Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Health Insurance Seminar This Week

I'm posting this 4 days in advance because I want everyone who needs this seminar to get it on their calendars early. This coming Saturday, November 23, from 11 am to 1 pm, there will be a Health Insurance Information and Enrollment Event at the Norristown Regional Health Center, at 1401 Dekalb. Now, if you go into Google Maps and enter that address, it tries to send you to someplace on Main St. The NRH Center is actually at Fornance and Dekalb--the building directly across Dekalb from the old Sacred Heart Hospital.

I know this is an important seminar for many Norristonians because a lot of us are both self-employed and low income. And that, I personally found out in the last month, is a bad combination.

I truly believe that the Affordable Care Act is better than the old system of health insurance. I've got some pre-existing conditions and it's nice to know I can't be turned down for insurance because of them. Mammograms are now free. Colonoscopies are free, though you still have to pay for anesthesia and if they remove any polyps, it changes from a diagnostic procedure to a surgical procedue which is not free. Annual wellness exams are free, as long as your doctor codes it correctly (mine rarely does). But I do like that all children are covered in some way, and that kids can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, because many recent college grads I know haven't been able to get jobs right out of school.

Anyone paying for their own insurance and earning over a certain amount per year will be able to get tax subsidies, applied monthy to their bill, so their premiums will be cheaper. It's hard to compare old and new plans, though. All the new plans seem to have higher deductibles.

If you're self-employed and buy your own insurance like me, you probably received a notice saying your policy is being cancelled and you have to enroll in a new policy by December 15th. The last time Blue Cross sent me such a notice, in late 2010, it said my police was being "discontinued" and that they'd work with me to replace it with a better plan. They offered 5 plans with 6 levels each--all except the prescription plans were cheaper, and they gave us more time to go through the process. Of course, what they didn't tell us was that they were doing it so as not have to grandfather in our existing plans in 2014. Now, boom, "cancelled," no real "help" offered, only one new plan/level is comparable to what I have, and it costs $1050 more per year.

I didn't earn enough in 2013 to qualify for subsidies in 2014. Pennsylvania opted out of Expanded Medicaid, so that's not an option. I don't qualify for regular Medicaid. PA's low income health insurance is only an option if you're desperate--I was on it once and it ended up costing me more in out-of-pocket than my Blue Cross premiums. I haven't heard from Blue Cross about whether they'll let me keep my old plan, and my deadline is less than a month away.

People talking about the Affordable Care Act on TV keep saying the segment of America like me is only a small percentage. That may be, but Norristown has a high concentration of low income, self-employed individuals. I know there are a lot of you out there in the same boat as I am--I've talked to a bunch of you in the last month. On the upside, I haven't had any major trouble with the Obamacare website yet, though I know people who have. I went through the application process, but haven't picked a plan yet.

So I'll be going to the seminar on Saturday. Hope to see many of you there.

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