I have been hearing all of the great news about the incredible tech fixes on the site and how user friendly it has become and even (and most importantly) how many people have successfully navigated the site over the past couple of days and actually signed up for healthcare insurance through the available options in their marketplace.
For all intents and purposes I have tried on 12 different occasions (different days) to fill out my application completely.
In most cases, it took me numerous attempts per trip into the site before I became completely frustrated and finally gave up for the day.
If I totaled up the individual attempts it would easily be over 50.
Heck, today I tried 7 (not always lucky) times to complete my application and even deleted it and started over in case there was an internal glitch.
The last dozen or so times I have gotten all of the way through the applications, electronically signed them and even checked my profile and confirmed that the U.S. government "verified" who I am so they could send me the available healthcare options and costs so I could choose which would be the best for me.
But, no such luck.
When I go back into the system now it tells me every time that my application is "incomplete."
What is a man supposed to do?
I don't feel "incomplete."
I think I am just as smart and resourceful as your average rank-and-file member of the House or Senate who's current salary is around $174,000 per year.
Do you think I should send President Obama or Mrs. Sebelius a bill for $4,182 (50 hours times the $83.65 per hour a government official makes assuming he/she works 40 hours a week) to cover the time I have lost trying to get health insurance from their catastrophe of a website.
You know, I don't feel so bad.
It has been an incredible learning experience so far and what a great way to introduce myself finally into the state of politics in this fine country.
It could be worse.
I read an article earlier today about a poor soul in New York that posted in his blog of 150 failed attempts at completing his registration successfully.
I guess it won't do any good to tell you about the gentleman in Colorado that couldn't get signed up himself but his dog Baxter" was approved for insurance.
This website, if you can call it that, has cost taxpayers more than $630 million, nearly seven times its original estimate of $93 million.
Obviously, it's still not even close to being functional, let alone usable.
I will definitely take some time off from trying to file my application again (at least until next week) to see if the website catches up performance wise to all of the hype the government is spreading around to make it look better than it is.
So, strait from the mouths of the fine folks at NPR here is a basic tutorial on what the healthcare exchanges are and what they were meant to do.
Hopefully, these questions and answers will help you, as consumers, to navigate your way through health insurance choices under the Affordable Care Act, or as the enlightened few call it, "ObamaScare."
All About Health Insurance Exchanges And How To Shop For Coverage
What is a health insurance exchange?
It's a collection of websites based on which state you live in, where individuals and small employers can shop on line for insurance coverage.
Most states are centered around or an offshoot from the main national website: www.healthcare.gov
Enrollment began Oct. 1 for policies that will go into effect on Jan. 1.
The exchanges are meant to help people find out if they are eligible for help to cover the cost of coverage or if they are eligible for Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor.
Yes. States have either implemented a state run health insurance exchange, or let the federal government run the health insurance exchange for them.
Some states have taken a variation on the approach by partnering with another state or the federal government.
No matter what approach your State took the way you shop for insurance is the same.
You find your State's marketplace and fill out an application for coverage that starts as early as January 1st, 2014.
• Sometimes health insurance exchanges are called health insurance marketplaces.
• The official health insurance marketplace for State's not running their own exchange is www.healthcare.gov
• State specific health insurance marketplaces each have their own unique name.
Do I have to buy insurance on an exchange?
Some people do, but definitely not everyone.
These exchanges are for two major groups of people: Those who don't have insurance now, and those who currently purchase their own insurance, meaning they don't get it through an employer.
If you have insurance at your job or through a public program like Medicare, Medicaid or the VA, you don't need to pay attention to the exchanges unless you lose that coverage for some reason.
If you have insurance through your employer, you can shop for and buy insurance on an exchange if you like, but you probably won't qualify for a subsidy or tax credit.
And you would lose the contribution your employer makes toward health insurance.
In theory, and if things are working correctly, you can do it all or most of it online.
You go to or to your state-run exchange, if there is one, and create an account.
You provide some basic information, like where you live and how old you are and you'll get a list of plans available in your area.
If you provide income information, you'll be able to get an estimate of whether you'll eligible for federal help paying for insurance or whether you might qualify for Medicaid.
The exchange will offer a list of health plans and their premiums and out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-payments.
If you decide to buy one of those plans, in most cases, you will be directed to the insurer's Web site to make the payment.
Some plans or insurance companies may require a phone call to set up payment.
In some jurisdictions, consumers will make their first premium payment to the exchange and then further monthly payments to the insurer.
If your income makes you eligible for a tax credit subsidy, it will be applied upfront to the monthly premium payment.
You won't have to wait until you file your taxes in 2015 to get the credit.
You can also fill out paper applications or apply over the phone.
Again, in theory, and if things are working correctly, the federal government has set up call centers to answer questions from people in states with federal exchanges.
That phone number is 1-800-318-2596.
States running their own exchanges also have individual call centers.
Most states have also trained people called "navigators" who can walk people through the process, although in some states the training for them has been delayed.
Contact information can be found on the exchange websites.
If my employer (or former employer, if I'm retired) offers me insurance, can I shop on the exchange to get a better deal?
Even if your employer offers coverage, you can opt to buy a plan on the exchange, however, you may not be eligible for a subsidy.
If I am buying coverage on my own, do I have to buy it on the exchange?
Consumers can shop for coverage on or off the exchange.
However, subsidies for those who are eligible are generally available only for plans sold on the exchange.
Can I wait until I get sick to sign up for insurance?
No. You can't just sign up when you're sick and facing big medical bills.
Otherwise, that's what everyone would do.
The exchanges under the Affordable Care Act have been designed pretty much the same way most employer insurance plans are: There's an every year when you can buy or change plans, and that's generally the only time you can buy or change plans.
I am on Medicare. Do I need to use an exchange?
No. Medicare is obtained off of the health insurance exchanges and Medigap policies are not being sold or subsidized through the exchanges.
If I am sick and unable to work and have no income, can I get a plan on an exchange for free?
If you are disabled and have no income, you most likely won't be shopping for insurance on the exchanges.
Rather, you may qualify for Medicaid.
In addition , if you qualify to collect Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, you also qualify for Medicaid.
For more information on Medicaid eligibility and links to your state's Medicaid office.
What about federal workers?
Most federal workers will continue to get their health coverage through the government and not be required to purchase coverage through the affordable healthcare marketplaces.
Members of Congress and their personal staffs, however, will be required to buy health insurance through the exchanges.
Good to know huh?
Anyway, I hope this clarified some of the more basic questions you might still be having.
Tomorrow we'll talk about some of the pitfalls to watch out for when reviewing what healthcare plans are available to you when you finally are able to get signed up on the healthcare marketplace in your state.
Thanks for joining me.............................................................