When I first signed up for health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare, like many other people, I experienced glitches including outages. Based on my income, I supposedly qualified for Medicaid, which turned out to not be true. I ended up starting a new application in the Marketplace and outsmarted the system by declaring income just above the Medicaid-qualifying amount. In fact, a very competent person I spoke to at my local Medicaid office provided this tip.
Apparently, there were several phantom accounts already under my name, so I was forced to create a new account with my maiden and married name. No big deal … my premium was affordable and a huge relief compared to what I experienced the prior year – getting screwed big time by Humana. That is a whole other saga, but in summary, they investigated me as if it I was a witch in Salem, all prompted by an MRI of my neck. I had to fill out pages and pages of medical history which resulted in a declaration of a preexisting condition and out-of-pocket costs of $3,000 for the MRI!
The preexisting condition clause in private health insurance was downright inhumane. It was a potential death sentence for millions of Americans battling chronic conditions such as diabetes. In concept, universal healthcare that protects people from that horrific preexisting condition clause seems wonderful. Unfortunately, my premium doubled from 2015 to 2016 and is barely affordable on my rather modest freelance income. Yesterday I heard on the news that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois is crying the money blues again and wants to increase their rates by 45 percent in 2017!
I consider myself an honest person so when I received a message from Healthcare.Gov to assess my income, I thought I should do that. My daughter got royally screwed last year because she signed up for health insurance through the Marketplace for the two months in which she did not have a job. She paid a steep price for receiving that subsidy when she filed her 2015 taxes, on top of the exorbitant tax rates she already pays living in New York City. I project that I am going to make more money from freelancing this year than I declared on my 2016 health insurance application – not a heck of a lot, but I thought it was wise to update this.
The FAQs on the site are woefully inadequate and the process of changing income is nearly as time-consuming as starting a new application. There is one huge difference – they do NOT provide you with a preview of the repercussions of changing your income before you sign your life away. You see the new premium amount, but no other details until 24 hours later when you receive the Summary of Benefits. By increasing my income by only $3,000, I screwed myself over far more than any small tax penalty I would have incurred. My premium only went up about $20 a month, but I was raked over the coals in a major way. My deductible increased from $500 a year to $3,000 a year and my out-of-pocket costs went up from $1,750 a year to $5,000. Many months ago I met my deductible and as of a week ago, I was less than $150 away from meeting my out-of-pocket expenses for 2016. Other than preventive care like a mammogram, which they legally must cover in full, I am now forced to defer other services I was contemplating due to the exorbitant additional $5,750 unexpected expenses I now face if I use my insurance. They say you get penalized if you change plans, but I did not change my plan – I simply increased my income by a very small amount. I was screwed over big time for being honest!
I called 1-800-318-2596 to see if I could get some answers about this debacle. The man who answered the phone barely spoke English and kept calling me Mum. I cannot help but wonder if the government has outsourced the call center, despite constantly blathering on about bringing jobs back to the USA. I did not get answers and was told to call BCBSIL, which I did. The rep confirmed that I was screwed and was nearly as incredulous as I was by the amount of the increase, given my modest change in income.
While I do not agree with Republicans who have tried to repeal Obamacare so many times they should be ashamed of themselves, it definitely needs an overhaul. Michelle Obama really rocked it with her DNC speech, however, I respectfully disagree with one point – this country has the potential for greatness, but it will not be great until there are much-needed reforms – starting with healthcare.