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Affordable Care Act counselor tries health insurance marketplace for firsthand knowledge

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Updated: December 18, 2013 6:18AM



As one of those people who is supposed to help Illinoisans find new options for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Joann Boblick figured she should check out healthcare.gov and see how it works.

Healthcare.gov is the federal government’s website that is supposed to have new affordable options for uninsured people in Illinois and other states on its marketplaces. People who buy their own health insurance also are encouraged to visit the marketplaces.

Glitches with the website have kept many Americans from viewing insurance plans available.

But Boblick was able to get through to Illinois’ marketplace on healthcare.gov. She also found an insurance plan that will be cheaper than the one she has.

“The first time, I got nowhere. The site just said come back later. The second time, I decided to come back later because I was waiting too long,” said Boblick, 36, of Western Springs. “The third time was the charm.”

Boblick currently pays a premium of $340 a month with a deductible of $6,000. The Blue Choice Bronze PPO 006 that she enrolled in on Oct. 7 costs $185 a month with the same deductible and offers the same doctors, dentists and hospitals she has now. That’s even though Boblick made too much money — about $65,000 — to qualify for a subsidy to pay for a new insurance plan.

The marketplace is for individuals and families with incomes between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level, who are supposed to qualify for subsidies on a sliding scale. That works out to up to $45,960 for an individual and up to $94,200 for a family of four.

“I had thought I’d break even,” Boblick said. “So I was pleasantly surprised.”

The federal government, which runs healthcare.gov where Illinois residents can apply to buy insurance, says 1,370 individuals in Illinois selected an insurance plan in the first month of open enrollment. Nationally, a total of 106,185 had enrolled — a fraction of the nearly 500,000 initial signups that federal officials had projected a month before the trouble-plagued website launched on Oct. 1.

The federal government has said the website will be fixed by the end of the month.

Boblick said it took her about 21/2 hours to fill out the application. Most of that time was spent investigating the seven health insurance options the website gave her. Of those, 2 had the doctors she wanted. For dental options, only one plan had the dentist she wanted, so she went with that plan.

Boblick is an In Person Counselor paid to help people involved with Beds Plus Inc., a nonprofit in LaGrange, sign up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act. She will benefit by paying less for insurance but said, “It’s not about me.

“This is not as much about health insurance as it is about three generations down the road we’re going to have a healthier country,” she said, citing the homeless people she and others at Beds Plus are helping get Medicaid.

For those still waiting to log on at HealthCare.gov, Boblick suggested people think of getting insurance as they would think of getting a new iPhone the first day.

“People wait days for an iPhone. Care about it that much,” she said. “Realize it’s more important than the iPhone.”

Email: mjthomas@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MonifaThomas1



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