When Barack Obama was first elected president it was with a surge of support from liberal supporters. Advocates for everything from free speech, peace movements, closure of Guantanamo Bay prison, and restoration of civil rights removed during the “War on Terror” expected to see large changes.
I have lived long enough to see how few electoral promises get brought to fruition. My expectations were not very high. As the focus of president Obama turned to the passage of some sort of health care reform, I watched as many of the most progressive features of the Affordable Care Act were removed or crippled in their ability to really provide affordable care for the breadth of the American people. In the end at least a bill was passed and put in place.
This bill as passed the congress was meant to benefit people like myself and my spouse. Most of our lives we have been self-employed and fall into that category of the “working poor”. When our kids were at home we qualified for subsidized medical assistance. As our children left the nest we found ourselves making too much income to qualify for health care assistance, and at our age (approaching sixty) and with some underlying pre-existing conditions, unable to afford or be approved by any insurance company.
After several years without any health insurance and thankfully only minor health problems we looked forward to the arrival of comprehensive health coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The months of public accusations and scare tactics attacking the arrival of “Obama Care” were not enough to scare us into trying to survive until we qualified for medicare in five years!
When the initial open enrollment period online opened, the reports of problems signing up caused us to decide to wait. A quick look at the program disclosed no coverage was to begin until at least January 2014 anyway, and as reported signup problems persisted the deadline for eligibility for earliest January first coverage kept being pushed back. After Thanksgiving I resolved to get us signed up, whatever it took!
I am web savvy so when I started having problems signing up I was able to figure out what they were about pretty fast. That does not mean it was easy to get past them. Their database did nor recognize my address, 1 ½ Street, as valid. Neither would it recognize my road’s other name, County Road “K”. I had filled out the entire form, bypassing the message that I had entered a undeliverable mailing address, only to find I could not proceed to actually choose a health plan.
I got on the phone to the health plan phone bank help line. Over the next week I talked to at least four different phone representatives. Each was completely polite and as helpful as they could be, considering they were talking to someone getting more and more frustrated! Thankfully I was able to call during off-peak hours so I had practically no wait time to get through. Each of the first three calls involved going over the problem, where it was at, what I encountered and where it was left. The first two times were spent going over trying to “reload” my basic account information, which was where my address error was. The third time the assistant left me with the advice that I would have to delete my account and start over. After now spending over six hours on the phone, starting our application over was not what I wanted to hear! I fumed a couple of days, then finally deleted my profile and started over again. This time as soon as I encountered the address problem, and the previously recommended solution did not work, I called into the help desk again. This time I assertively explained the problem, its history, and demanded to talk to a supervisor. I was eventually connected with a supervisor.
They were really understanding of my frustration, and he volunteered to take over my application and enter information on his end so he could see exactly the problem, do some work-around magic, and move past it. We stayed on the phone for another ninety minutes until my application was complete, and for the first time I could see the health plan options available, and at what subsidy level was appropriate for our family income.