Today marked the first day of open enrollment in ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges. But you wouldn’t know it if you tried to see what your options were on the exchange’s HealthCare.gov website. I spent the better part of three hours this morning trying to find out what plans were available.
What doctors and hospitals are in each plan’s networks? What kind of deductibles, copays and coinsurance do the plans have? What are the premiums in my area? These are all good questions, the sort anyone signing up would be curious about.
But here’s the problem: the website wouldn’t even let me create an account to look at the options. The problems began almost immediately, when I typed in my state and clicked the “Apply Now” button. That’s where I ran into my first error screen of the day – and certainly not the last:
It wasn’t even 9 AM on the first day of open enrollment and the system was already down. I kept refreshing, hoping it would be fixed soon enough.
It wasn’t. Eventually I did land at a new screen, which didn’t say the system was down. This definitely seemed like an improvement. It simply said that a lot of people were using the website and they’d send me to the login page shortly.
Of course, I sat and waited at this screen for half an hour. Eventually, it did redirect me as promised. But only to another error message telling me the system was down.
More attempts to use the website, more error messages. Finally, after an hour, I made it to the login page. Yes, that’s right. If you want to look at the options available in the ObamaCare exchange, you have to first create an account.
That seemed like a bit of a turnoff. I don’t have to create an account at eHealth if I want to see my options, but whatever. I press onward. I go through the three-page account creation process and end up here:
I can’t create an account because the system is unavailable. I click “Try Again,” hoping it will be as easy as simply re-entering three pages of information. Nope. I get the waiting page, again.
Eventually I made it back to the login page. I tried to create an account, again, so I could look at the options available. No such luck.
I tried again and again. I tried creating an account a whopping 19 times. Sometimes I’d get a “system unavailable” message; sometimes I’d get a “wait a few moments” message. Sometimes I’d get bounced back to the “please wait” screen; sometimes I’d get bounced to the “system is down” screen.
Eventually, I got to this new “processing” screen after trying to create an account. I thought maybe, just maybe, it was finally working.
No such luck. It bounced me back to an earlier “please wait” screen and after a few more attempts, I couldn’t make it back to the “processing” screen.
Trying to use the website had crossed the threshold into “huge waste of time” territory hours before. So I tried to use the friendly “live chat” button at the bottom. Maybe I could get some help that way?
Nope. Live chat wasn’t available. But I could call the customer service center, right? I tried the number, but got the message “call failed.” Twice.
I eventually tried calling again, actually getting through the automated answering system. Unfortunately, I was told, “all of [the exchange’s] representatives [were] currently assisting other callers.” I waited on hold. And then waited some more. And then waited some more. When I finally connected with a real person on the other end, they said they’d help me with an application. The call was immediately disconnected.
So I figured: why not try the state’s website? We have a “partnership” exchange with the federal government, so maybe I’d have more luck on the state side? So I go to “the official health marketplace” in Illinois: GetCoveredIllinois.gov.
So I look around the site and click on what I was looking for, an option to “explore [my] coverage options.”
I go through the multi-screen process, and land on this:
It asks how much money I earn, but my options are “more than” or “less than” … what? It doesn’t say. There’s no place to enter a specific amount, either. I tried using the calculator, but it wouldn’t even open. Eventually I clicked the “more than” checkmark, just to move on. After going through this whole process, they send me here:
If I give them my e-mail, they’ll send me a link to HealthCare.gov. Or I can click on the link at the bottom to take me right back where I spent most of morning unable to use the exchange. Great.
So I went back to the state’s website because I remembered seeing a “help” button. If I couldn’t get help through the call center and the website hadn’t been working all morning, maybe one of the “assisters” could help.
I went back to the HealthCare.gov website to try again. And… nope. It’s probably good that the exchange wasn’t working, though. According to the website, I can’t even look at the options available to me unless I apply for coverage, first.
That means I can’t even see what plans are offered on the exchange without handing over all kinds of personal information: my Social Security number, tax return and income information, the policy numbers of my current plan, etc.
Or I could just go to eHealth.com, enter my birthday and zip code, and get a list of 81 plans currently available to me in under 60 seconds.