But the website says if you sign up by Dec. 23 and pay your premium you will have insurance Jan. 1. And Associated Press reported Monday the government was extending the deadline through today, just in case of heavy demand on the website.

I’m confused, probably even more confused than Ted Baumgartner. I’ve written about him a couple of times since he first went onto to get insurance for his wife, whose health insurance was canceled by her employer.

Baumgartner says he spent 80 hours online and several more hours on the phone and in live online sessions trying to get insurance, but to no avail.

Baumgartner finally succeeded, only to be told when he tried to pay that his wife wasn’t signed up.

Last week, after two and a half months of frustration, Baumgartner thought he had it all ironed out and he called to arrange to pay the premium. That’s when he was told his premium was four times what he expected. The website apparently didn’t subtract the subsidy his wife was supposed to get.

Baumgartner said he was assured he simply misunderstood what was going on, that the subsidy had already been subtracted, but it turned out he was right.

Baumgartner wonders how many other people experienced the same thing. “I can’t be the only person who went on the website who was told I don’t get a subsidy,” he said.

Now Baumgartner is wondering whether his premium, mailed last week, will get there in time.

“Until I get a policy in my hand, I won’t believe it,” he says.

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 You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.