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ObamaClusterfuck: Report from the field on Navigators in Missouri

A reader sends in the following from Missouri Public Radio:

Aaron Swaney, the certified application counselor [Navigator] based out of the Family Health Center, first helped [Jeannie Wyble] make an account on the marketplace on Nov. 15. By the second of week of December, her account still says “in progress.”

Swaney says most people he helps see their applications say “completed” within a day. Then, they can look at the insurance options available on HealthCare.Gov and find out exactly how much financial help they’re eligible for. Wyble hasn’t been able to do that, mere weeks before the enrollment deadline. The last day to purchase in an insurance plan offered on HealthCare.gov is Dec. 23.

That would be today!

Swaney thinks the problem might be the additional Social Security income Wyble gets from being the appointed caretaker of her granddaughter, Emma.

“I’ve always had weird things with children that get Social Security, that’s always, It creates a weird situation,” Swaney said.

Of course, there's no way for him to file a bug report.

On the heel of the website’s rollout glitches, it’s not entirely clear to Swaney how a child’s Social Security income would make Wyble’s application stuck in limbo. And there’s no guidebook on how to get it unstuck. So Swaney tries different troubleshooting techniques. Throughout multiple meetings with Wyble, Swaney has re-entered her income information in different ways. In this particular meeting, more than once, the server crashes and kicks him off HealthCare.gov.

And no support, either.

Calling the 1-800 HealthCare.gov help center isn’t much help. When Wyble’s application continued to say “in progress” after two weeks, she called the number for help, but the woman on the other side of the line didn’t help much.

“She was muddling through it and what she was saying didn’t make sense,” Wyble said. “She didn’t understand it either.”

When Swaney and Wyble called on Dec. 5, they waited for an available representative for about 10 minutes. When they finally got through, they were told to just wait more until the application fixes itself. But Swaney decided to cancel Wyble’s first marketplace account and start completely fresh. They made another appointment to see each other the next day, hoping the sixth time would be the charm.

Jeremy Milarsky, who, like Swaney, has been certified to help consumers enroll on HealthCare.gov, sums up the situation:

“This is a system that lends itself very well to people who are organized and follow up. That’s another thing that we can help people with. If you’re the kind of person who just sits back and expect everything to fall into place, you’re more likely to run into problems.”

In other words, the system is a massive tax on your time -- that's what being an "informed consumer" and a shopper means in real life. And it's all a complete, utter waste, since the single payer system north of the border shows that the health insurance industry, and hence ObamaCare, is completely unnecessary.

For Wyble and Swaney, persistence was about to pay off. After six appointments and what seems like Swaney’s thousandth time pressing the “submit” button, Wyble gets the good news.

“Oh my status says ‘complete,’” Wyble said, peering over Swaney’s shoulder to his computer on Dec. 11. “Alright! Having fun now. Really didn’t think it was going to say anything but ‘in progress.’”...

In the end, Wyble chose a silver Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield plan with a $1,150 deductible and a $1,150 out-of-pocket maximum. Wyble will pay about $160 a month for the coverage. Without the Affordable Care Act subsidies, she’d have to pay about $600 a month.

“I couldn’t possibly pay that. I couldn’t pay half of that.”

She couldn’t stop thanking Swaney for his help.

“You may be making the difference between me still living in my house, six to eight years from now, you know, still having my house,” she told him. “Really. It’s that big of a deal.”

Wait 'ti she finds out about narrow networks, narrow formularies, balance billling, and how the co-pays and deductibles work in practice. RomneyCare had minimal impact on medical bankruptcy in Massachusetts, so we have every reason to be skeptical.

But the enrollment work doesn’t stop there. Swaney says he’s been hearing from other consumers that Anthem has a backlog of new accounts it still hasn’t been able to process yet. Wyble may have to be persistent, again, in calling Anthem and making sure she’s in their system.

Well, let's hope Wyble doesn't find out ObamaCare screwed up the paperwork in the ambulance.

Good thing Wyble’s excellent at follow-ups.

Useless work, again, that nobody should have to do or have done for them; again, a massive tax on her time.

The reader comments:

How many fucking follow ups is this woman going to have?

She's lucky she has this much time to spend hanging out with a Navigator.

And she is fortunate that she is afflicted with a heart condition and not a mental condition such as anxiety or depression. Can somebody afflicted with a mental disorder handle getting stuck on this hamster wheel?

Well, what does that matter? ObamaCare marketing doesn't target the unengaged anyhow.

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ejl's picture
Submitted by ejl on

Fairly apolitical friends from Minnesota were recently discussing MNSure on Facebook. It started with this post:

I am honestly trying to support mnsure rather than just going directly to a health plan. I know the plan we want. I've created a mnsure account and dutifully remembered my credentials for a month. I've entered all of our personal info (10-15 minutes' worth) at least a half-dozen times over the past week just in order to review available plans. (I guess an "account" doesn't store any info entered - interesting concept.) I've gone directly to the health plans to compare options because it's pretty impossible on the mnsure site unless you want to enter 10-15 minutes worth of info each time you come back to the site.

I am so ready to go through the process and just sign up and pay.

This morning after 20 minutes of filling out the long form yet again, I finally get to the actual CTA "Apply for a Plan" I click the button and I get this:

The MNsure system cannot find the resource you are requesting
(404 http error)

I am so willing to give benefit of doubt to just about anybody trying to do something worthwhile, even if imperfectly. But this is ridiculous. Warrant of merchantability? It has to actually do the thing it was built to do.

There were several comments along the lines of this:

I feel your pain. I did finally get a plan through MnSure, but it was not a pretty process. I encountered the same error message you did several times. I also used a broker for the initial plan choosing process and thought that was helpful, though the ability to help you beyond that is limited, at least with the broker I was using. They are someone who can answer some questions, though, which can be helpful. I sent an email to MnSure a week ago and other than a auto-response that they'd rec'd my message I haven't heard a thing. (I'm trying to confirm that I'm signed up and paid for because although I paid online thru the MnSure site and the amount has already been posted on my charge card, they sent me an invoice in the mail that shows I haven't paid anything.) BTW, one thing MnSure doesn't tell you (or at least the info is well hidden) is that you and any family members have to be on the same plan. I think Irene finally ended up going through the providers directly because of that -- she & Steve had different needs in a health plan and MnSure doesn't accommodate that. (or a lot of other things....) I'm saving around $2,000 on premiums and potentially another $1,000 in out of pocket costs so I'm grateful for that, but it shouldn't be this hard.

At the start I tried brokers. They either sent me into supposed VM or told me they no longer did MnSure work. They were all from the list trumpeted on the MnSure site.

Submitted by lambert on

However, I also provide the platform for many other excellent posters.

Seems like Corrente is basically the goto site if you want a critique of ObamaCare from the left.