Beyond frustrated with MNsure

mnsure.org
I worked with a trained assister for 1 1/2 hours to complete the MNsure online application.

I REALLY DIDN’T THINK I would be personally impacted by all of the problems plaguing MNsure, Minnesota’s online health insurance exchange. But, oh, how wrong I was about that.

First, a little background: Since completing a MNsure application on November 25, I’ve been waiting to see if I qualify for a subsidy. I got a response in 2 ½ weeks, which is a positive. I expected the process would take longer. I’d delayed applying in hopes that the bugs would be worked out of the system.

Friday I learned that I don’t qualify for assistance, although trained assisters guiding me through the application process said I should qualify based on income guidelines.

The MNsure mailing stated that I would receive a second mailing explaining why I do not qualify. That’s efficiency.

Then, on Monday, a MNsure rep called. Due to “technical errors, calculations were incorrect” and I may, indeed, qualify for assistance or a credit, she said. Good news for me, I thought.

But then she dropped the bombshell: I would need to resubmit my application.

Are you kidding? According to one news report, I am among about 1,000 Minnesotans who will need to resubmit.

She assured me, “It’s not your fault.” The rep sounded sincerely apologetic, extremely stressed and deeply frustrated.

Her frustration did not match mine when I later went onto the MNsure website to once again begin the long, tedious process of completing my application. The first time I worked with a trained assister for 1 1/2 hours to complete the app.

Not to my great surprise, I got this message: “the mnsure system experienced an unexpected exception and cannot fulfill your request (500 http error).”

OK, then. This is the same message I’d gotten many times previously while on the website. And, yes, I am using one of the recommended browsers.

I tried again later and was able to begin working on my application. As I plowed through the questions, unsure how to respond to some (because even the MNsure rep was wishy washy when I asked for clarification), I reached a point where I needed info from my husband’s employer. So I decided to save my app and resume work the next day. Major mistake. The information I’d worked an hour to input, and then saved, simply vanished. Yup. Not there.

I phoned the MNsure rep who’d called me earlier and this time I told her I was p__d. It is not a word I use often.

Her frustration nearly matched mine.  ”I don’t know how people have stuck with it this long,” she said, along with a few other things I won’t share.

Well, for now, I’m not sticking with it. I’ve already invested hours and hours of my time working on the app and gathering and reading info on the health insurance options available to me. I have no clue what to do. I’m stressed to the max by this process and do not want to think about it anymore until after Christmas.

So I’ve paid my $1,627 premium for 2 1/2 months of coverage under my existing grandfathered-in $3,000 deductible individual health insurance plan until I figure out this mess.

My premium increased $108 from $454/month to $562/month with no change in benefits, including no free preventative coverage.

I attribute the major increase in my health insurance premium to the Affordable Care Act. Yet, I was one of the lucky ones. My plan wasn’t dropped like that of others with individual policies. But I am being forced out of my policy because I can no longer afford the premium.

Despite all of this, the Affordable Care Act brings one positive for me personally. Up until now, because of a pre-existing condition, I was stuck with my existing health insurance plan. Now I can shop. But I don’t like shopping, especially for insurance.

This post was written by  Audrey Kletscher Helbling and originally published on  Minnesota Prairie Roots.

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by jody rooney on 12/19/2013 - 11:45 am.

    Why don’t you just call an insurance agent?

    They can sell you any plan they have including the MnSure plans.

    I’m not sure how the subsidy goes from there but I would ask an agent.

  2. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/19/2013 - 12:19 pm.

    Insurance

    “I attribute the major increase in my health insurance premium to the Affordable Care Act.”

    Why would you make that assumption? Couldn’t the price just has easily have gone up because the lease on the CEO’s jet needs to be renewed? Of course everyone wants to blame Obamacare because that’s what has been getting all the press lately.

    It’s like when I upgrade someone’s computer by adding more memory and then they come back two days later and say it has all these viruses on the computer. “But you were the one that touched it last!” So, you’re 15 year old son hasn’t been on the computer, downloading apps and visiting sites he shouldn’t go to?

    But little Bobby, like the health care companies, would never do anything wrong. It must be that tech who was in here last week to try to make my computer better.

    • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/21/2013 - 10:19 am.

      Increases

      Previous premium increases averaged something like 4% per year. If your premiums went up much more than that this year, then you should look for what is different this year. Any reasonable person would suspect that the huge piece of legislation that altered the health care market would have something to do with prices of policies.
      Or, to put it another way, I can show how increased coverage, both in scope and number and condition of people would cause price increases. Can you point to an increase in jets for CEO’s of health care companies?

