Sure, you've heard the horror stories of people trying to get on the exchanges and running into website problems, but Colorado is different. Colorado's website actually works very well. It lets you estimate your tax credit and view policies at the reduced price without even starting an account. So what's wrong? A bureaucratic board of directors chose an insane process that has turned my experience (and I think maybe many others) into a nightmare.
I believe it is so bad, the Republicans in Colorado will be able to turn Colorado from a blue state to a red state in 2014. The good news; Governor Hickenlooper can step up to the plate to take charge and fix it!
Here's how this insane system works. You go to the website, examine the policies with your tax credit estimate in place, then get ready to actually apply for the credit. Here's where it gets really crazy.
If you want to get the tax credit applied to your monthly premium, you first have to apply for Medicaid, and then be rejected by the Medicaid office! It's in the Medicaid office where the entire system collapses! Let me be clear from the start, I don't want Medicaid and I'm not eligible for Medicaid, but I still have to apply.
On Oct 11 I applied for Medicaid. 17 pages and numerous hours of income information, and page after page concerning assets like bank accounts, brokerage accounts, car ownership, house ownership… I have a bizarre income situation so I made sure our household income was 160% of the poverty level, far above the 138% max for eligibility in the Medicaid system.
After waiting 6 1/2 weeks and not seeing any change in my application status, I decided I needed to call and find out what was going on. After several calls and not being able to get through, I suspect there are many in my situation, I finally got through. The conversation went something like this:
ME: Hi, I'm trying to find the status of my application so I can get the rejection number to use in the health exchange so I can purchase some insurance.
ASSISTANT: Let me look at your status. It's still in process but congratulations it looks like you're going to be accepted for Medicaid. ME: What? I don't want Medicaid, I want to actually pay for some of my insurance on the exchange. Surely all the assets I listed must have excluded my eligibility?
ASSISTANT: We don't look at assets, we just look at income.
ME: Than why did I spend several hours filling out 10 pages of asset information?
ASSISTANT: I'm sorry that's the way the system works.
ME: Well our household income was higher than the Medicaid max.
ASSISTANT: I have you down for $5,000.
ME: That was my income last year but I'll make sure it's much higher this year, and our household income was 160% of the poverty level.
ASSISTANT: I have your household income as $5,000.
ME: That's incorrect, I just pulled my application up on the website and you forgot to add my wife's income.
ASSISTANT: I don't have access to that information.
ME: You can't look at my application on your website? The same one that I'm looking at right now?
ASSISTANT: That's right, I can't see that.
ME: Can we amend my income, since that was last years?
ASSISTANT: We don't go by last years we go by what you expect to make this year.
ME: What is the maximum I can make this year?
ASSISTANT: I believe it's just over $15,000.
ME: Let's amend my income to $16,000 then.
ASSISTANT: I can't do that, I think you're lying to me.
ME: No really, I can control my income like that and I'll make sure it's at least $16,000. And keep in mind I'm trying NOT to get the free Medicaid, and am trying to actually pay for some of my insurance.
ASSISTANT: I'm sorry Sir, I can't do that, I still think you're lying to me.
ME: Ok, how about we amend the household income to what it actually says on the application?
ASSISTANT: OK Sir, but I can't actually amend your application, but I'll put in a request for someone else to amend it.
The next day, I go to my mailbox and I find not 1 but 2 letters that had been sent from the Medicaid office. One is requesting that I provide proof of my "Identification", while the other requests I provide proof of "Citizenship". Now nowhere in the letters does it say anything about what documents would be needed for these requests. I'm not exactly sure what it even means to provide proof if my "Identification", but I'm trying to figure out if I could provide proof of my citizenship, and still not have an Identity?
The following day I go to my mailbox and find 4 more letters requesting proof of my Citizenship.
In the mean time, I've written several emails to the spokesman of the board of directors for the Colorado health exchange keeping him informed of the ongoing circus extraordinaire, which he has politely forwarded to Medicaid asking them to fix the problem. After several more calls to the Medicaid office, begging them not to give me Medicaid and pleading that they amend their database so I can be rejected, get my rejected case number, and get on with purchasing a policy on the exchange, in yesterday's mail I received my Medicaid card from the Medicaid office.
All of this because someone decided to UNNECESSARILY dump 10 times the normal work load on a Medicaid office which was already broke. The board of directors for the health exchange has publicly stated that the ACA requires this process and they need a waiver from Secretary Sebelius. I don't believe this to be true.
I really fear that this is so broken that others might have similar horror stories and that it will turn Colorado red in 2014. Governor Hickenlooper should call the Secretary and/or the Whitehouse and get the waiver today! He should then call the board of directors and the software people from the exchange into his office and have them bypass this insane Medicaid application system. There would be a huge flood of purchases on the exchange and Colorado could go from the worst exchange in the country to one of the best.