Politicians and broadcasters talk about the health care crisis in sweeping terms. They shuttle back and forth between the Capitol and the White House, searching for the latest "fix" for a system that isn't working … and may be irretrievably broken.
That's the bird's eye view. I see it up close and personal because my family and friends are caught in this spider's web with no easy way out. And no one -- health insurers, government, websites - -I repeat, no one seems to care. These are our stories:
Entering the system
The foundation of Obamacare is to get young healthy people in their 20s and 30s to buy health insurance. Their enrollment is the cornerstone that will support older, sicker and poorer people who also must have this health coverage – spread the risk and spread the cost.
A friend's 27-year-old-son is the ideal candidate. He holds down both a full- and part-time job in education just to make ends meet. Using his computer skills, he also launched a website to help others find work.
But when he tried to navigate the HealthCare.gov website to review the plan offerings, he couldn't find an affordable one. He didn't qualify for the subsidy meant to help him pay. Finally he just gave up.
Unless something changes by March 31, he will pay the Obamacare penalty and do without health insurance in 2014.
Still in the system
Although divorced, my daughter remained on her ex-spouse's health insurance plan because she lives in Massachusetts. As part owner of a small business, she's well aware of the Bay State's health exchange, "The Connector," and advises friends, colleagues and clients to use it to buy insurance.
When her ex-spouse decided to change insurance plans, my daughter had to heed her own advice and logged on to The Connector. She reviewed the choices and chose a different option. She retained her policy and paid for COBRA, which allows her to extend her current coverage.
COBRA will cost more, but she has a medical condition that needs monitoring. After scrolling through the many plans and options offered, knowing how busy she is, and worrying about losing some of her coverage, she chose to keep her current plan.
She summed it up this way: "Life is too short to worry about these things."
Knocked out of the system
Then there's my wife. She currently has health insurance through our business. And up until this year it was a routine matter. Our insurance broker sent us a list of options and she chose one.
Then came the Obamacrisis. Like so many others, she got a letter from her insurer saying, "Your policy has been canceled." She called our broker; he didn't call back.
My wife also navigated the government health insurance website to find only three insurer's plans offered in our state -- many states have even fewer. None of the affordable plans suit her purpose. They do not allow her to see any out-of-state doctors since they are not in-network, and these plans have no out-of-network component.
"What if you need medical assistance in another state, or your doctor sends your test results to an out-of-state lab?" she wanted to know. No one had an answer.
The up side, if you can call it that: These plans offer free "pediatric dentistry." All well and good, but our children are adults.
She's considering keeping her current health insurer's revised plan that offers her almost the exact same coverage, but at a 43 percent increase.
Bank on it
President Obama recently met with health insurers, essentially demanding they keep the status quo for another year. His promise to lower health care costs for most of us seems as vapid as his vow that you can "keep your current policy."
In all likelihood, people who actually figure out this convoluted system will wind up paying more for less. And health insurers, who now really do have the upper hand, will be banking on that.