They Bought Obamacare. Now They Learn to Use It.

Newly insured Philadelphians now need lessons in how to use their health coverage.

Ben Franklin surgical mask


You know what’s harder than signing up for health insurance for the first time? Understanding the policy you bought.

The New York Times reports from Philadelphia on efforts to educate newly covered residents about how to use their health care now that the’ve received coverage for the first time. It’s not always easy:

Last week, Salwa Shabazz arrived at the office of a public health network here with a bag full of paperwork about her new health insurance — and an unhappy look on her face. She had chosen her plan by phone in March, speaking to a customer service representative at the federal insurance marketplace. Now she had problems and questions, so many questions.

“I’ve had one doctor appointment since I got this insurance, and I had to pay $60,” Ms. Shabazz told Daniel Flynn, a counselor with the health network, the Health Federation of Philadelphia. “I don’t have $60.”

Mr. Flynn spent almost two hours going over her Independence Blue Cross plan, which he explained had a “very complicated” network that grouped doctors and hospitals into three tiers. Ms. Shabazz, who has epilepsy, had not understood when she chose the plan that her doctors were in the most expensive tier.

“None of that was explained when I signed up,” she said. “This is the first I’m hearing it.”

The Times reports that Independence Blue Cross has representatives traveling the Philadelphia region to help customers “understand what they bought.” And non-profit organizations like Resources for Human Development, are  stepping forward with educational efforts. “It’s not like you enroll and, voilà, you immediately know how to use it,” said Rebecca Cashman, a program coordinator for the program. “There are a lot of people who really have some big questions about ‘what now?’ ”