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 12/24/2013 - 09:06 am.

      Memory Upgrade?

      There are those of us with sufficient memory to remember the President’s promise that American families will save an average of $2500 per year under Obamacare. A substantial savings, real money for families, while insuring 30 million uninsured Americans and giving no sway to pre-existing conditions. Do you remember that? Do you remember believing that?

      If your premium increased by more than the typical 5% or 10%, you look to what other factors are in play. There are a lot of people unhappy because, while they hoped for a free lunch, they got stuck with the bill,

      Todd, it seems that your memory upgrade did not address the customer’s computer problem. You might want to ask the questions about little Bobby before you diagnose the problem.

  3. Submitted by Frankie Barbella on 12/19/2013 - 02:30 pm.

    That is nuts!

    Mr. Hintz, where is your evidence that proves current medical insurance rate increases are not in some fashion due to the ACA?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/19/2013 - 04:13 pm.

      Nuts Indeed

      Where’s your evidence supporting that it is? I’m not making a claim either way–I’m just asking those who do, such as the person who wrote this piece, to back it up.

  4. Submitted by T J Simplot on 12/19/2013 - 02:31 pm.

    Not an assumption

    Mr. Hintz. It is not an assumption that the ACA raised premiums. It is a fact. Under the old model of health insurance, companies could deny individuals who were poor risks. That means that the majority of people who were on those plans were healthy and did not have a lot of claims. That kept costs down. Under the new model, companies can no longer deny anyone due to a preexisting condition. That means the claims pool is going to have more sick people in it thus causing more claims. By the way, I’m not saying it is a bad thing that insurance now has to cover everyone, just that there is a cost for doing so.

  5. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 12/19/2013 - 02:50 pm.

    Ms. Helbling is free to attribute however she wants

    But that doesn’t make it true.

    She states “My premium increased $108 from $454/month to $562/month with no change in benefits, including no free preventative coverage.”. But the ACA requires most health plans to cover recommended preventive services without cost sharing. In addition, the ACA prohibits charging different rates based on preexisting conditions; a huge advantage if you have to shop for insurance and aren’t healthy (which she does acknowledge).

    We saw our premium decrease slightly, with lower copays but higher deductible (without any credits). I could have chosen a lower deductible at a higher premium, but with our (good) health history, a higher deductible made better sense. We could have lowered our premium even more, but we wanted a plan with a wider geographic coverage.

    Who do I blame for my lower premium?

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/19/2013 - 04:47 pm.

      Blame Him!

      I was chatting with some coworkers the other day and the boss commented that her snow blower wouldn’t start. Another coworker chimed in sarcastically with “thanks, Obama.”

      Hilarity ensued.

  6. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/19/2013 - 04:40 pm.

    Universal

    Instead of complaining about the current state of health care, why aren’t people advocating for a better system? I agree that Obamacare is imperfect, but the solution isn’t to go back to the way things were (that sucked more), but rather move ahead and get a universal single payer plan implemented. Open up Medicare to everyone.

    No one likes a crabby pants who sits in the corner and complains about every little thing. Instead be a positive agent for change. make your voice heard that you want a single payer universal government run system coupled with outcome-based compensation. If enough people advocate for it the politicians will listen despite what the entrenched lobbyists say and we’ll get it done.

    • Submitted by Lance Groth on 12/19/2013 - 06:20 pm.

      Because it’s politically toxic?

      Medicare for all may have been the way it should have been done, but given the total debacle of the Obamacare rollout, asking people to support not only government-mandated but government-run health insurance is going to be about as well received as an IRS tax audit, despite that Medicare works fairly well.

      I’m one who supported Obamacare, and still does (in the absence of a better plan), but honestly, it might have been better if it had never happened, simply because the fumbled implementation has set the whole cause back, oh, decades, probably. The thing has been fubared from top to bottom, and it’s going to take some time for people to get over the bad taste. I’m afraid Obamacare has become quite the Christmas gift to the Repubs.

      • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/19/2013 - 10:29 pm.

        ACA

        I hear ya there, man. Were it me, I would have negotiated a different plan and rolled it out in a completely different way. I work in IT and have been involved in big roll-outs like this and have to say that ACA and MNSure aren’t that unusual. Big systems like this are complex as every company has their own database templates they use, and tables and fields can be a pain to map from one DB to the next. Then multiply it times each company and government agency in the mix. And as if all that isn’t enough, do it in real time instead of daily batch processing.

        If it’s sold right though, even this debacle can put a lot of egg on Republican’s faces. This is the plan they championed for twenty years as the free market solution. And it certainly would have gone a lot smoother if they had backed it instead of fighting it every step of the way.

