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I've Saved Thousands of Dollars Waiting to Get on Obamacare

Obamacare is keeping health care costs down, by making it difficult to access exchanges.

10:02 AM, Mar 10, 2014 • By IKE BRANNON
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My wife woke up Saturday with a badly swollen knee. We had no idea what could have caused it—her hot yoga class puts her in poses that put stress on the knee but she didn't remember the knee hurting during her last session.

We called a friend who is an orthopedic surgeon who ventured a long-distance diagnosis— bursitis was his hunch—and recommended that before we go to the emergency room she give it rest and plenty of ice and see if the swelling recedes. After a few days it did, thankfully.

I am especially thankful because we don't have health insurance. For almost four months we have been waiting for the D.C. Health Exchange to process our application to purchase health insurance, and we are no nearer to having health insurance today than we were when we started the process.  And we have become adept at economizing on health spending as a result.

We applied for health insurance on the exchange in early November: that it took six or seven tries to get through the entire application on the exchange website was frustrating, albeit comical, but as January approached and no confirmation of our application was forthcoming it became worrisome. I called the exchange, which had no record of my application, and gave them my information over the phone. A few days I called back and they asked for my information again, and we repeated the process again the following week.  And then silence.

As January neared we obtained the services of a health exchange facilitator—a health insurance broker—who began badgering them on our behalf, and her efforts did produce responses from them, which I attribute to the complete contempt she exhibits for the D.C. health exchange that she doesn’t bother hiding in her communications with the exchange.

In the last two months a pattern has developed: we bother the people on the exchange, they assure me they are close to resolving my case, and tell me to call the health care provider in two or three days and all will be fixed. I wait the requisite amount of time, make the call, and am told that the D.C. exchange has not yet transmitted the necessary information to allow them to sell me insurance. I call the exchange back and the cycle begins anew.

In the meantime we are judicious in our health care spending: The other night our 2 year old came down with the croup and her fever spiked above 103. Normally that's when I panic and rush to the doctor, but this time we called the our pediatrician’s 24 hour nurse hotline, and the nurse suggested we give motrin and watch her closely for a couple hours to see if the fever breaks. Which it did, thankfully, saving us a few hundred dollars and reducing our nation's health care costs by a similar amount.

We've found other ways to economize on our health care spending too: my wife's begun taking her prescription medication (which costs $350 a month out of pocket) every 30 hours instead of once a day and thus far has not experienced any ill effects. We postponed our six year old's annual checkup and my annual melanoma exam. 

Not having insurance has saved us a couple thousand dollars the last two months, but a couple thousand dollars is a hit I can take: what worries me is that we're going to have a broken arm or a kidney stone or some true medical emergency that costs tens of thousands of dollars.

That's all I want health insurance for—true medical emergencies—but Obamacare precluded that option. And because of its rank incompetence I can't get any insurance at all.

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