Buying insurance: A tale of the New York State exchange

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SUMMARY: Buying insurance on the new insurance exchanges can be hard. You’ve heard variations of this before, and now here’s mine. Doctors backing out, sites crashing, deadlines approaching — the full bouquet.

 

 


The healthcare.gov site tripped me up today, even though I don’t have to use it because I live in New York state.

Our exchange, New York State of Health, has been working pretty well. While the healthcare.gov problems are many and varied and widely publicized, we have our own state exchange, so we’re not much concerned with that.

Because this is what I do for a living, I have the added advantage of knowing resources outside of healthcare.gov, including the ones on this insurance page on our site, so I wasn’t too worked up about finishing before the Dec. 23 deadline.

Today I had two or three pieces of interesting news.

1. My G.P. and his practice, where my former G.P. also practices,  have decided they will take no Obamacare insurance plans. None at all. This is a New York City multispecialty medical group that has privileges at New York University Hospital. I called today on the assumption that they would  — most of the docs take some or most of the major insurers, so I envisioned no problem. Well, hey. No Obamacare. The secretary said she didn’t know why and couldn’t discuss it.

2. My backup choice of provider, a membership medical group that has offices around the United States, has not decided if it and its doctors will take Affordable Care Act insurance plans. The receptionist said she didn’t know when they’d make a decision. She did say she was aware that the deadline was approaching. (This is, by the way, Dec. 11. The original deadline was Dec. 15. It has been pushed back to Dec. 23.)

3. A third group in the northern New York suburbs has decided to take A.C.A. plans. But the receptionist urged me to check individually with each provider. I told her that we would be picking a provider or provider group based on whether it was taking the insurance plan we choose —  or  an insurance plan based on whether it was offering a reasonably broad network — so knowing which provider takes which plan is pretty important since the decisions are interlocking. She urged me again to check with each individual provider — after making an appointment, she advised.

So who’s taking A.C.A. plans? It’s not clear.

More confusion: First the identification check link crashed, then the whole site went down.

Adding to the confusion, as I was filling out the blanks on the New York State of Health application, the site told me it didn’t recognize my Social Security Number. I tried to go back and see the number (it was “grayed out” as websites sometimes do), so I couldn’t see if it was wrong. The application wouldn’t let me correct or re-enter, though it kept insisting that I needed to correct it.

I got on the phone to the help line, where I spent about 1 hour 15 minutes waiting to talk to a real person. During that time the site seemed to crash, then announced that it was down for routine maintenance (this at about 6:15 p.m.)

The delightful Kim, who finally answered the phone, said that the identity verification link from New York State of Health, which runs through the federal site somehow, had crashed, bringing the New York site down. They posted the “routine maintenance” page as a quick workaround.

I went on the Facebook page of NYSOH to find a welter of people who had successfully completed applications, others with various problems, some people who just hate the A.C.A., and a group of helpful NYSOH commenters.

Was the crash this volume-related? One suspects yes.

Come back tomorrow, she suggested.

I promised that I would.