For Michael Lappin and his spouse John West, the Affordable Care Act offered critical savings — more than $5,200 a year —thanks to the individual insurance policies they purchased on the Obamacare website.
Amid widespread media attention to the technical difficulties with the Healthcare.gov site, cancelled policies and loss of registration information for enrollment, the Atlanta couple represents one positive experience in accessing health care reform.
In a phone interview with the Washington Blade, Lappin said the couple, who co-founded their own business, STELLAR Mortgage Corp., was previously covered by plans that offered decent but expensive coverage.
“Under the Affordable Care Act, we’re getting new plans,” Lappin said. “We’re switching providers, keeping our same doctor, though, as our primary care physician, and between the two of us, we’re going to save over $5,200 a year on our health insurance.”
Even with the lower cost of the insurance, Lappin said the couple will enjoy lower co-pays, lower deductibles and lower out-of-pocket costs — all without help of any subsidies offered by the federal government under Obamacare.
Lappin, 44, and West, 49, married in D.C. in 2012, but applied for individual plans because they have yet to file a joint tax return. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act in June, Lappin said the couple intends to file jointly next year and may revisit the idea of family coverage.
“I believe the rates are the same if we buy individually or together, so it’s just sending two checks versus one check,” Lappin said. “But I will definitely revisit that once we have joint tax returns and make sure.”
The couple enjoys a positive outcome under health care reform as President Obama makes a renewed push for the law, saying problems with the enrollment website are fixed and healthcare.gov is now working for the vast majority of people.
During an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Tuesday, Obama touted his signature legislation in front of 19 people who also had positive experiences under health care reform.
“Now that we are getting the technology fixed — we need you to go back, take a look at what’s actually going on, because it can make a difference in your lives and the lives of your families,” Obama said. “And maybe it won’t make a difference right now if you’re feeling healthy, but I promise you, if somebody in your family — heaven forbid — gets sick, you’ll see the difference.”
As a result of the law, Obama projected that half a million people are poised to gain health care coverage through the health insurance exchanges and the Medicaid expansion beginning on Jan. 1 — some for the very first time.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, expressed solidarity with Obama in a statement the next day, saying his law is a “giant step” toward delivering health care to all Americans.
“We stand with the president in his unshakable commitment to this fundamental component of a transformed society,” Carey said. “We also encourage everyone to fully educate themselves on how to access the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.”
Upon the initial rollout of healthcare.gov, users reportedly faced numerous problems, including loading difficulties and error messages. Lappin said he and his partner initially had difficulties enrolling via the website, but eventually were able to apply.
“When I would get in, it was glitchy, but over the next probably two weeks or so, I continued to get better and I was able to get in, and get it figured out,” Lappin said.
As he’s gone back to healthcare.gov to make payments and obtain confirmation from HUMANA, his new insurance company, Lappin noticed an increase in the website’s functionality.
“I log back in now and the site seems to work,” Lappin said. “It’s much faster, much quicker, the buttons actually work and do things now. As somebody who’s started Oct. 1 through now, I can tell you, huge improvements to the site.”
Lappin said he and his spouse opted to apply for health insurance through healthcare.gov, the website for the federal exchange, because Georgia doesn’t offer its own state insurance exchange and has no website for enrollment.
LGBT advocates — and the Obama administration — have touted that health care reform provides non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the health care system. Through regulation, the Obama administration has interpreted the gender protections under the law to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Although he’s claiming significant savings under Obamacare, Lappin said he doesn’t think that’s because of discrimination faced under the previous system.
“We had individual plans, so I don’t think there was any way that anybody could have discriminated against us,” Lappin said. “It didn’t even come up in any kind of underwriting, anything that we know about.”
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, praised the non-discrimination protections as essential for trans people seeking health coverage.
“An important message to get out is that trans people and people living with HIV/AIDS can no longer be denied as having pre-existing conditions,” Keisling said.
Keisling said her own organization has benefited under Obamacare, saving about $250 per staff person per month on health insurance costs, or about $15,000 total.
Despite the push to promote Obamacare, most Republicans remain opposed to the law and continue hammering the administration for problems that have emerged since the rollout.
Also in this camp is the Log Cabin Republicans, which previously joined with conservative groups in signing a letter calling health care reform “tyrannical.”
Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said he’s heard horror stories from members about their efforts at enrolling in healthcare.gov.
“Premiums are going up, some members have had no luck signing up on the website even after making repeated good faith efforts, people have been unable to change their information after it has been entered and connected with their Social Security number,” Angelo said.
Angelo said he couldn’t find a member willing to speak publicly about the problems.
For his part, Obama said during the White House event he’s open to ideas about changing the law, but won’t go back to the way things were before his health care reform was in place.
“I’ve always said I will work with anybody to implement and improve this law effectively,” Obama said. “If you’ve got good ideas, bring them to me. Let’s go. But we’re not repealing it as long as I’m president.”