Consumers New To Health Insurance Face Learning Curve
Monday is the deadline to sign up through the federal healthcare exchange to get coverage by January First. The process was frustrating until the website improved, but people who have never had insurance faced a steep learning curve. WOSU met with one woman who received a crash course in private insurance. By all accounts, Shelby Conrad, of Clintonville, is an informed consumer. Sheâs even worked in the medical industry. But she has not had health insurance in a long time. So as she shopped for an insurance plan on healthcare.gov, she received an education. âHow the heck do the deductibles work?â? Conrad isnât alone. For many people whoâve never had insurance â or havenât had it in some time â theyâre quickly learning about premiums, co-pays and deductibles. In Conradâs case, the teaching fell to her healthcare navigator who helped guide her through the process. Lisa Hamler-Fugitt leads a team of navigators at the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. âItâs elementary education for folks who havenât had the experience," she said. Hamler-Fugitt said if youâve never had insurance or relied on a company plan thereâs a new language to learn. âThis is private health insurance, meaning that you are going to have to pay a premium even if you do receive the premium tax credit. There are going to be co-pays, out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles," she said. "So, again, this is terminology that many of us are familiar with. But for many new to the system of private health insurance it is, itâs all new.â? On this day, Conrad is at the Foodbanks Association, for a second time, working with her healthcare navigator, Jessica May. âThatâs actually a little bit more [expensive] because remember you qualified for some additional help on that silver level," May said after tallying up the cost of the deductible and monthly premiums. May is helping Conrad compare costs between insurance providers. Using the on-line tools, Conrad narrowed her choice to plans with monthly premiums she could afford. Then she learned about deductibles, and suddenly that affordable plan had a $6,000 deductible. Sheâd have to pay six grand out of pocket before her benefits kicked in. âRight now, it looks like I would have to go into savings to do this, that I couldnât do it on current income," Conrad said. We asked her if her federal subsidy wasnât what she had expected. "No," Conrad replied. "Itâs the concept of working with the deductibles.â? It did not help that the on-line calculator that told Conrad what plans she could afford failed to include the deductible cost. Hamler-Fugitt said seen âsticker shockâ? for those new to the system. âPrivate health insurance is pretty mystifying for most of us that even have it. So for those who donât have it this is new to them. And it, you know, itâs about managing expectations," she said. Hamler-Fugitt encourages people discouraged with the process to find a navigator to help explain the convoluted system. âWe recognize that while we talk about everybody being connected there are a lot of folks that arenât connected. Certainly, lower-income folks canât afford $100 a month on high-speed internet. They donât have smart phones. Help is available in your community. Donât give up.â? Conrad left the Foodbanks Association without signing up with a provider, though she had plans to return another day to go over the coverage one more time.