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PPACA FAQ: Call for questions

This post introduces and explains a new series, “PPACA FAQ” which is a joint venture between The Confluence and Corrente.  lambert, the proprietor of Corrente, is the author and “I” in the post below:


KatieBird and I, with assists from Hipparchia and Rainbow Girl, are starting a new series, whose title is as you see:

PPACA is, of course, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” which, being none of those things (except a big Act), is informally known as ObamaCare.

FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions (origin on USENETexample from the IRS).

So, our concept is to pose and then answer questions about the PPACA (ObamaCare), for two reasons:

  • People need help, and AFAIK only conservatives are offering it.
  • People should also understand that ObamaCare’s complexity just doesn’t have to be, and that single payer is a real and better alternative.

So this is the plan:

1. A regular Monday post that summarizes ACA (ObamaCare) news from the previous week, and looks ahead to the coming week. This will be especially important as deadlines for opening the exchanges, and then for signing up (or deciding to take the penalty) approach.

2. A regular Tuesday post from lambert that poses and answers at least one question (and includes a plug for single payer at the end!)

3. A regular Thursday post from katiebird that does the same.

4. At the end of each month, we compile the posts into an eBook.

5. FAQs will be cross-posted to (or from) The Confluence.

(KatieBird and I worked this out in a conference call today. We might also have regular chats and conference calls if enough people want to get involved.)

Needless to say, we’d welcome other regular posters: Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are still open!

So, readers, what are some of the questions you’d like answered? Maybe we can put them in the FAQ! Let us know in comments.

NOTE * The ObamaCare Survival Guide comes from the right. The rest of “the left” is too busy defending Obama to worry about how the rest of us poor shlubs are going to be affected.

NOTE I really have to confess to complete fear and loathing for the whole process. I don’t know how to buy health insurance. It’s a mystery to me (and I don’t buy into the whole “informed consumer” myth anyhow). So any question I would come up with woud be very, very basic. I might start with the prototype website and work through it. But I would also really, really welcome an explainer about the metals and how to compare them from somebody who really understands that stuff [cough] Hipparchia or [cough] Katiebird. Then I could take bits of that post and amplify them.


This post was originally posted at Corrente. Questions &  comments are welcome and encouraged at both blogs. (Katiebird)

27 Responses

  1. I know a source in the health care insurance biz. She might be able to provide information.

    • That would be wonderful!! Can I send questions through you?

      • We can compile a list and I’ll ask her about them. She doesn’t sell insurance. She’s on the side that looks at your plan and decides whether you’re covered for treatment. She was very helpful to me when I was dealing with the kid’s hospitalization when I had questions like, “What do I do when the company rejects a claim?” “What is the appeal process like?” “How persistent to I have to be to get it covered?” “Why do you hate chiropractors?” You know, really important questions like that.

  2. One other thing: When I was shopping for my own healthcare insurance, I went online to eHealthInsurance or whatever that thing’s called. What I got was a lot of phone calls from different agents and there was no way for me to verify who these people represented. There was one guy who sounded pretty slick on the phone and something he said about setting up an LLC or incorporation for self-employment made me curious about him. So I googled him and found out that he was one of those ultra conservative Republican 2nd amendment gun nuts.
    What I would like to see is a database of who the agents are and their agendas because they wouldn’t be selling insurance as a third party unless there was money in it for them and I’m pretty sure that there are lefty readers out there who would like to avoid enriching conservatives.

    • This insurance agent thing is actually going to be one of the early questions/answers ….

      “Navigators” … the people who will be trained on the details of ObamaCare CANNOT be insurance agents. At least, they can’t be licensed insurance agents with the ability of making money off the decisions people make when they purchase through The Exchanges.

      • Who is going to pay the navigators? Will this be a government job? With BENEFITS?? Will it be covered by a union? Contractor? Some overseas call center? I’d really have a problem with that. Who is going to be developing the software for the navigators to use? Are they US workers? Hired by the government? Can we get someone from the Social Security department to take a look at it? Or is it going to be private contractors like Accenture? Because that is like pork to the private sector that will be spent hiring some contracting company in Hyderabad with high turnover.
        Questions, questions. There are so many places in PPACA where the private industry can insert a money sucking proboscis.

        • This list is actually the basis for the series. (More later … we’re off for a walk)

        • I may be too cynical, but I think the Navigator program is walking around money for Obama-compliant non-profits. At this point we recall the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the contractors for Covered California, the key battleground state in the ObamaCare rollout.

