Monday, June 22, 2015

Ain't No Such Thing as Private Insurance Any Longer

Well here I am, after almost 18 months of retirement at age 60, running out of COBRA health insurance coverage for my wife and I from my previous employer. So what to do?

I could pick up coverage for my wife and I from my retirement company (one who pays me a small pension) which is a good, solid UnitedHealthCare 80/20 plan for $1720 a month. Ouch. My COBRA coverage costs only $1030 a month, but we are only allowed 18 months. Damn.

That's a lot of bucks. So let me see what I can do in the "private" insurance arena.

First I examined plans on the HEALTHCARE.GOV site without creating a profile. I want to stay as far away from the Obamacare monstrosity as possible. I want nothing to do with them. I don't want any of my information contained within the website.

After having dozens and dozens of plans displayed, at various levels of premium/deductible/max out of pocket, I gave up, but did see that plans range from well below $1720/month to well above. So now I had a range.

My current plan is also with UnitedHealthCare and it covers all the doctors we currently use, so that's the place to start. I went to the UnitedHealth web site and poked the find me a plan button. That brought up a more generic "find a health care plan" website that asked for general information like name, age, state, and phone number. I filled it all in and waited.

Almost immediately I got a robot call to verify I had requested a health insurance quote and whether I was ready to speak to a broker right then and there!  I indicated this was legit request and no, call me back the next day.

Which they did. The same robot called me asking the same questions of being legit and wanting to talk to agent right away. I indicated yes on both questions and was switched over to a human.  A human "dispatcher" verified my info and switched me to an agent. The agent picked up and I couldn't understand a word she was saying. It was like "ack ack, yack" from the movie Mars Attacks!  I hung up and figured the cycle would start over.

Which it did. This time, however, I was connected to a licensed health care agent (she worked for the broker GO HEALTH). She asked about our doctors and medications and did a search and guess what, UnitedHealthCare was the only carrier who covered all our doctors, go figure. I wanted to buy UHC in the first place.

Anyway, she quoted 3 plans: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Seems all "private" health insurances are squeezed into these three categories. This basically means they cover 70%, 80%, and 90% of health care costs with the consumer covering the 30%, 20%, and 10% remaining. This is similar to the employer insurance I've had for years. Most of the time, they were 80/20 plan or "Gold" in this model.

Where they differ is in their deductibles (first dollars paid by consumer) and max-out-of-pocket (total dollars paid by consumer).

After a week of thinking about the options, I called my "agent" back and decided on the Silver plan as it was $1438 a month with a deductible and MOOP similar to my current COBRA coverage.

All along the way I kept asking the agent if this transaction was "private" and not "part of Obamacare", and whether my information was kept out of the HEALTHCARE.GOV website. I was assured, yes, indeed, this was private and dealing with GO HEALTH and UnitedHealthCare strictly.

Right. During the application process, the agent had to read three boilerplate statements that I had to agree to.  One was that in the event I needed to make changes in my policy (child born, family member death, loss of income, etc.), I needed to call a special number to affect the change. That number is 800-318-2596. This was neither GO HEALTH nor UnitedHealthCare. I googled the number and guess what? The number is for the HEALTHCARE.GOV Health Insurance Marketplace. The very place I didn't want any of my information.

What's that all about?

My "private" health insurance broker (GO HEALTH) signing me up for "private" health insurance carrier (UnitedHealthCare) is entangled with the damn government health insurance marketplace.

Why do I need to call them and not GO HEALTH or UnitedHealthCare?

I'm not happy, but this seems to be what's happened. All private health insurance is now entangled with ObamaCare. No such thing as private insurance.