Healthcare Navigators Report Easier Time Helping Clients
By all accounts, this week has been better for the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act and for people looking to buy health insurance. After two months of trouble healthcare.gov seems to be working. Thatâs a relief to Central Ohioans buying insurance and those trying to help them do it. âItâs a completely different world than when I saw you last," Jessica May said. WOSU visited May Oct. 1, the day healthcare.gov âopened.â? May is a healthcare navigator with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. She helps people navigate through the health insurance choices on the Obamacare website. Her first few weeks were not easy as she coped with slow access, frozen screens and frustrated callers. Now she said, âThe website is working. Itâs working all the way through.â? On this day, a list of insurance providers quickly fills Mayâs computer screen. Lots of info: monthly premiums, deductibles, co-pays, out-of-pocket max, benefits. Shelby Conrad, from Clintonville, sits next to May as she sifts through the information. âSo it looks like Medical Mutual has the preferred network that you want to go with, as well as if you had to go out [of network] for anything else, theyâd have that coverage, as well," May noted. Conrad, whoâs 60 and uninsured, hasnât seen a doctor in five years. She hopes to be covered by January first. Sheâs been on the site six times to compare plans. This is her second visit with May. âSometimes a light bulb will go on. And Iâll figure out something that all the information is trying to say to me," Conrad said. "And then I have no ability to verify that I have the idea, the concept right. Which is why Iâm back to talk to the navigator.â? May said itâs typical to see a consumer at least three times before they decide on a plan. The computer trouble kept customers away. Federal officials say only 1,150 Ohioans had bought insurance through the exchange in the first month of the websiteâs operation. May said the Foodbank seems to have had more success with the website than other groups. âWeâre not exactly sure why. I donât think itâs because weâre magical. It may have to do with some settings or something," May said. While there are fewer problems with the site, navigators at the foodbank association still see occasional glitches. âBut one thing I have to say in all the weeks that weâve been working on the website, we learned how to create work-arounds for things," she said. "So it doesnât even stress us out now when it gets caught in a loop. Weâve seen this. Weâve got this. So the website itself is just, itâs fully functioning which is fantastic.â? âSo this plan in particular plan has a $6,000 deductible, and it looks like about $1,658 for the year for the premiums," May told Conrad. Thatâs the cost of the plan Shelby Conrad really likes. But sheâs not ready to commit. Conrad worries about the deductible. âDo I wait out a year because what I will need to pay in a penalty it about $300 and try again next year?...Do I continue doing the same thing Iâve been doing and take a bet my health will hold out?â? Conrad leaves. She said sheâll be back to see her navigator again.