Tax season is stressful enough. But if you are like countless miserable Americans trapped in the Obamacare 1095-A abyss, it's hell on stilts on a Segway teetering over the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
The screw-ups, incompetence and bureaucratic blame avoidance over the health insurance exchange tax forms make the healthcare.gov website fiasco look like a flawless product launch. How do I know? My family inexplicably got ensnared in the 1095-A paperwork pit. It's a government roach motel: Taxpayers check in, but they can never check out.
In 2013, our private high-deductible PPO from Anthem Blue Cross got canceled because of "changes from health care reform (also called the Affordable Care Act or ACA)." Millions of others like us in the individual market for health insurance — including self-employed people, small-business owners, writers, artists and home-based entrepreneurs — suffered the same fate.
My husband reluctantly contacted Colorado's state health insurance exchange, "Connect for Health Colorado," just to see what our options were. Months later, we settled on purchasing a new non-Obamacare plan directly from a different private insurer, Rocky Mountain Health. The provider network is much narrower than the Anthem plan we had before the feds intervened. Our two kids' dental care is no longer covered, and we've had our insurance turned down at an urgent care clinic — something that had never happened before.
Better off? Bullcrap. But wait, it gets worse.
Somewhere along the way, the worker bees at Connect for Health Colorado dragooned us into an Obamacare exchange plan offered by Rocky Mountain Health without our knowledge or consent. (How else has the White House inflated Obamacare enrollment figures? Things that make you go "hmm.") Last month, we received an IRS 1095-A form, which, much to our shock and chagrin, indicated that we had paid Obamacare premiums every month during 2014.
It took hours of time on the phone and Internet to receive an explanation from Connect for Health Colorado on how exactly this happened. Here was the government's response, word for incomprehensible word:
"We apologize for the delay in responding to your email. After checking your account we are showing you might have had coverage from October 2014 to June 2014. Please call the number below to speak with a Customer Service Representative if this information is incorrect."
"Might" have had coverage? From "October 2014 to June 2014"?
The saga continues. We were finally able to un-enroll after being auto-enrolled in the Obamacare plan. Then, after being bounced around by the state government health exchange to various voicemail dead ends and back, with hours of migraine-inducing, on-hold music in between, we were told there's absolutely nothing wrong with the 1095-A form — which shows payment of premiums we didn't pay to an Obamacare plan we never enrolled in and didn't want in the first place!
This is just one little horror story. In Minnesota, thousands are still waiting for 1095-A forms that were supposed to arrive on Jan. 31. In California, at least 800,000 taxpayers received screwed-up 1095-As. As a result, some 50,000 people filed the wrong form. Another 750,000 are being told they'll get corrected forms this month. Hah. Good luck with that.
The costs in time, money and anxiety to hardworking families dealing with this paperwork perdition are enormous. Unknown numbers of people are still waiting for their forms as the April 15 tax-filing deadline looms. More face the added expense and aggravation of filing amended returns through no fault of their own.
Where's the rest of the media — most of whom have been insulated from these problems because they get their health insurance through their employers?
At least one other journalist smacked head first into reality. Laura Krantz, a former NPR staffer, is now a Scripps Fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Earlier this month, she found out that Connect for Health Colorado had mysteriously canceled her health and dental insurance. After four days and eight hours in Obamacare Phone Hell (OPH), she learned she had lost her insurance coverage and her tax credit — and had to redo all of her paperwork.
Poor Krantz still believes the ultimate solution is "single payer." But another liberal who encountered 1095-A hell has seen the light. San Francisco resident and former Obama supporter Melissa Klein exposed her ordeal with Covered California last week. The state exchange botched her 1095-A and then insisted she had never enrolled despite invoices she showed them documenting her premium payments. After hours in OPH, her case remains unresolved, and she can't file her taxes. How is it, she wondered, that "Amazon can ship something to NYC in an hour," but the White House and Covered California "can't create a health care system that functions"?
Klein concluded, better late than never: "I no longer believe that the government should mandate health care. ... A great idea is just an idea if you can't execute. And the government has proved time and time again, it can't execute.
Feelin' your pain, sister. Is D.C. listening?