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TONY WILSON: Healthcare.gov still ailing as enrollment deadline closes in

Tony Wilson

Tony Wilson

Just a quick reminder — you have nine days to get your shopping done.

I don’t mean your Christmas shopping. I mean you have 11 days left to decide if a health plan offered through healthcare.gov is the best option for you and/or your family.

The Administration recently announced that individuals and families have until Dec. 23 to enroll in a medical plan on the exchange for a Jan. 1 effective date. Originally, the deadline was Dec. 15, but due to the “glitches” in the exchange website, you now have a little more time.

(Many individual carriers still have a Dec. 15 deadline, if you are purchasing a plan outside the exchange.)

Like many of the people I’ve talked to over the last two months, I, too, had gotten so frustrated with the healthcare.gov website glitches that I’d basically given up visiting the website.

But, after hearing promises that an improved website would be up and running by the Administration’s self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline, I recently took the website out for a spin.

I will say there are a number of improvements, but there’s still a long way to go.

As I’ve mentioned previously in this space, one of the key features of the website needed to be an option for people to review plans and prices before entering a lot of personal information. While further development is needed on that feature, it is at least available now.

When I entered my family’s ages, state and county of residence the website returned 29 plan options spread across the five categories of catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The plans were offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana and Kaiser Permanente.

(Just out of curiosity, I listed Fulton County as our county of residence and the website returned 62 plan options with an option for two additional carriers. Imagine trying to plow through all those options, especially if a family living in Fulton County waited until the deadline of Dec. 23 to review its options.)

The website now offers a few more details of each plan offering. For example, there actually is a Details button you can click that will take you to a screen with a very brief plan overview and additional links to review the plan’s Summary of Benefits, Plan Brochure, Provider Directory and List of Covered Drugs.

Some of the additional links are helpful, but not all are fully functional and some actually lead to more confusion. At least we’re making progress.

We are looking at a Humana plan option for our coverage in 2014. I clicked on the link for the Plan Brochure (which provides an overview of the plan options) and a pdf of the plan opened.

I then clicked on the Provider Directory link, and the website took me to the Physician Finder page for the Humana plan. It was very easy to maneuver through the steps to find our providers.

The Humana link to the List of Covered Drugs took me to a document that outlined all the prescriptions covered under that plan. This is extremely helpful information to anyone taking medications.

I tried the Summary of Benefits link on the Humana plan and received an error message. I tried it again a few days later, and the link worked.

The Kaiser Permanente plan links got me to the provider directory and the summary of benefits, but I hit a 404 error message on the plan brochure. The covered drug list took me to a member login page. How can you review the list if you are not a member?

The BCBS plan links took me to the Summary of Benefits, but the Plan Brochure for the specific plan I selected was not available. The Drug List link worked properly.

BCBS’s link to search providers took me to BCBS’s homepage instead of directly to a provider search page. I did find the provider search link on the right side of the home page about halfway down the page.

The next page offered a drop down menu with 13 different medical plan networks to choose from to look up our providers. There’s no mention anywhere which network is associated with the healthcare.gov plans. I know through my training that it’s the Pathway network, but how is someone who doesn’t deal with insurance everyday going to know this?

Again, we are making progress, but can we achieve full functionality by Dec. 23?

Questions or comments? Feel free to e-mail me at twilson@nfp.com.

Tony L. Wilson is a partner with NUVISION Financial Corporation based in Conyers. NUVISION is a subsidiary of National Financial Partners Corp. (NFP), which provides benefits solutions for companies.