Obamacare: 'Working hard to help you get covered'

A reader writes to us about his experience trying to sign up for Obamacare.

Today I received the email below from the Health Insurance Marketplace and decided to go to the link to "preview Marketplace plans and prices."  I did so, indicating I was checking plans for "You and your spouse" in Palm Beach County, Florida. I was pleased to see a list of plans and prices come up.  For example the most expensive Platinum plan was "BlueOptions Everyday Health Premier 1418V" offered by Florida Blue (BlueCross BlueShield FL) at an estimated monthly premium of $937.36.  Unfortunately, there was nothing more descriptive about the plan than the cryptic name I quoted above.  There were no links for additional info about this or any of the other plans, so there was no information even about its deductible and coinsurance, never mind any more detailed info about the benefits.  So $937.36 gets you what? 

Then I realized that I was never asked anything at all about our ages.  So I wondered how a premium could be estimated without knowing whether we were twenty-somethings or middle aged.  I went on the Marketplace's Live Chat to find out, and here's the portion of the transcript dealing with that question:

[4:28:10 pm]: CALLER

So I phoned the Call Center.  Eventually the representative understood my questions and after confirming to me that the email I received was, in fact, a legitimate email from the Marketplace, we focused on how plan prices could be provided for my wife and me without knowing our ages.  After putting me on hold to consult with someone he came back to inform me that I should not rely at all on these prices because they were only provided to show people that Marketplace plans were more affordable than they might think in order to encourage them to open an account and actually compare plans, at which point the actual prices would be provided.

[4:31:31 pm]: CALLER

Great. Another question please. I received an email today from the Health Insurance Marketplace called "Working Hard to Get You Covered" which allowed me to preview plans and prices available in my state/county without logging in. I did that and it gave me plan names and prices, but I wonder how it was able to give prices without at least asking my age?

[4:30:12 pm]: Jessica

Due to the nature of your question, you will need to contact the Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center. Their telephone number is 1-800-318-2596. Representatives are available to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TTY users can call 1-855-889-4325

[4:30:54 pm]: Jessica

They can assist to verify the web address to verify if it came from the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Are you not familiar with that email?

[4:31:48 pm]: Jessica


[4:32:16 pm]: Jessica

I apologize for the inconvenience. Please contact the call center.

[4:33:20 pm]: CALLER

OK. Last question. I receive emails like this from Marketplace@healthcare.gov beacuse I signed up for them with my email address.  I believe I may have established a password for my account but I lost it. What do I do?

[4:33:57 pm]: Jessica

Contact the call center.

[4:34:28 pm]: CALLER

So you're telling me they have lots of info that you don't?

[4:35:04 pm]: Jessica

They can assit [sic] you with information that we cannot. We can only give general information.

I guess they are really working hard to help get us covered.

Postscript:  I relaunched the page from the email's "preview Marketplace plans and prices" link to price plans as an individual, rather than for me and spouse.  In the individual case I did need to choose whether I was aged under 50 or 50 and older.  For that same very top Blue Cross plan the individual premium estimates were $384.32 for age under 50 and $654.97 for 50 and over.  No combination of these resulted in the $937.36 price estimated for "You and your spouse."

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