Some Americans are going online to say they have somehow applied for public exchange health coverage in the past few days.
Some say they bypassed the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) websites and kept calling the exchange call centers until they reached helpful live humans.
Some claim to have actually bought coverage through exchange websites.
One user of Reddit.com, a Web-based news discussion site, claimed to have gotten an entire family signed up for coverage with a $3,000 annual deductible for $354 per month.
Many other consumers have succeeded at getting the application process started by setting up accounts.
This reporter managed to get into the overloaded HealthCare.gov site for the federally run New Jersey PPACA exchange around 4 a.m. this morning.
The process was similar in some ways to the account creation process on other shopping sites, but, in part because of PPACA quirks and the privacy concerns involved with transmission of personal health and personal financial information through the Internet, much different in other ways.
There was no obvious way, for example, for a user to simply enter a ZIP code and see a list of the exchange carriers offering either health coverage or stand-alone dental plans in all or part of New Jersey. For now, a user has to get through the major medical application process just to see the dental plan menu.
The eligibility information verification process also seems more formidable than exchange critics were predicting earlier this summer.
When the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) postponed an employer benefits reporting mandate this summer, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials emphasized that they would be able to use other sources of information, including information from the IRS and the Equifax credit bureau, to verify users’ application information.
Today, the exchange showed users what kind of information it had on them on an identity verification page. At one point, the exchange asked this reporter to verify whether she really was “Allison L. Bell” by giving a list of cities where the reporter could have lived and asking which one she had lived in before she moved to the New York area. The exchange also asked several other multiple-choice identity verification questions based on IRS or credit bureau data.
Other eligibility questions also set HealthCare.gov apart. On one page, the exchange required the reporter to indicate whether she agreed with the statement that, “No one applying for health coverage on this application is incarcerated (detained or jailed).”
PPACA lets carriers charge individual coverage to tobacco users more than they charge other buyers.
Instead of simply asking whether applicants have used tobacco in the past six months, the New Jersey exchange asks the applicant, “Within the past 6 months, have you used tobacco regularly (4 or more times per week on average, excluding religious or ceremonial uses)?”