Since my first attempt, I’ve been periodically checking the Illinois insurance exchange to apply for health insurance coverage under Obamacare (The Affordable Care Act). I’m self-employed and have coverage now through an Illinois program that allowed me to purchase what is basically an extension of COBRA coverage. COBRA, for those not familiar with it, is a law allowing someone covered under a group employer health plan to extend that coverage for 18 months after leaving employment, so long the person pays the premium. After the 18 months, I tried to buy individual health insurance but was turned down by two major carriers due to a pre-existing condition (though it’s one that requires no on-going medical treatment).
I’ve tried a few times to create an account on the website (link below), which is the first step on the journey to health insurance under Obamacare. On my past 4-5 tries, the system hung up, and I eventually gave up. This time I got through and created an account. I then applied for coverage. At least I think I did. It took a little patience:
Like a lot of government and private company websites, the exchange asks a second or third time for information already provided. The system also has to verify the applicant’s identity even after a name and address are filled in, maybe due to duplicate names out there. (I know of at least one other Lisa Lilly who is also an attorney; I keep meaning to call her and say hi.) I was asked a few questions about myself, then was rejected as unverified and given new questions. I suspect the issue was that when asked what previous city I’d lived in, I didn’t check Chicago. I live in Chicago now, and my past 2 addresses were Chicago addresses. I read the question as asking what city I’d lived in before living in Chicago. Apparently, the question actually meant what city did I live in when I resided at my previous address. On my second try, I answered Chicago and the system believed I am me and allowed me to move to the next screen.
In addition to a few duplicative and sometimes irrelevant questions (did the government really need to ask me about my previous addresses and my home equity credit line when I’d already provided my social security number?), the process is slowed by processing time after each screen. I recommend multi-tasking, or at least listening to some good music while you’re going through it.
All in all, it took about 45 minutes, plus another 10 because I decided to review my info before submitting an application. I thought all my information would appear on one screen or a PDF for review. But, no, reviewing requires going through every single screen again complete with wait time. After reaching the end again and submitting, I got a message that my application was in progress but no information on what happens next. I’d been hoping to check some price quotes, but either I zipped past that or there’s no chance to do it until the application is done.
Despite it taking some time, it’s a much easier process than applying for an individual policy on the private market. There are no questions about past medical history, past health insurance policies, or past employment.
I did not fill out the questions to determine if I could get assistance making health insurance premium payments. My income from writing and law has been reasonably good during the time I’ve been self-employed, and I have no dependents. From what I’ve read, I would not qualify for financial help, so I didn’t see any reason to go through the process.
In a day or two, I’ll check the website again for the status of my application. Once again, stay tuned if you’d like to read about the next steps.
Finally, here is the link for the Illinois health insurance exchange if you are looking to buy coverage: https://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/individual/#state=illinois (If you’re in another state, you can still use this link. Just choose your own state from the drop down menu.)
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