Navigating the Health Care Marketplace

Everyone’s arguing about the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called ObamaCare by those who oppose it. Now that my husband is getting ready to retire, I’m looking on the website for health insurance options. And it’s so much fun I thought I’d share the experience with you.


The website doesn’t make it easy to check out your choices.My husband tried to get some information and it wouldn’t let him see anything about plans available in our area until he started an application. Never mind that when he input his age it immediately would have been obvious that he doesn’t need to get insurance through the marketplace because he is eligible for Medicare.

I also found it difficult to get information. But the site wouldn’t open an account for me because I was listed on my husband’s application. Of course, nothing I saw disclosed that information. I just asked for help with setting up my account and got “We’ll send you an email with your user ID”. The email never arrived.

So I called the marketplace hotline. The good news is that they really do have pleasant, intelligent people answering our calls for help. That’s who told me about the application and the reasons I hadn’t gotten a response.  The worker took my information and estimated the amount of the subsidy for which I would qualify.

Premiums and Deductibles

I was in for a shock when the worker started telling me about the plans offered in Cook County, Illinois. Apparently there are three: Ambetter, Blue Cross, and Cigna. Each offers multiple plans. Unfortunately, I couldn’t write down the prices and features as fast as she could tell me about them. She did tell me that about premiums well under $1,000 after subsidy. Most of the deductibles ranged from $11,000 to $13,300.

I went back to the site to look more closely at the plans. The application assumed that all three of us would be on the plan even though my husband will be on Medicare. The premiums were over $1400, even as high as $2,700. Ambetter’s plans had lower deductibles, but they still had at least a $1700 premium. It’s possible that the premiums are wrong because the system included my husband among the covered household members.

Maybe we’ll get better information later after we submit documentation of the date of my husband’s retirement and our loss of coverage. Coming soon—networks and continuity of care.

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