        It’s a stick widget no matter how you look at it. In the meantime, pass me another bowl of popcorn and don’t spare the butter and salt!

        • Submitted by Erik Petersen on 12/20/2013 - 09:57 am.

          ACA

          PPACA in all its grotesque glory was not a “Republican idea”.

          Heritage and the GOP kicked around the idea of the individual mandate in the early 90’s.

          What they did not propose was guaranteed issue and plan standardization in a way that jacks up base rates the way ObamaCare does.

          • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/20/2013 - 12:12 pm.

            ACA

            What, they expected to reap all the benefits of new customers without having to give up anything in return? That’s just plain silly! Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re saying the mandate goes through and that’s OK. But if the public expects to get something in return for forcing people to accept insurance on the open market, you’re not OK with that.

            I’m sorry, but that looks like a classic case of big business feeding at the public trough. Privatize profits and socialize losses. That flies in the face of the whole nature of the democratic process where you give a little to get a little.

            Personally, I think the Heritage Foundation plan, Obamacare, and for-profit insurance are all failures when it comes to health care. None of them address compensation reform nor the profit factor in our current system, both of which are necessary if we’re going to see some real improvements in health care while bringing costs down. Quite frankly, it would have been far better if Obama had scrapped the Heritage plan and gone straight for single payer.

            • Submitted by Erik Petersen on 12/20/2013 - 02:35 pm.

              They are not similar

              No, that’s not what I said.

              I said that PPACA having an individual mandate does not make it in any way a ‘Republican idea’, as you would like to claim. There are important differences that obviate any similarity to the old Heritage plan, guaranteed issue being a big one – good, bad, or indifferent.

              • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/20/2013 - 04:06 pm.

                Heritage

                So how do the plans differ? It seems I’m missing something obvious here and you appear to have the answers and I’m more than happy to be educated to dispel my misconceptions.

                The floor is yours.

  7. Submitted by Carol Logie on 12/19/2013 - 05:18 pm.

    Why is ACA to blame?

    … when she’s also saying that she hasn’t finished the application process? This is an honest question…. I’m confused about how the author can say ACA has had a negative effect on her healthcare when she may (or may not) be eligible for a subsidy?

    It seems to me that she has a legitimate beef with the crappy bridge plan that her current insurance company trotted out (not the fault of ACA), and doesn’t actually know yet how the ACA will affect her. I do agree that the application process sounds horrific, and I am truly sorry that she’s been put through so much.

    I hope MinnPost will ask the author what she thinks after she has her MNSure plan and the final costs are in place. I hope we hear a happier story in a few months.

  8. Submitted by Mark Kulda on 12/20/2013 - 01:26 pm.

    You do understand that Medicare for all won’t work, right?

    Todd, You need to take a much bigger picture look at this.
    You do realize that Medicare reimbursement rates don’t even cover the cost of the care provided, right? So getting providers to eagerly sign up for complete national medical expansion is not going to happen. There would be zero incentive to engage in medical innovation. The system as it is will eventually collapse because even with not paying the providers the cost of actual service, the system is not bringing in enough revenue to pay all the claims and at some point it will have to be fixed. AND, the largest single denier of health care in America is …..not some for profit health insurer with a jet-setting CEO, but Medicare itself. It is not the panacea you make it out to be and single payer at a scale the size of the US would be disaster for Americans.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/20/2013 - 02:54 pm.

      Single Payer

      Mark, I would beg to disagree with you. Why? For the simple reason that there a lot of countries out there who already have universal systems in place that are doing just fine. And they provide better coverage for a lot lower cost and with better results than the American system. There’s no need to wring our hands about what may or may not work because we have reality to observe: real world examples that provide excellent known results. Now that’s not to say that their systems are perfect and don’t have their issues that need to be dealt with. But they’re more perfect than what we have now, more perfect than the system we just left, and more perfect than any other proposal I’ve seen out there.

      And these countries, such as Canada, the UK, Switzerland, and Norway, are still innovating new procedures, drugs, and equipment. No one’s trying to do surgery with a flashlight and a rusty Xacto blade or drilling teeth with a foot pumped drill.

      So let me toss a soft ball your way and see what you can do with it. If not Obamacare, Medicare, or a universal single payer system, what do you propose? Do you have anything you would care to share with your fellow Minnesotans?

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 12/22/2013 - 01:12 am.

