Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 12, 2014

Fred Goldenberg: I'm a witness to the ACA

BY FRED GOLDENBERG
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — One of our local television stations recently went out into the community and asked people if they approved of the President’s performance this year.

What I found interesting is that many of those interviewed said they disapproved because of the Affordable Care Act roll out. That’s the part of this that I find so strange. Yes, admittedly the roll out was a disaster. Something this important should have been smooth as silk. Instead, it was a debacle from day one. But it needs to be said that those clients of mine who were able to get health insurance received a very wonderful year-end present by securing coverage.

When the web site didn’t work, I did it the old-fashioned way. I filled out a paper application with my clients. And, when we needed extra help, I called the Health Insurance Marketplace. Within a few rings I was connected to a live person who, in most cases, was knowledgeable and solved my problems. Plus, within seconds after completing your application, the system was able to tell me if a tax subsidy was available and how much.

Most of my issues came from trying to contact the health insurance provider — not the Marketplace. Once your application was complete, you were given the opportunity to sign up for coverage immediately. Since there are 26 plans available in the Grand Traverse region, many people declined in favor of meeting with an agent or navigator to review and then sign up.

I spent countless hours being transferred from one department to another trying to get answers only to find it nearly impossible. It’s easy to point fingers and blame HealthCare.gov, but it’s another thing when the company that is going to reap the benefit of thousands of new premium payers can’t even find that newly enrolled client in their system.

The failure of HealthCare.gov is unforgivable but the inability of the existing insurance carrier to be unable to absorb the influx of new clients is far worse.

There isn’t anyone who is reading this column today who hasn’t experienced some form of frustration in the past dealing with a health insurance carrier. Either a claim was denied, a bill not paid or you found out after the fact that the services you received weren’t covered until you met your $10,000 deductible.

When Medicare rolled out in the 1960s, it was a boondoggle as well. Seniors were skeptical and refused to sign up. Hospitals, which were in many cases segregated, refused to go along. Thousands of volunteers canvassed the streets and signed up people. It was a struggle, but 50 later, 44 million individuals covered by Medicare is a resounding success. I believe the ACA will also claim its place as a great success in the future.

Fred L. Goldenberg is a certified senior advisor and the founder of Senior Benefit Solutions, LLC, a consumer and financial services organization in Traverse City. If you have any questions or comments about this article or any senior issue, he can be reached at 922-1010 or fred@srbenefitsolutions.com.