Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hooray! Hooray! Starts Again Today

Hip! Hip! Hooray! Healthcare.Gov starts again today. Everything’s going to be OK.

Health Exchange Cheerleader’s Cry cranks up today for its second enrollment go-around. It follows the first signup of October 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, which netted 7.3 million enrollees.

This time ObamaCare officials say the rollout will be simpler, faster, and more intuitive.

Just to be sure, the government has been testing the site, pouring millions into upgrades, while hedging that the technology may not be perfect and no website is perfect.

Government, health plans, consumers, and small businesses are waiting with baited breath, nervous as cats on a hot tin roof to see if Big Brother and the little Brother states get it right this time.

Consumers’ health plans will be automatically renewed, but their old plans may have higher premiums and deductibles and new physician and hospital networks. To avoid higher premiums, consumers will have to go online or through a navigator by December 15 and switch plans. Many will be loath to do this. They like their old plans.

Insurers openly wonder if’s backend is ready, particularly if consumers switch to a different consumer. Will consumers get two bills? Will irate consumers flood health plan switchboards and health web sites? And what if insurers aren’t notified by exchanges if consumers switch? What about consumers in formerly state-run sites, like Colorado and Nevada, who are switching to federal websites. This and other switcheroos are cause for concern.

And what , as a consumer, do you do if you have insurance through your job, if you are on Medicare or Medicaid. If you buy your own insurance, if you don’t want to buy insurance, if you don’t have a computer to go online?

It’s complicated – and confusing. Your premiums might be going up. Your subsidies may be going down, or they may be going away if the Supreme Court rules against subsidies in 37 health exchange states. You may have to pay to pay a penalty for not having a policy. You’re on your own. You may be able to get help from a federal navigator if you call 1-800-318-2596 for help. Calling 911 will not help.

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