ObamaCare method #4: The paper application doesn’t work, either

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:


Strike four?

Regular readers of this space will know I have been chronicling the failures of the “4 ways to get marketplace coverage.” For example, in addition to the website (which is broken), we have documented that the 1-800 number doesn’t work — and that the “navigators” also can’t sign you up (without a working Healthcare.gov website).

As you might have guessed, an investigation into the fourth option, mail, was in order. And to continue the sports metaphor, they’re now 0-for-4.

Try filing out this application. Really. I’ll wait. You’re going to burn a lot of calories in the process. And here’s the funny part: Even though you can begin the process now via mail, you won’t be able to actually sign up for a plan without a working website or 1-800 number. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You’d probably have to be an accountant to understand the application. But even after completing the pages and pages of questions, the process is only just beginning. The application only tells them if you’re eligible.

See “step 6” of the instructions (and note the highlighted part) below, which reads: “You’ll get information on how to enroll in a plan (if you’re eligible) when you get your eligibility results.”

Marketplace App Final Step 10-28-13

After completing the sixth step on the application — and sending it in (and assuming it arrives), you will next be contacted with eligibility results.

And assuming you are, in fact, eligible, you’ll still have to go to Healthcare.gov or call the 1-800 number to select that plan. (As the healthcare.gov website says: “Once you get your eligibility notice, you can either go online to compare, choose, and enroll in a plan or contact our call center.)

Go online? What’s the point of the mail alternative as a website workaround if you still have to go online??

To confirm this is actually the process, Dave Petno, a healthcare guru who has been helping us document the system’s challenges, called the 1-800 number and talked to a supervisor about the paper application.

Listen to his conversation with the supervisor — and read the transcript below. I think you’ll see that a). this is a byzantine process, and b). it is clear that the three “alternate” ways to sign up for ObamaCare are actually all contingent on having a working website:


Dave: After step six, it says “mail it in,” and then it says “Next steps: you’ll get information on how to enroll in a plan, if you’re eligible, when you get your eligibility results.”  So what does that mean?

Supervisor: It means that after the marketplace reviews your application, you’ll be notified about which programs or lower (inaudible 0:20) that you may qualify for and how to compare plans and enroll in a plan.

Dave: So are you saying they’ll be sending me quotes through the mail or…how’s that going to work?

Supervisor: No, you’ll probably either, however you choose to be notified of the information in the application that actually gives you that way…either you’re going to receive it by email or if you want it to be sent by paper…that general information will be sent to you. Or you can contact us and find out what the status of your application is, and if we have the information available at that point in time, we’d be able to provide you with the information about what you had qualified for.

Dave: And to feed that back to you, when I get the eligibility notice, however I get it, what do I do next?

Supervisor: The information is that once you receive that notice, it actually has information about giving us a call, which is (inaudible 1:16) to compare plans and do all that or you’re able to actually go online and create a (inaudible 1:20) account to send the information that way.

Dave: So if I call you back with this paper notice, you’re going to take my information…and then what are you going to do with it?

Supervisor: We should be able to assist you with not only providing you or notifying you about the program that you qualify for, but also allow you to or assist you with comparing the plans and enrolling with the plan of your choice.

Dave: Are you going to be using healthcare.gov to take my information at that time? Are you plugging me into healthcare.gov?

Supervisor: We are going to be using the information because that whole plan comparison and everything like that is on healthcare.gov, so whether you apply through healthcare.gov or use a paper application, we’re still able to assist you.

Dave: Okay, but either way, we go back through healthcare.gov, is that right?

Supervisor: Correct, that’s where the plans are available at.

Dave: So once I call you back with my eligibility file or plug it in, then it tells me my options and how to actually get insurance, is that right?

Supervisor: You mean on the healthcare.gov site after you’ve received the eligibility results?

Dave: Yes.

Supervisor: Right, you’re able to compare and select a plan there, or you’re able to give us a call, and we’re able to assist you (inaudible 2:44).

Dave: Okay, and then once I select a plan, do I give you my credit card number or put it into healthcare.gov?

Supervisor: No, it’s not. We don’t do any type of payments over the phone. That is made directly with the plan.

Dave: Okay. And how does that happen?

Supervisor: You would contact the plan or the plan would give you a call in regards to the application that you filed with them.

Dave: Okay, and then I validate what plan it is that I want and then I pay them somehow?

Supervisor: Correct, yes sir.

Dave: And then I would have coverage starting….what’s the earliest date coverage is?

Supervisor: January 1st.

Dave: Okay. Alright, I appreciate it. You’ve cleared it up for me. Thank you so much.

Matt K. Lewis