Yes, Virginia, the Health Insurance Exchange Does Work!

Amid the reports about all that is wrong with the insurance exchange and all the resentments by Republicans and others, it has come to seem as if the Affordable Care Act is a nightmare that is universally despised and should be immediately dismantled and thrown into the nearest garbage can. Therefore I feel motivated to add a positive voice to the debate.

I am one of the people who successfully signed up for private insurance in the New York Health Exchange, which is called The New York State of Health. The New York website had some glitches for the first three days in October, but by the weekend it was working fine and was easy to use.

New York’s numbers are not complete, but the Empire State is reporting more than 16,000 insurance sign-ups. It is the sixth most successful state in terms of percentage of the potential market that has signed up for insurance. In addition to those who have signed up for insurance, many thousands more have qualified for an expanded free Medicaid and many thousands more have joined the site and are in the process of perusing the various plans offered on the exchange.

After being unable to sign into to the website on the first day, I tried again a few days later, on Saturday, October 5. I spent about an hour filling out the application. I had to call the Help Line several times. Each time I called I got somebody right away and they were able to talk me through whatever obstacle I had encountered at the moment.

When the application asked me to estimate my income tax, I wasn’t sure how to do it, but the woman on the line explained how to use my previous year’s tax return to estimate the taxes for 2013. After estimating my taxes and finishing this part of my application I received an immediate report of how much tax credits I would be getting. This information allowed me to know what kind of plan I could afford.

Upon completing the application I didn’t know how to get to the actual insurance exchange, so I called the Help Line again and a man quickly explained how to get to it. There was a button that I hadn’t noticed. It led right to the exchange.

The insurance exchange started with the bronze plans, then went on to show the silver, gold and platinum plans. The details for each plan were right there for me to check out, and I could click other buttons to get even more details. It was easy to choose a plan since everything was laid out for me.

I ended up signing my wife up for a platinum plan that included not only medical but also dental coverage. There was no deductible on this plan and the copay was $20 for doctors of any type, including specialists, as well as for dentists.

Within about a little over an hour I had finished. I got up from my computer and went down to tell my wife the news. Because my income was just below the cut-off line for tax credit help (my wife having been out of work because of an automobile accident), we received considerable government subsidization, for which my wife and I were very appreciative. We give one another a subsidized hug and used our heightened energy to run outside and walk around a park.

A few weeks later, disheartened by all the negative stories I was hearing and reading about Obamacare, I started worrying about whether I had really signed up for insurance, or whether it was all just a dream. So I went to the website of the insurance company from whom I had bought insurance and wrote an email to them, asking them to confirm whether my wife was signed up for their insurance.

I then went back to the New York State of Health and called the Help Line again and asked them to confirm if my wife was really enrolled. After making sure I was my wife’s husband and that I was authorized to speak on her behalf (even though I was the one who had filled out her application), they informed me that the enrollment had gone through.

A few days after that I got a call from the health insurance company. A nice woman left a message on my phone confirming that, yes, my wife was enrolled and that we would be getting a bill for the first month’s premium at the beginning of December. She said if I had any questions to feel free to call.

Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is going to continue to be met with negativity by a great number of politicians and people. It is certainly not a perfect system and there may well be things that can be changed or improved by it. Indeed, I have written previously that the Canadian system, where all people, rich or poor, are entitled to free health insurance, works better because it doesn’t encourage people to be poor.

So, yes, the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect. But it doesn’t deserve the ear-piercing negativity it has gotten. Maybe we should give it a chance. And maybe we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Many years ago a girl named Virginia wrote to a newspaper to ask if there were a Santa Claus, which sparked a famous answer. Virginia never wrote to me to ask if Obamacare really works, but if she did this would be my answer.

Let’s all shut up and see.

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