Central Delaware
State’s first health care enrollee saves money with plan
Janice Baker, right, of Selbyville, is the first confirmed health care marketplace enrollee in Delaware. Here, Ms. Baker, joins Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf after sharing her story. (Submitted photo/Delaware Department of Health and Social Services)

DOVER — Though Janice Baker, of Selbyville, spent around seven hours working through technological kinks related to Delaware’s online health insurance marketplace, the fruits of her labor have been more than worthwhile.

“It’s almost $150 less than what I have been paying,” Ms. Baker, 59, said of her new premium rates.

Ms. Baker, Delaware’s first confirmed health care marketplace enrollee, said she began pursuing new insurance options Oct. 1, the day open enrollment on the marketplace Web portal went live.

She initially hit a few roadblocks on the website after her attempts to enroll online failed, so she contacted the 24-hour helpline at 1-800-318-2596.

After spending 90 minutes on the phone with a health care representative — and logging all of her employment and personal information — she said the representative’s computer crashed. She called again, and after another 90-minute phone conversation, the computers crashed again.

“I could not apply and I was getting very frustrated,” Ms. Baker said Tuesday afternoon.

It wasn’t until she purged her personal computer of extraneous browser windows and web cookies that she was able to enroll online.

“It might not be the government’s computers, it might be your own computers,” she advised.

She and her husband, owners of a small dog kennel downstate, have struggled with obtaining health insurance. Eventually Ms. Baker’s husband could secure private insurance, but it was unable to cover her medical costs.

Before enrolling through the marketplace, she had previously applied to three different insurance companies and been denied due to preexisting conditions.

Though she was not eligible for federal subsidies, her new plan is considerably less — with premiums amounting to $700 a month.
“I’m so glad I was able to make some progress with it,” Ms. Baker said.

Total enrollment numbers have not been released by the federal government. But Rita Landgraf, secretary of Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services said she hopes Ms. Baker’s story will inspire more individuals to share their experiences and concerns so the department can gauge the marketplace’s progress.

“We do know there’s a lot of activity that is relative to the marketplace guides,” she said, adding that over 1,000 people have sought help through the guides.

Education is key, especially with 90,000 Delawareans currently uninsured. State officials have estimated that up to 35,000 people will be insured through the marketplace following Oct. 1, and nearly 30,000 will be able to gain coverage through the state’s Medicaid expansion Jan. 1, 2014.

To contain future computer glitches, Secretary Landgraf said the department has updated its web server capacity and will continue to plug Delaware’s marketplace campaign Choose Health Delaware.

Interested consumers can visit Delaware’s marketplace website or the federal website for more information regarding specific health plans.

Staff writer Jen Rini can be reached at 741-8250 or Follow DSNJen_Rini on Twitter.