Unless you’ve been living under a rock since October 1, you’ve heard that Healthcare.gov, the site where Americans can shop for health insurance, had a rocky start in life. OK, it was an epic mess.

I was one of the people who was eager to jump on the site on October 1, since I haven’t had health insurance since I completed cancer treatment in 2008. That cancer diagnosis and treatment put me in the pre-existing condition pile, which put renewal insurance premiums for my individual coverage at an eye-popping level. You can read the details on that here. On October 1, I hopped on my Mac, and surfed over to Healthcare.gov … and had the same experience everyone else seemed to be having:

healthcare.gov error message image

image credit: forbes.com

That continued over the following seven days, with me developing a nice little flat spot on my forehead from head/desk-ing my way through many attempts per day at getting past the first step of creating a profile on the site. Even when I had completed that process of creating a profile, every time the site announced “Success! Click here to continue.” I clicked “there” and … got a blank page.

On October 8, I realized that I, and the site’s developers, might have missed something. I was using Google Chrome, my default browser, and the dominant browser across the web. Could it be that the dim bulbs that built the Frankenstein that is the Healthcare.gov site optimized the site only for native browsers? I opened Safari, and discovered that yes, they were indeed that dim, because even though the site loaded at the speed of a slug on Quaaludes, it did load. And “Success!” allowed me to continue the enrollment process. No blank pages.

I re-enacted scenes from 1995, when I would log on to Netscape to download email on my dial-up connection: open the page, hit “go,” and then make coffee. When I returned with a hot cup of joe, I’d repeat the process on each subsequent page, working in another tab while the site loaded the next page in the process. I managed to complete the entire enrollment process, save for the last “pull the trigger” step of hitting the ENROLL button, because I wanted to make sure I had the money for my first month’s premium available. Which turned out to be unnecessary, since when I did hit the ENROLL button, I got a message saying that my selected insurer would be contacting me about billing. That conversation happened a few days ago, and I’ve paid my first month’s premium.

As of January 1, 2014, I’ll have health insurance again for the first time since December 31, 2008. WIN.

Here is the upside of what I saw in my voyage through Healthcare.gov:

  • Even though my state is one that announced it “hated Obamacare, would not be building its own marketplace, and we hate Obamacare,” there was a wide array of plans offered to me.
  • I could compare plans side-by-side.
  • Premiums were a wide range, with some surprises: the lowest-premium Bronze Plan had 0% co-insurance (I wasn’t on the hook for a percentage of cost on covered services), with higher premium plans tagged with 25% co-insurance.

Here’s the thing that made me go “WTF?”:

  • Only the Bronze Plans are HSA-friendly. HSA=Health Savings Account, essentially 401(k)s for healthcare. Individuals can sock away $3,300/year (in 2014) of pre-tax money in a dedicated savings account for healthcare costs, with people over 55 allowed to sock away an additional $1,000 for a total of $4,300 in 2014. Since all the Bronze Plans I was offered had deductibles of $5,500 or more, with the plan I selected carrying a $6,350 deductible, it would seem reasonable – fairer? – to allow consumers to fund their HSAs annually to match the level of their deductible.

On the whole, this is a big win for me, and other uninsured people who fell into the “pre-existing condition” bucket. By the way, just being female was considered a pre-existing condition until the Affordable Care Act passed. In spite of the views of Fox News talking heads (all male, of course), gender equality needs to exist in all phases of public life, including health insurance.

Bottom line? I win.

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