Adventures In Obamacare 5: Weekend At Eric’s

I am still in the bureaucratic limbo of trying to prove that I am an actual person, but my friend Eric has gotten past that step because he has a perfectly normal name.  He was gracious enough to let me peruse the options that healthcare.gov offers for Illinoisans.

The first thing that struck me was how counterintuitive the website was even at this point.  In order to get a list of plans, you had to click this innocent looking green box that simply says “SET”.  That’s all it is is a green box.  There is no indication that you’re supposed to click it to get to the plans.  There’s no cursor change over the box except when you hover over the word “SET” and the cursor changes to the familiar word processor capital ‘I’ cursor.  I would think that there would be bells and whistles and pointers and perhaps a marching band playing informing you to CLICK HERE FOR PLANS!  But no.  I wonder how many people have signed up on the website and think they can’t get to the plans because they don’t know to click the green box.

Once you get to the actual list of plans, things are much nicer.  You can look only at certain levels of plans or view them all.  The layout for each plan takes up a bit more real estate than it should, but each plan has links to the plan’s provider networks and coverage options from the offering company’s website which is really nice.  I didn’t go any further into the process than looking for the plans because Eric would probably be upset if I signed him up for something.

The thing that sticks out the most is how much of a disparity in price there is between the various providers.  When you get to this granular level, it becomes really difficult to actually compare the products to each other.  Two products with the same deductible and copays and coinsurance can be $100/month different and a useful comparison of provider networks is impossible so there is really no meaningful way to judge if that extra $100/month is worth it.

The good news for me is that my current provider, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, offers the cheapest plans pretty much across the board.  The strange thing is that the prices quoted on the healthcare.gov site are slightly different than the prices quoted on the Blue Cross site.  For instance, Blue Cross quoted me $152.24 for the cheapest plan, but healthcare.gove quotes the same plan at $157.84.  I’m not sure why there’s a discrepancy.  I can only guess that there’s a surcharge that the federal government places on insurance orders placed through healthcare.gov.  If anyone knows anything about this, I’d be interested in knowing.

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