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Breaking Up With Healthcare.gov

WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Annie Feidt, Alaska Public Radio Network

Sun, Dec 01 2013

Enrolling in healthcare.gov is not easy. In Alaska, just 53 people enrolled in the first month. Anchorage hair stylist Lara Imler is one of the few who got through. Now though, after she discovered problems with her application, Imler wants to cancel her enrollment.

“I don’t even know how to feel about the whole thing anymore because I can’t even get anyone who has an answer to help,” she says. “It’s just such a lost cause at this point.”

A few things went wrong with Imler’s healthcare.gov application. First, according to the website, she successfully enrolled in a health plan. But her new insurance company, Moda Health, didn’t have her application. When she called the healthcare.gov hotline number, no one could help her figure out what went wrong. Then she found out the website miscalculated her subsidy amount. She was supposed to receive a monthly subsidy of $366, but the website only let her use $315.

“The subsidy issue is weird,” she says. “If you look at my profile on the website it shows my full subsidy, but it says I’m only using part of it. So they know I’ve got a screwed up subsidy but they don’t know what to do with it. There’s no one directly you can talk to, to say, ‘Hey my subsidy is on there. How do I apply for all of it?’”

It turns out everyone’s subsidy in Alaska was miscalculated. Enroll Alaska, a benefits consulting group, discovered the error in mid October and suspended enrollments. It took two weeks for the the Health and Human Services Department to resolve the issue. Since then, Enroll Alaska has signed up about 80 people in the marketplace. Chief Operating Officer Tyann Boling says half the people her insurance agents sit down with have tried to navigate healthcare.gov on their own and given up.

“This is not an easy process. I think even if this website was functioning at 100 percent this would not be an easy process,” Boling says. “This is complicated. If you click on one wrong thing, there’s no back buttons, it can be a really, really nasty process to go through.”

Boling is frustrated with the website, but not as frustrated as Lara Imler. After weeks of trying — and failing — to make her application work, Imler wants a break from healthcare.gov.

She never got a packet from her insurance company asking her to pay the first premium. She figures canceling the plan — with the chance to start fresh later — is her best option.

So on a recent morning, she sat down in her living room, with her laptop and a cup of coffee to try to resolve her difficulties—but not without frustration.

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