Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Wherein the HealthSherpa Was Less Than Helpful

I adore the Affordable Care Act. Years ago when my husband and I parted ways with employer-provided healthcare, the ACA was just glimmering on the horizon. We looked at pre-ACA plans and found premiums in excess of $1400 per month for two healthy non-smoking adults. Unable to fork over that amount, we opted for a "catastrophic policy" that cost $40 per month and allegedly offered protection in the event of major illness or injury.

We never made a claim, but I'm thinking that garbage insurance wasn't going to be a huge help if our health failed.

A few months later, the Affordable Care Act passed. Miraculously, we had coverage, good coverage, for under $500 per month. No subsidies, just straight up.

So every November we go through our annual renewal with HealthCare.gov. The process starts with a letter from our insurance carrier indicating the next year's premium will be a significant amount higher than the previous year. We have to go onto the website and fill out a form which invariably hangs up at some point causing me to spend fifteen minutes on the phone with HealthCare.gov customer service. We pick through plans and somehow come away with lower premiums and lower copays.

It's a little annoying, but nothing like the sheer terror of insurance shopping in the pre-ACA days.

This year, the HealthCare.gov website was wonkier than ever. I couldn't make it past the first screen verifying our address and county of residence. I tried different browsers, used the Internet from my phone, did everything possible to make the infernal system-working-spinny-circle go away. I don't enjoy calling customer service.

There was nothing for it. Our application was stuck.

In a last-ditch effort to do it myself, online, without a phone call, I discovered HealthSherpa. HealthSherpa advertises itself as "the fastest and easiest way to enroll in ACA / Marketplace health insurance."

Fast and easy. Yay.

We decided on a plan within minutes and clicked "enroll." HealthSherpa kicked us back to HealthCare.gov. Spinny circle. Again.

Now into the fourth session of attempting to renew this coverage with the looming countdown prominent at every turn (only 18 days left to sign up!), I had to call the 800 number anyway.

A very nice guy that sounded super far away was able to take all of my information and complete the application. He made sure I was able to get to the part where I could look at the plans before bidding me good day and sending me on my way. I was so close to success.

And then HealthCare.gov kicked me back to HealthSherpa to enroll in a plan.

Apparently, using HealthSherpa to look at available coverage caused some impermeable link between the HealthCare.gov application and their fast and easy service. 

Whatever.

I clicked "enroll" and HealthSherpa "encountered an unexpected error and is unable to enroll at this time."

My blood was kind of boiling at this point. But, since I was already in a phone calling sort of mode, I called HealthSherpa. HealthSherpas are supposed to be really wonderful to talk to. It's part of their insurance made fast, easy, and simple schtick.

The Sherpa lady says to me, "why didn't HealthCare.gov have you pick a new plan?"

I told her that I'm changing plans and that I needed to look at all the plans and most of all the HealthCare.gov guy didn't wanna.

The Sherpa lady needed to talk to my husband.

There is little on this earth that irritates me as much as a customer service representative needing to TALK TO MY HUSBAND. Sure, I understand that people get divorced and have all the reasons that they shouldn't be allowed to call in and cancel each other's credit cards. I get it. It's just that I've been married to this man for sixteen going on forever years. I want there to be a special blue check by my name that indicates to the world: just do what she says, he's going to ask her what she wants him to do anyway. 

My husband used his man voice to tell the Sherpa lady our address. Boom. Suddenly I was verified.

The HealthSherpa couldn't find, pick, and/or understand the coverage I was trying to obtain. Exasperated, I asked if she could disconnect her service from my ACA application. She said she'd call me back in ten minutes.

Eleven minutes later I found a link on HealthCare.gov. It said something like, "continue to view plans with HealthCare.gov if you no longer wish to use a partner website."

Fifteen minutes later the HealthSherpa called and told me to look for that link.

In summary, just call the HealthCare.gov hotline. If by some small mercy the Health Insurance Marketplace still exists next fall, I'm giving the circle one spin before making the call.

Boom. Health insurance.