Yesterday my wife had no trouble signing up for a Silver LIfewise health insurance plan through Cover Oregon. So, yay, Obamacare!
True, Laurel didn't sign up online, which isn't possible yet.
She tried soon after Cover Oregon went live October 1. Didn't get very far. Couldn't even find a Certified Agent via the web site who could enroll her. Search turned up nothing, even for Salem.
But now the "Agent Search" page seems to be working fine. My wife met yesterday afternoon with someone from Valley Insurance Professionals, which has several Certified Agents. She came home satisfied.
Especially compared with the frustrating experience she had trying to get some simple answers from Regence Blue Cross of Oregon.
We've had individual policies with Regence for many years. I recently became Medicare eligible, so am happy to have escaped from the Hell That is Regence (I do, however, have a Regence Medicare Advantage plan, which is a whole different thing from a Regence individual policy).
Regence had sent a letter to my wife saying that her policy was going to be discontinued, so she was required to choose another plan. Laurel will be Medicare-eligible herself next June. Thus she only needed a policy for less than a year.
At first we thought, "Why not stick with a Regence plan?" But it didn't take long to realize that Regence was just as screwed up now, as it has been in the past.
Lots of people are complaining that Obamacare isn't working. Hey, let's be clear: traditional private health insurance coverage hasn't been working right for forever! We can testify to that, having had problem after problem with Regence denying us coverage when it shouldn't have, and raising rates while cutting benefits year afer year.
(Eventually Regence paid for my wife's dry eye medication and for my colonoscopy, but it took us a lot of time and energy to get them to do the right thing.)
A few days ago Laurel spent hours on the phone with surprisingly clueless Regence of Oregon employees.
She had a simple question: are my primary care physican and allergist part of the provider panel that Regence wants her to switch to, having done away with Laurel's individual policy -- which ends January 1, I believe (she had until November 1 to make a decision about what Regence plan, if any, to switch to).
Astoundingly, for quite a while no one could tell her.
I could hear her end of the conversation, which eventually ended up with familiar words when we speak to Regence staff: "I'm sorry if I'm sounding upset, but I am. You guys are just astoundingly difficult to deal with. I realize it isn't your fault, but something is really wrong with how Regence is managed."
After being transferred to several people, Laurel finally learned that her primary care physician, a highly competent female family doctor we both like a lot, isn't on any of the new provider networks that Regence has set up.
It turned out that her doctor wasn't even aware of what Regence had done -- omitted her from the provider networks. Not a smart management move, if an insurance company wants to stay in the good graces of doctors.
That was a deal-killer for Laurel, being told by Regence of Oregon that she'd have to switch primary care doctors if she wanted to sign up for another individual policy after Regence did away with her old one.
Fortunately, Obamacare and Cover Oregon came to the rescue. The Valley Insurance Professionals agent signed her up for a LifeWise policy that not only is $60 or so cheaper than the plan Regence was offering, but...
-- lets her stay with her current doctors
-- has a considerably lower deductible
-- covers prescription drugs much more generously
Probably this Lifewise policy, or something like it, has been out there for purchase before Obamacare came along. Not for Laurel, though, because she has some pre-existing conditions, just as almost everybody who is 64 years old does.
So we've been stuck with Regence of Oregon all these years.
Though we hated how we were treated by Regence, we couldn't cancel our individual policies. There's no way we could have gotten affordable coverage, or likely any coverage at all, from another insurance company because of the pre-existing condition exclusion.
There must be lots of people like us.
Millions, maybe. No way do we and they want to go back to the bad old days of being screwed over by insurance companies. Contrary to the misinformation being spread by Tea Party types, now there is much more free market competition in the health insurance market, not less.
Laurel has shopped around on Cover Oregon. Compared the policies there with what Regence of Oregon has to offer. Made her choice. Goodbye Regence. Hello Lifewise.