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Frank Gray

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Issues persist in health care quest

Ted Baumgartner is retired but he had a full-time job in October trying to get his wife signed up for insurance on the HealthCare.gov website.

He spent 80 hours online, not to mention all the times he had phone conversations or online consultations, trying to get coverage for his wife, who isn’t of retirement age and whose employer-provided insurance was being canceled because it wasn’t comprehensive enough to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

Baumgartner was getting nervous because the deadline for getting her signed up was approaching and the last thing he needed was his wife going with no insurance. She is in good health, but things happen.

Well, Baumgartner got some good news a couple of weeks ago, and we wrote about it. After taking some time off from his insurance chase, he went online and tried again, and somehow everything worked. He signed his wife up for a policy. It cost more than she had been paying, but at least she was now signed up.

After that, it was just a question of waiting for the insurance company to mail him verification, along with details of the policy, little things like what hospitals are part of the plan, and what doctors, and how he was supposed to pay for the policy.

That’s been a couple of weeks ago. He still hasn’t gotten confirmation in the mail, though, so he decided to call the insurance company directly.

Well, he was told, the insurance company wouldn’t be able to tell him anything until next month. It couldn’t verify that his wife actually has insurance. Information on who is in the plan won’t come until next month, and as far as how Baumgartner should pay the bill, they wouldn’t be able to tell him anything until next month.

So an antsy Baumgartner went back to the HealthCare.gov website, where he was told his wife’s application for insurance had been canceled. He hadn’t canceled it.

“They said it was pending, then they said it was canceled,” Baumgartner said. “I’m just plain in limbo. I’m not the only one. I know others who are having the same problem.”

Meanwhile, Baumgartner says, he’s a nervous wreck.

“All I can do is wait,” he says. “And if they don’t call back,” well, he’ll have to figure out what to do.

He’s thinking of possible alternatives. In a pinch, can he just go to an insurance company or agent and buy his wife a policy? Probably, “But will she still be eligible for a subsidy?” Maybe.

Baumgartner has tried calling different numbers he’s been provided. The people at one number, he said, referred him to a different number. He called that, and they gave him another number – the one he’d called in the first place.

I advised Baumgartner to try to be patient. They’ve extended the deadline for actually paying the insurance premium until Dec. 23. Certainly in a month they’ll have this sorted out, I said – maybe.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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