Fourteen Days in October: My Experience Trying to Sign Up for Obamacare

Despite the fact that I’ve made no secret about my general distaste for Obamacare, I’m one of the ones it was created to help.  Nearly three years ago, I left a solid, good paying job to strike out on my own in the legal business, and in so doing, left behind medical and dental benefits along with a steady paycheck.

The last two-and-a-half years have been interesting.  We managed to avoid the doctor and emergency room during that time, despite having 5 kids under age 10.  Our teeth are a little worse for wear (though that’s in the process of being corrected), but other than that, we’re doing OK.  It’s not that I want to be uninsured, it’s just that I’ve been forced to prioritize a few other essential things, like food and shelter, over catastrophic health insurance.

But now Obamacare is here to help.  So insistent is it about helping me that it will penalize me for failing to purchase a qualifying health insurance plan in 2014.  So, when the Obamacare health insurance exchanges rolled out on October 1, I dutifully went over to healthcare.gov to see just what it was had been done for me.

That was 14 days ago.

And today, I, like many, many others, am still trying to find out just exactly what it is that Obamacare hath wrought, because healthcare.gov doesn’t want to show it to me.

This is my healthcare.gov story.

Day 1: October 1, 2013.

I logged on to the site, and was greeted by a very pretty looking page.  I selected the link to apply for health insurance, and was asked to select my home state, which I did.  I was then informed that Utahns seeking individual/family health insurance had to use the federal exchange set up on healthcare.gov and telling me that I should create an account.

That’s where the trouble started.

I chose a username and password, and was directed to a page where I supposed to enter answers to security questions . . . except the security questions didn’t appear.  I tried reloading the page, same problem.  I tried going back to the beginning of the account creation process, same problem.  I then thought there may be an issue with my browser (Safari on a MacBook Air) correctly processing the javascript that’s populating the form fields, so I tried in Firefox and Chrome — same problem.

I then tried to click on the link for online support chat, which opened, took my name, and promptly died.

So, I gave up for a few hours.

When I came back later in the day, I wasn’t even given the opportunity to try and create an account, the link simply directed you to a dead end page that said the website was having trouble due to excessive demand.

I called it a day.

Day 2: October 2, 2013.

The next morning, I again tried to set up an account.  Again, I was directed to the dead end page, this time, however, it informed that I would be re-directed to the account creation page after a short wait.  5 minutes later I had not been redirected, so I went about my other business.  Forty-five minutes later I returned, and, sure enough, I had been redirected.  So, I tried to create an account and ran into the same trouble with the security questions.  After reloading the page once, I abandoned my attempts.

Days 3 through 7: October 2 – 9, 2013.

These days followed the same ritual as Day 2.

Day 8: October 10, 2013.

On day 8 I finally was able to set up an account.  The registration process went smoothly and I confirmed my account and began the process of registering for health insurance.  I started the application and everything seemed to be going well, although the application was slow in responding.  I was able to navigate through all the questions, which took me, in total 45 minutes to an hour.  I then submitted my application, waited, waited, and waited some more, and then finally received an email stating that the verification system was not functioning.  My application was labeled “In Progress.”  So, I left and went on to other things, figuring that verification would eventually happen.

Day 9: October 11, 2013.

I logged back into my account, and my application was now labeled “Incomplete.”  This puzzled me, since I had completed the application the day before and it had simply stalled on verification.  ”Well,” I thought to myself, “perhaps I just need to submit the application again.”  I clicked on my application link, and it started me halfway through my application, requiring that I re-answer all the questions I had answered the day before.  There was no way to skip questions or review the answers that I had already submitted.  So, I completed half of the application again.  When I tried to submit the application, it just stalled.  Frustrated, I left for the day.

Day 10 and 11: October 12 – 13, 2013.

I came back, yet again, to healthcare.gov — such a friendly place — and nearly duplicated my experiences from the day 9, except on these days time, when I clicked on my incomplete application, it made me start at the very beginning and complete the entire application over again.  I re-completed and attempted to re-submit the application once each day.  Still no progress.

Day 13: October 14, 2013.

I came back for my daily ritual of completing and submitting my application — it was starting to feel very much like Groundhog Day.  But this time, after entering the names of all my family members for whom I would seeking coverage, healthcare.gov refused to allow me to designate my wife as my wife.  Instead, it told me that I was married to “Someone Else” and refused to let me proceed in the application without designating the name of my spouse.  After being unable to figure anything else out, I wrote my wife’s name in again.  The same error occurred for my wife — it insisted that her husband was “Someone Else” — so I wrote my name in again.  The application then detected an error because I now had two duplicate persons for whom I was seeking coverage and refused to let me move forward.