        Its really quite simple

        If you can’t afford it, too bad, or hope that you can find some wealthy benefactor or charity to which you can beg for your life. That in a nutshell really is the conservative position in the matter. Its the full realization of the objectivist dogma that has swept the right for thirty years now. Only the strong (and lucky) deserve to survive. I know that I’ll be accused of hyperbole, but the deafening silence one encounters when the question of alternatives is posed to any anti affordable care act opiner speaks volumes. They realize the implications of their ideas, and for once realize just how damaging to their cause public knowledge of these implications would be.

  9. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 12/21/2013 - 02:53 pm.

    Big surprise?

    I had the same problems signing up for Medicare. First they said my income was too high for the basic premium costs, then they said it wasn’t, then it was, then I needed to send them a copy of my tax return. It all got straightened out eventually, but as I’d made a point of starting the application process EARLY I wasn’t stuck in panic mode at any point.

    If you want a real horror show of screw-ups, there are a lot worse things out there than MNsure. Be patient. Avoid drama.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 12/23/2013 - 12:46 pm.

      None At All

      I work in a theater and frequently tell people to keep the drama on the stage.

      Years ago I worked for a large consulting company and we built a system for one telco to interface with another. That was back in the day when people had just been allowed to keep their phone number as they jumped from one company to another and there were start-up telcos popping up all over the place. Some executive ran the numbers, figured we could make a fortune by charging transfer fees to move a customer from Company A to Company B, and off to the races we went to build this colossal system.

      After spending a lot of money for equipment and salaries the project eventually got up and running, but like the Obamacare web sites it wasn’t smooth nor pretty. There were a lot of problems interfacing with the Baby Bells as they weren’t too happy that customers were jumping ship left and right. Processing was slow as it was done on a nightly batch process and any little hiccup in the system brought the whole thing to a halt at 2 AM. They then tried to save money by growing their office in the Philippines and moving functions to Asia, the philosophy being that then we could have development moving forward 24×5. All it really meant is that the poor person who was on call would be up half the night babysitting these people as they didn’t know what they were doing 90% of the time.

      Eventually the system got stabilized and running properly, although it never posted the rosy sales numbers management had predicted. Long after I left (thankfully) the consulting company became a Microsoft partner. That meant all our equipment had to run a Microsoft OS, which in turn meant porting all our servers from Unix to Server 2003. Unix is a very stable platform and its servers only need to be rebooted every couple of years. MS, on the other hand, has constant issues and should be rebooted once a week just to refresh it.

      The whole notion that government is incompetent and can do nothing right while private industry is this great innovator is simply a myth. Both can be great innovators and both can turn a pile of gold into night shade in the blink of an eye. I know I’ll turn blue in the face waiting, but I still hold out hope that we can around this whole narrative that “gub’mint is bad.”

      • Submitted by Peder DeFor on 12/24/2013 - 07:32 am.

        Public vs Private Sectors

        I don’t know anyone that thinks that the private sector can’t screw things up. History, even recent history, is full of examples of big private projects that have failed. There are some important differences though, aren’t there?
        If AcmeCo screws up the roll out of some new slice of service, they don’t have the power of the law to compel people to keep using them anyway. Customers will go to a competitor find some kind of alternative. If the government messes up health care, where do people go? (To a different country, apparently, which is why the US gets so many people from all over the world coming here for top medical care. You don’t hear many stories of US citizens going to the UK for their health needs though.)
        And that’s not all. Companies usually run into trouble when they go outside of their core competency. The government (or the people that think government shouldn’t be limited) apparently thinks that *nothing* is outside of their core competency. If you want police, armies, courts and other traditional government functions, the State is the way to go. Outside of that it gets chancy.
        Not to mention the rules that the federal government has saddled itself when it comes to choosing vendors or hiring IT. If a place like Google wants to create something new then they can go out hire the best and the brightest. They also have enough institutional culture to test the heck out of it before they put it in front of the public…
        Have you read much of the timeline for how the Obamacare website was developed? About just when big policy things were decided for the project? Or when it was decided that users should be protected from prices until they’d added their info? It’s very clear that no one on the Obama team has any experience with implementing a project of this scope. Why, back in 2010 or so, the President didn’t talk some exec from e-surance to spearhead the exchange is beyond me.
        In hindsight, it’s no surprise that this has been such a spectacular failure.

  10. Submitted by tiffany vanvorken on 12/26/2013 - 06:30 am.

    cost

    my daughter was paying $125/month. now, for the same coverage, she has to pay $195/month.
    Obamacare in action.

  11. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 12/26/2013 - 02:07 pm.

    That’s actually the insurance companies in action

    My own coverage sometimes jumped by that amount WITHOUT Obamacare.

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