Covered California – using Excel spreadsheet to compare options

I’ve had the unpleasant experience recently of dealing with the 2013 Covered California website. One of the things you have to decide is which level of coverage to get—Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum—and then which Plan to get. I couldn’t find any online tools that truly compare all of the options, so I built my own spreadsheet.

[Note: there’s a followup to this post here. Spoiler: the reasonable option turned out to be not reasonable at all, and we had to change to the most-expensive option in order to find doctors actually in-network]

The problem was that the existing calculators fail to show the impact of prescriptions and the medical and prescription deductibles. I’ve wiped my own data out and made it generic, and included it below for your calculating pleasure.

What I found was surprising: given my family of four, and zip code just south of San Francisco, there wasn’t a huge difference between the plans and levels. Sure, there seemed to be a big difference, but when I calculated out how much we were actually likely to spend based on the past year or two (doctor visits, number of prescriptions) the numbers looked very different from what the simple “silver or bronze?” calculations showed.

In fact, for our situation (quite a few doctor visits, lots of prescriptions—we’ve got some issues as a family), the projections actually showed the Platinum and Bronze plans to be overall cheapest (though not by a huge amount). The difference was mostly in the amount spent on prescriptions.

We ended up going Platinum, since there was only a relatively small percentage difference in the overall cost once I included the other costs into the equation. The reason was that Platinum offers better out-of-network coverage than the other plans.

However, since I don’t know your family situation (number of people being covered) or your zip code, your mileage may vary. NOTE: this spreadsheet might also work for the Affordable Care Act website (Obamacare). I don’t know since I live in California. But my guess is, it’ll work with minimal terminology changes, if any.

Check it out and see. Download the spreadsheet. You’ll need to enter data in all of the yellow cells. If you don’t have Excel, use Google Spreadsheet (that’s what I used, in fact).

Let me know how it goes.


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