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Persistence Will Eventually Pay Off In Marketplaces

By Dr R Scott Poppen

As in the rest of states using the federal government’s portal to the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces, Utahns have experienced their share of difficulties signing up for insurance.  Inability to get beyond the home page or being bumped off prematurely seems to be a common complaint.

Despite the not unexpected bugs in a new and complicated information technology system, residents of the Beehive State are finding bargains and access to health insurance that was previously unobtainable.  One of the most spectacular success stories is that of Phil Sherburne and his family.

Sherburne, the owner of small retail shop, could not afford health insurance for himself, his wife, and three children, for several years.  After suffering a rotator cuff injury it was difficult to even find a plan that would cover him at all.  He paid cash for all his families’ health care needs, including a $3000 bill his wife received after an ER visit for a gallbladder attack.

He had a heck of time accessing the marketplace.  On October 1st he couldn’t get past the home page.  On October 3rd he tried several times throughout the day and evening, got past the homepage, but then was bumped off.  He called the 1-800 number but gave up after being placed on hold for over 10 minutes.  But on October 5th he was finally successful.  He found 38 available plans and found out that he and his family were eligible for a sizeable subsidy via tax credits.  He considered a high deductible plan that would have cost him a mere $5 per month but eventually purchased a silver plan that, with the tax credits, will cost him $123 a month.  The plan retails at $850 per month.

Once he got into the site, Shelburne was really impressed with the layout, pop-up links, and ease in comparing costs and benefit packages of the various plans.  Each of the five family members required about a page of information “but once I got on to the site it took about an hour, start to finish.”  He was even able to make sure his son’s pediatrician was in the plan’s network.  “It was really slick,” he summarized.  “Once they get the bugs worked out, it will work well and bring peace of mind to a lot of people.”

Although there has been lots of attempted and actual visits to, it is difficult to determine exactly how many individuals in Utah, and in other states, have actually successfully signed up for insurance.  But even if that number is currently low, there is still lots of time left for success with open enrollment available until March 31 of 2014.  And as was noted in a recent opinion peace in the New York Times, folks will likely do lots of shopping before they actually buy.  There were an average of 18 inquiries on the 2006-era Massachusetts Health Connector website before a person signed up for coverage. 

Many have been surprised that the balky marketplace website, although generating many complaints and much frustration, has not produced much anger and recrimination.  Folks have been quite patient and reasonable as they queue up to hunt for insurance.  But those surprised by such forbearance fundamentally misunderstand the plight of the uninsured.  Although experiencing several hours of computer bugs is frustrating, it pales in comparison to the frustration and anxiety one feels for oneself and their family when they endure years without health insurance coverage.  Human beings by nature will placidly overcome multiple hurdles to improve their own and their families’ safety and security.  

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