A 59-year-old small business owner from Selbyville spent over seven hours between phone calls and the computer, but her patience earned her the distinction of being the first person from Delaware to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

 

Janice Baker runs a boarding kennel along with her husband.  She said a series of circumstances forced her to go off the insurance plan she shared with her husband.  It also heightened her awareness to find insurance once the Oct. 1st sign-up period began.

Even though she said she is happy with the end result, her experience demonstrates some of the issues people have been having during the first weeks of the health insurance sign-up period.

Baker said, "I went online Oct. 1st, and couldn't get through to save my life."  She described how the web crashed and various conversations with operators connected with the national 800-number in order to get assistance.  "The first night I got someone in the Midwest," she said.  "He was very nice, but when we got to the last screen his system froze up."  The attendant told her she was in the system too, to try it on her own, but that failed.

She said she tried to go back a second night and encountered the same computer problems. "I called the number and got a woman in Panama City, Florida.  We got to the end and the same thing happened," Baker said.  After going back online she noticed an advisory at the bottom of the computer screen, which told her to clear her browsing history and cookies.  That's when she got through.

When everything was done Baker said she found coverage for about $700 /month.  She and her husband had been paying $1600/month.  He now has his own insurance, which is written through a private carrier. 

Delaware Health and Human Services Secretary Rita Landgraf joined Baker on a conference call in Georgetown.  She said there have been about a thousand people who have contacted the marketplace guides set up by the state of Delaware to assist people like Baker.  Landgraf said these early experiences have resulted in some changes.

"HHS has set up a screen now so you can compare plans before you sign up.  Before that you had to qualify in order to see a plan," she said.  She noted that the online advice to delete your browsing history is now displayed more prominently.  

Landgraf said people can get information on Delaware's health exchange website, choosehealthde.com

Baker wouldn't describe the type of plan she eventually signed up for, but said she didn't qualify for subsidies.  She did say she had been turned down by three different insurance companies while shopping around before the exchange opened up because of a pre-existing condition. 

Baker and her husband Joseph have run the Heavenly Hound Hotel since 1989.  First looked at some of the issues in Delaware as the health exchange deadline was approaching.