The first time I spoke with Charlene Brousseau, she was trying to sign up for health insurance through Healthcare.gov. It was the much-anticipated launch day for the federal health insurance marketplace on Oct. 1, and though the site was glitchy, she remained optimistic.
When I followed up with her a few weeks later, Brousseau, who splits her time between Manchester, Maine and Florida, sounded like a different woman. Her high spirits had given way to utter frustration after repeated troubles with the website and multiple failed applications. In her words at the time, “It’s been a horror show.”
Brousseau, at 61, is four years away from qualifying for Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. Until then, she has to buy her own plan.
I just spoke to Charlene again, and much of the desperation has left her voice. She signed up for a health plan through Healthcare.gov, with help from Maine Community Health Options, a member-run health insurance organization based in Lewiston. She’s one of about 1,750 Mainers who have picked a plan through the site so far, according to federal data released yesterday.
By dropping her Anthem plan and switching to an MCHO plan, Charlene expects to cut her monthly costs by more than half. If she’d stayed with Anthem, her monthly premium would have topped $1,000 next year, she said. With the federal subsidies she qualified for, Charlene will pay a fraction of that premium and her deductible, formerly about $2,000, totals less than $500. Her out-of-pocket costs will also be manageable, she said, and she bought dental insurance with the money she saved.
It’s a long way from the low points she experienced earlier in the process. At one point, she was told both that she wouldn’t qualify for a subsidy and that if she did, it would be small.
“I was almost in tears because I couldn’t believe this,” Charlene said of her change in fortunes.
Still, I didn’t hear any big sighs of relief. She’s still waiting to receive the paperwork on her new MCHO plan, and she needs to submit her first payment on time for her coverage to take effect by the new year. She’ll feel a lot better once she has those documents in hand, she said, riffing on a line from Jerry Maguire.
“Show me the paper,” she said.