    • That’s interesting about eHealthInsurance, because that source was used by Arik Roy (??) in Forbes when he wrote the article the Krugman, DeLong, et al jumped all over (obscuring the central point, that Roy got exactly right, that the PR really did compare apples to oranges).

      Another thing we might contribute is source assessment, along the lines of:

      Q: Is eHealthInsurance a reliable third-party source to compare insurance plans?

      A: [reasons stated by RD above]

      (I find that forcing myself to formulate questions really sharpens issues; that’s why the FAQ format).

      • I’m just telling you my personal experience. I too was directed to try eHealthInsurance. Once I filled out the form, I started getting all kinds of phone calls from agents. More than one of them was definitely on the “private insurance is the best thing since sliced bread, sucker!” bandwagon but I deliberately followed up on the one agent because I got an anti-tax vibe from him, not that I’m a fan of tons of taxation on the self-employed. It’s just that I’d rather not deal with a Grover Norquist fanatic with a Wayne LaPierre fetish.
        My best guess is your info goes into a database and agents who have access jump all over it. It was literally minutes after I clicked the OK button that I was inundated with phone calls from all over the country.
        I had much better luck going through the website of a local network insurance entity and calling them directly when I got stuck. The pre-existing condition for the kid wiped out any savings I had over COBRA (I don’t think I get dental with my current policy). Otherwise, the premium was going to be something like $325 for me alone. About the same price as a new car payment. That’s a human scale kind of measurement. How many cars could you get with your premium?

        One other thing I’d like to see is a measurement of how much government money is going to private entities through subsidies and insurance company premiums. For example, in chemistry, there is such a thing called “the propagation of error”. It’s a measurement of how precise your calculation is based on the margin of error of each individual measurement or calculation that went into your final number. (More important to physical chemistry). So, my question is, for every dollar of premium, subsidy, government program, how much of it goes to the private sector at each point in a health care transaction?

  3. One last tip: In my humble opinion, you’re better off going directly to the company instead of through an insurance agent. In the case of the agent, they’re not doing it for altruistic reasons. they’re making a living as a third party getting a fee for signing you up to an insurance carrier. I think we need to eliminate as many middle men as possible unless it is a non-profit group.

  4. This is a good idea!

  5. Thanks very much. I’m in the happy position of having no insurance, being entirely ignorant of how to buy health insurance (since when I had health insurance, it was through a group plan), and feeling complete fear and loathing for the entire process. So I’m at a baseline with millions of other Americans!

  6. I don’t think people realize flexible spending accounts are going away.

    • I’ve never had a grip on those flexible spending accounts.

    • I haven’t heard of them going away, only that there is a $2,500 cap on them.

      • The cap was $5,000 before and went down to $2,500 because I understand it is being phased out due to Obamacare. Would appreciate information about this as i have always used it to the max and was disheartened when it was cut in half this year.

  7. Some focuses and places where nobody has yet answered the questions….

    1. The affordability glitch. Spouses and children who are eligible for employer insurance are not eligible for subsidies. Is there anything people can do about this other than get a divorce?

    2. When is a raise really a raise? If citizens underestimate their wages, subsidies will have to be repaid. This can result in huge tax burdens for some people. How do you buy insurance in the context of NOT knowing how much it will really cost? We also need to find out how increases in income will affect the cost sharing subsidies for deductibles/copays.

    3. Being able to compare apples to apples. When the Wash rates came out , I said WTF. How can they be so low? And I figured it was just low-balling. They were all trying to come in low to get new subscribers who would otherwise just pay the penalty. NEXT year (2014) would be the real rate shock year because InsCo’s would have “unforeseen” costs….oh gosh we just didn’t know and now we have to raise our premiums 40%. But I think the other reason the rates are low is because Washington insurers have cut their provider networks as those in Cali did. People need to know that. They need to shop not just for insurance based on its cost but based on its NEW provider network.

    Just some things off the top of my head.

    • !! These are great questions — and proves how necessary this project is.

      (Thinking that I might call Sebelius’s office for suggestions on who to contact for some of the answers…..)

    • I remember that the place where I used to work used to take the Health Insurance Premiums (for families) out of employee’s First Check of the Month. But, then they did a survey to find out why so few of the entry level staff members were not covering their families.

      The answer?

      The health care premium was more than that first check!!! — More than 1/2 their pay!!! 1/2 !!! So, their answer was to start taking the premiums out of both checks.

      Yeah. THAT made it affordable!! (snort)

  8. Good on you Riverdaughter and your cohorts/allies for doing this. Obamacare = Obamascare = Obamascrew(you)…this sociopathic trickerating mutt has set USA health care back 50 years at least…but, of course, that was the plan from the start…

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