Navigating the health marketplace

It took a few frustrating days trying to sign up for health insurance before Jim Van Heule found success.
Krystle Wagner
Nov 9, 2013


The Grand Haven man, along with many throughout the country, are participating in the open enrollment period for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, which opened Oct. 1.

The deadline to sign up for health care coverage to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, is Dec. 15.

Once the enrollment period ends March 31, 2014, uninsured residents will have to pay a $95 fee per adult and $47.50 for children under the age of 18, or 1 percent of yearly household income. Fees will rise in subsequent years.

Van Heule said he provided the website with his personal information, but the website crashed when he attempted to look at plans available in Ottawa County.

“I was frustrated the same as everybody else,” he said.

The 58-year-old said he has researched the Affordable Healthcare Act for a few months because he knew his current insurance coverage was running out.

Van Heule previously had health insurance through his small business, but the plan calls for a minimum of two people. Van Heule said an employee opted out of the option and his wife was insured elsewhere, so he's left without coverage for himself.

“Obamacare came around at a perfect time for me,” he said.

Grand Haven resident Bill Hazard said he has also had a difficult time signing up for health insurance. The 58-year-old said he’s had numerous failed attempts to access information on and complete his registration.

“It’s frustrating because you can’t plan your future,” he said.

After a few days of looking and searching, Van Heule found a premium estimator on the website that asks a series of questions about types of coverage, number of people on the plan, location and age. It provides how many plans are available in Ottawa County.

People signing up for insurance have the option of choosing between five types of coverage: Catastrophic, Bronze, Platinum, Silver and Gold. The website states that the maximum out-of-pocket costs for any marketplace plan for 2014 are $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family.

Van Heule, who is in the process of retiring, said he found that Blue Care Network of Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Priority Health and Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan are providers for Ottawa County.

After comparing the options, Van Heule said he stuck with the same provider, but switched to a Preferred Provider Organization option because of the coverage. Van Heule said his new coverage is about the same price, if not a little lower, than what he previously paid.

Van Heule said he called the insurance company directly to sign up for coverage instead of using the government's website.

“It’s actually very simple,” he said.

Van Heule said he thinks the focus of the so-called Obamacare has been on the troubled website and not the coverage residents will receive as a result of the new law.

“Why should a law be dependent on a website?” he asked.

Cherry Street Health Services, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit organization, has been fielding 5-6 calls an hour about signing up for health insurance on the government website. The agency's Michelle Fitzgerald said the first few weeks of the website rollout were problematic, and few signed up for insurance. She said the website has improved every day, and people are now applying for plans.

Fitzgerald recommends residents weighing their options about the insurance act to call the agency's toll-free number (866-299-1339). She's certain that everyone will be able to enroll for insurance.

“You’re not by yourself,” Fitzgerald said.



Glad it's working out for you, Jim.

The ACA will have far-reaching societal effects. If citizens no longer have to worry about their health care, especially health insurance that is dependent on their employment, they will now be free to select jobs that truly match their skill sets rather than the health insurance the job provides; people can take more risks, be more innovative, and more independent - critically important in these days of increasing technological changes and subsequent morphing job descriptions.

The ACA website is fixable. The cultured obstructionism, ignorance, and spite shown by ACA opponents highlights a much deeper problem.

Tri-cities realist

Yes, liberty and freedom are much deeper problems.


Are you referring to the liberty and freedom that comes as a result of good health insurance and health preventative care, the security of knowing you are covered in the event of a major health crisis, and the bankruptcy that often accompanies those major health crises? (The majority of bankruptcies in the US are caused by health care debt)

Tri-cities realist

No. I am referring to the liberty and freedom to NOT be told by the govt what to purchase. What other products or services will now be mandated by the govt, by calling it a tax?


Since Obama clearly lied about keeping your own insurance if you like what you have, is that not "cultured obstructionism, or is it merely ignorance (but there's proof he knew millions would lose their health insurance so that's a hard sell)? It certainly shows Obama's spite for the American people. Obstructionism - check; Ignorance - check; Spite - check -- A Hat Trick!


For millions of insured people, such as you and me, Obama's statement that you can keep your own insurance if you like what you have is not a lie, and it is an abomination that you discriminate so unjustly against those millions who fall into this category.

You were so busy rebuking, you neglected to rebut the main premise of my comment. Perhaps you are more interesting in rebuking than rebutting?


Forgive me, in the most liberal sense I was looking out for my fellow citizens who are not as well off as we are - those multiple millions who have, and soon will, lose their health insurance because of Obama; who will be forced into Medicaid or subsidized insurance far less desirable than that which they independently decided to purchase on their own because of limited networks and doctors and hospitals who won't take them on as patients; and those others who will have to pay for insurance with higher deductibles and co-pays at hugely inflated rates.

There - no rebuke, no rebut - a simple, straight forward response - you're welcome.


This mandate does not guarantee health care, all it guarantees is that you are required to purchase health insurance.


Again, you are incorrect. It does not guarantee, mandate, or require you to purchase health insurance. It encourages you to do so, with the guarantee that everyone will be approved for a policy, not selectively so.

And it is a choice. If you choose to not purchase insurance, you simply pay a penalty via a tax debit instead.


Well, I guess that's true to the extent that you can claim there is no mandate with a straight face. You don't pay a penalty - the Supreme Court made that clear - you pay a tax (but only enforced against those who have tax refunds coming to them). If you deny it is a tax then the law is unconstitutional per the Supreme Court.

So, once again, Obama picks winners and losers - the losers in this case being people who work for a living, pay taxes, have a refund due them, and choose not to knuckle under to the Obama mandate. Ah freedom - ain't it great?


Just checking in... hoping to see your logical explanation on this. In the meantime, you might want to read up on the ACA Tax provision page. www(dot)irs(dot)gov/uac/Affordable-Care-Act-Tax-Provisions-Home


I am not incorrect and explain why should anyone have to pay a penalty for not purchasing a specific product (as in health insurance)if its not?


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