This is way too complicated

Since it’s almost time to renew my health insurance plan, I spent some time on today. I wanted to see how much the rates went up, and what plans are available. It’s a daunting task, and not just because the website still really sucks. More on that later. First of all, I have SIXTY-FIVE plans to choose from! Who was that said Americans want choice and control over their health care options. Bullshit, I say. So many plans to choose from is bewildering, if not paralyzing. For 2015 plans range in cost from $164.80 to $1077.80/month. (That assumes I get the same subsidy I received for 2014.) Out-of-pocket expenses (not including premiums) range from $5000 to a high of $13,000. I could probably find a lower cost plan, but I’d have to be really careful when shopping. The plans all have different co-pays, deductibles, and maximum out-of-pocket expenses. And not only that, but all of the plans have their own networks of doctors and hospitals. Not all plans accept all healthcare providers. Like I said, bewildering.

The problem I have right now is that I may require surgery for my tarsal tunnel syndrome. It is an in-hospital, out-patient procedure. I asked the podiatrist how much the surgery would cost. He didn’t know, but guessed $25-30k in total. His portion of that would be $1750. He gave me the procedure code and the number to call at Swedish to get their costs. Their charges are approximately $24,000, so the doc’s guess was right on. So in renewing my insurance, I’d want to minimize my out-of-pocket and monthly premium expenses. I started poking around and could find cheaper insurance, but then had to do more poking around to make sure the new plan would cover my current doctors. All that poking around was getting painful, so I figured I’d probably do nothing and stick with the plan I have. Things would just auto-renew, I’d get a new bill, and that would be that. Right?

Wrong! I called the Washington Health Plan today to get my home address changed because their still-sucky website wouldn’t allow me to do it on line. After going through all the phone menus and the requisite perma-hold time, they told me that my address was correct, even though it displayed incorrectly on my home page. OK, nothing more to be done. Not so fast, she said. You have to complete the application. What application, I said. Apparently when I tried to change my address, the website thought I was applying for a new plan. So I went through it all with the person on the line and finally got it all done. That’s when I asked her about auto-renewal. She said there was no such thing, and that I’d have to apply all over again for 2015.

It shouldn’t be this way. I shouldn’t have to choose from 65 plans to meet my needs. I shouldn’t have to spend hours on line and on the phone to make it all happen. The average person without healthcare doesn’t have the time or the energy to go through this process year after year. I shouldn’t have to base my plan choice on my current medical needs and current financial condition, and do it year after year. I just want health insurance at a reasonable cost and minimum hassle.

I think the Washington Health Plan is going to lose a lot of their clients when it comes time to renew. I think a lot of people are going to throw up their hands (after they finish throwing up) and say, “Screw it, I’ll take my chances.”

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