Enrolling in healthcare.gov is not easy. But Anchorage hair stylist Lara Imler is one of the few Alaskans who managed to get through the process late last month. Now though, after she discovered problems with her application, Imler wants to cancel her enrollment. And she’s finding that may not be so simple either.
Earlier this month Lara Imler sounded thrilled to finally be enrolled in an affordable insurance plan. Now she sounds more like this:
“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. I’m just. It’s just such a lost cause at this point.”
A few things went wrong with Lara Imler’s healthcare.gov application. First, according to the website, she 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. 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 say, ‘hey my subsidy is on there, how do I apply for all of it?”
Getting the subsidy corrected would require filing a paper appeal with the federal government.
So, the technical problems with Imler’s enrollment were adding up. At the same time, she started hearing stories from friends whose insurance plans were being canceled because they didn’t meet the Affordable Care Act requirements. Imler says some of those friends don’t qualify for subsidies and aren’t able to find affordable new insurance:
“I have a moral dilemma with that. Why should I be able to get health insurance when other people are having to lose it?”
Imler needed a break from healthcare.gov.
So on a recent morning, she sat on her living room couch, with a cup of coffee and her laptop. The site actually logs Imler in pretty quickly. And after a few clicks she finds her enrollment information.
Imler scrolls down and eventually sees an ominous red icon that says ‘terminate coverage’:
“So you hit the terminate button. It says you’ve chosen to end the following coverage, …you then have to check I have fully read and understand that I’m choosing to terminate coverage. Then you click terminate again and we’ll see what happens.”
What happens is… nothing. The health plan Imler signed up for is still listed in her profile. She logs out and then back in and it looks exactly the same. She checks her e-mail for a notice of coverage termination and finds nothing there either. Imler leans back on the couch and looks surprisingly calm about the whole thing:
“I’m resigned to the fact that it doesn’t work. No matter what I do, it just doesn’t work. And this is the improved website.”
When she is able to cancel her plan, Imler won’t be quitting healthcare.gov for good. She’s been uninsured for nearly a decade and wants that to change. She plans to log back into the website early next year to start the process all over again.
This story is part of a collaboration between APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News.