Persistence pays off on Health Insurance Marketplace

Lara Imler. Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage.

Lara Imler. Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage.

Despite the extensive problems with healthcare.gov, a few dozen Alaskans have managed to enroll in a health plan on the marketplace. Anchorage resident Lara Imler is one of them.

In 2004, Imler quit her job as an accountant to become a hair stylist. Now she rents space in a small salon in midtown Anchorage. She’s a lot happier cutting hair than she was sitting in front of a computer. But she does miss one big thing about her old job.

“I had health insurance with a pretty big corporate office for about six years and it was wonderful.”

Even without health insurance, Imler spends a lot of time in doctors’ offices. The 37 year old has Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. The treatments and blood work she needs are expensive, but not as expensive as monthly health premiums.

“Being self employed, getting my premium at anything reasonable, wasn’t happening. I think my last quote was $1200 a month for myself.”

Imler was determined to find a better deal on the new Affordable Care Act marketplace. She logged onto healthcare.gov a few days after it went live last month. She tried on and off for the first week but kept running into messages that the site was “unavailable.” So she decided to wait a few weeks. On October 24th, she logged back in and slowly started making her way through the process.

“So you get to a point where you finally get to pick what health insurance you want and all the buttons have to be double clicked. If you don’t know that or try that  it doesn’t go anywhere. It just sits there.”

Imler has a degree in computer programming. She’s even built a few Websites. She thinks that experience, helped her persevere through the trouble spots on healthcare.gov. About two hours after she started, she landed on a screen that told her she had successfully enrolled. She was pleasantly surprised by the price. Imler qualified for subsidies, and chose a mid-level plan that will cost her $110 a month.

“The website sucks, I’m not going to lie, it’s awful, it’s cumbersome, it’s a lot of work… but the idea that I might be able to afford health insurance, is huge to me.”

Imler is still waiting for enrollment confirmation from her new insurance company. She’s optimistic that will come soon. If it doesn’t, she’s willing to log back in to healthcare.gov to keep trying.

This story is part of a reporting partnership between APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

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