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Margaret's Musings: Giving thanks and more insurance challenges

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Margaret's Musings: Giving thanks and more insurance challenges
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

It is the time of year when most of us stop and pause to count our blessings and I am no different. While I have cut way back on the secular part of Christmas, I still put up my traditional tree. It really is a reflection of my life with ornaments from friends and family members, some of them no longer with me.

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There are vacation memories, life changing moment memories and historic ornaments that once hung on my grandparents’ tree. Each one of them hung with care, including the near the top the small purple mosaic cross my mother-in-law found in the Vatican Gift shop on her dream trip to visit Rome. This tree would never be found on the Hudson Christmas Tour of Homes but it gives me a chance to remember just how thankful I am and it is a reminder of the “Real Reason is for the Season.”

This month, I was thankful I had my husband to help weave our way through healthcare.gov. It was a long and “hazardous” journey and now less than two weeks away from Jan. 1 I have no idea if I will have insurance. This is not intended to be a “woe is me” piece. It is simply one family’s journey. Take our names off and substitute anyone of the millions who have realized this extra burden. Here is my husband’s version.

Healthcare.gov a primer…

The process took about five hours, over six different sessions on three different days.

The first night I got kicked out three times with following message:

“Sorry, there is a problem with the system. Please log out and try again in 30 minutes…”

The third time I waited until after midnight, thinking that the load on the system might be less, but still got kicked out.

Each time when I pushed the “logout” button, which was the only one on the screen, I got a “Confirm Navigation” message box with two choices, either leave the page or stay on it, and a warning that “If you leave this page now, the information you’ve entered may be lost.” To stay on the page, I was advised to select the “Stay on this page button,” and then select “save and continue,” but unfortunately there was no such option. The “stay on this page” button took me right back to the logout page on which the only choice was “logout,” which took me back to the Confirm Navigation page. It was an endless loop with no way out, so I simply lost information four different times.

Entering the information was extremely difficult, as there was no back button and in many of the questions, particularly about income, it was unclear at first what they wanted.

If you assume they want adjusted gross income, you find out later that they want each form of income listed separately and that their software will compute the AGI and convert it to a monthly amount.

After you enter a number, you area asked what type of income it is. There were lots of choices, like salary, self-employment, Social Security, investment, real estate, pensions, etc. and “other.” After you put in a number, it asks whether it is paid hourly, weekly, monthly or annually. That is, unless you put something in the “other” category, where it automatically assumes you mean monthly even though you checked the “annually” button.

And another major problem with the software occurs if you have a loss on an activity. You can’t put in a negative number in most categories. After trial and error, I figured out that you could enter a number in the self-employment category and then you get a choice of whether it was a profit or loss. But if you put it in as a loss, it also enters it as a profit, making it a wash and overstating your income by the amount of your loss. I finally figured out that by combining a loss from one activity with profit from another I could work around the system and provide accurate information.

I said there was no “back” button, but in some cases, there is an “edit” button next to information you enter. But if you go back to edit something, you have to reenter everything you have entered from the point of the edit forward to where you were when you went back to edit.

I could go on and on with additional technical difficulties with the system, but there are other problems beyond the $600,000 million software.

A major problem with all of this is that the income numbers are supposed to be for 2014. That is not too hard to predict for Margaret, as she is paid by the hour and works roughly the same number of hours each year. But the system requires household income, and for me that varies greatly as I am self-employed and it is determined by how many hours I work and how much product I sell. I have no way of predicting either, and it can vary by a significant amount from year to year.

The irony of the entire exercise is that if an applicant estimates household income to be just below 400 percent of the poverty level, which is $62,040 for a couple with no children, the government will pay about $6,500 toward health insurance. Make $1 more, and there is no subsidy. Clearly this is a strong disincentive to work harder or longer.

And you dare not cheat by underestimating because the IRS is administering The Affordable Care Act and they will check your estimated numbers with the actual ones when you file your 2014 income tax returns in 2015. If your income was higher than you predicted, you will have to repay all or part of the subsidy.

Eventually, I completed the application process only to experience an additional frustration – there is no way to get a copy of your application so you have no record of what information you provided.

I couldn’t believe this was the case so I pushed the “chat” button and within a couple minutes, I got the answer that the only time you can get a copy is if you do it during the “review” process. Of course, there was never any indication of that at that step in the process.

At any rate, the application is done and hopefully the information has been forwarded to the insurance company and hopefully they will contact us before Jan. 1.”

Thankful

Yes I am thankful to have his help and willingness to work through the system.

There is something very disconcerting when you no longer have control of your life. The days are gone when you could go to an insurance agent and they could assist you in determining what insurance you could afford or what programs, HIRSP or Badger Care you could qualify for. You did not have to turn over all of your financial information to an insecure website realizing that the backend of the website isn’t functional.

If a 12-year-old can create a wildly popular app for a smartphone I find it hard to believe the dysfunctional healthcare.gov wasn’t designed to fail. The next dialogue coming from the government will be to blame the greedy insurance companies and move us to the single payer system, which was to goal all along.

Now as the new year approaches, I wish each of you only the best. As our freedoms continue to unravel and disappear it is my hope that some of you who are steadfast in believing that progressive, statist, and socialist avenues are the best for you and yours as well as our country might consider this: The United States of America was clearly founded on Christian principles. We are perhaps living in a post-Christian world.

The problem with that is that each generation is one more step removed from the origin of morals. As we lose this moral footing we travel closer to a world where government determines our choices for us and what they believe to be “right.” We also enter a world where, they also decide ”who” should be helped.

Merry Christmas, everyone! On to the new year and, believe it or not, a big part of the future is the power of positive thinking.

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