After struggling with this for 10 minutes or so, I clicked on the live chat support link.  This time I was connected with a representative, who cheerily asked my how she could help.  When I started to describe my problem, she simply wrote, “Please call telephone support.  Have a nice day!”

I left  the site in disgust.  When I logged out, it gave me a notice in Spanish, despite asking repeatedly over the last week to designate my preferred language — English.

Yikes.

Day 14: October 15, 2013.

I logged into my account, and, sure enough, my application was still incomplete.  This time I didn’t even get to the part where it told me I wasn’t married to my wife.  Instead, it informed me, for the first time, that it could not verify information about my “Immigration Document.”  Having been born in the great midwestern state of Iowa, I was unaware that I even had an “Immigration Document,” but c’est la vie.  I quit the application at that point and started writing this post.

Some Thoughts.

Tons of people have weighed in on the problems with healthcare.gov already, so I won’t say much.  I’m sure at some point this will all be worked out, and the website will function at least on a minimum level.  But the persistent nature of the severe issues continues to surprise me.  I’ll be sure to post my results when I actually get through and am able to sign up for coverage.  In the meantime, c’est la guerre!

 

UPDATE:  This post is getting many more views that I’m used to — thanks!  Also, if you’re so inclined, go ahead and post your own Obamacare signup story in the comments below

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About Curt Bentley

is an attorney practicing commercial litigation, non-profit law, and intellectual property law in Utah at his firm Bentley Briggs & Lynch. In his spare time, he attempts to impersonate a jazz pianist, gardens, and dodges rattlesnakes and stirs up other trouble while running on Utah's amazing trails.

You can learn more or connect with Curt on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

Feel free to use or re-post content with proper attribution.

  • Irmajean Mendoza

    Hopelessly flawed!!!

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  • Juli Keller

    I too have had a very similar October experience. Here we are 10/16 and of these 16 days I have had to recreate my “in process” application a minimum of 6 times. . .and I just finally got to the application part two days ago! Today I got all the way to the sign and submit only to be told my identity couldn’t be verified (this is the 5th time the id thing has happened and I’ve uploaded my State ID as requested three times. Yesterday it was green and said “Identity Verified” somehow today I must be another person. . .WHAT THE HECK!!!!

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  • DC

    Help me understand (not trying to be snide), why would you buy health insurance from the exchange when we still have a free market access to insurance. I have talked to many people that went to the exchange and were presented plans with 14k-17k annual deductibles and monthly payments more than their house payments. Similar plans with 6k deductibles and lower monthly payments can be found in Utah without going to the exchange.

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    • http://www.utahpoliticalsummary.com/ Curt Bentley

      DC: Not sure I’ll buy via the exchange, but I did want to try it out. Initially (though I heard this morning it could have changed, you’d couldn’t see what was available on the exchange without at least completing an application). As far as the private market goes, we’ve had difficulty obtaining insurance there in the past based on some prior medical history. Frankly, I’m not certain as to when rules prohibiting denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions kick in (or if they already have). Up to this point, we simply haven’t been in a position to afford any additional expense. I may be an attorney, but I’m exceptionally bad at marketing myself… ;)

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      • birdsarewild

        You can buy a policy in the private sector without having to provide health history on January 1 but you might want to try to get it before then as the prices are going up to cover a lot more situations.

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  • Andy Shambaugh

    There are a number of great IT companies in America that could have set up a flawless site for them. Instead they went with a amature Canadian company.

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    • http://attackofthebooks.com/ Daniel Burton

      Because, you know, the dollar is worth more up there?

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  • Vladislaw

    I am curious .. why the hell you didn’t just make a phone call…. sheesh

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    • http://attackofthebooks.com/ Daniel Burton

      Apparently, Vladislaw, you’ve never tried calling the IRS. In no situation is it better than this.

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      • Vladislaw

        All I know is that everyone I PERSONALLY know that had trouble with the website, made calls and ALL (4) of them got it taken care of the same day.

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        • sschlichter

          That’s the sign of a great website

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  • Stuart McDonald

    All our Utah Congressional delegation, have done everything they can to destroy Obamacare and have succeeded far too well in undermining & disrupting it’s implementation, including shutting down the government & risking a catastrophic defaulting on our nation’s debt to destroy Obamacare. They are responsible with their fellow insurance-industry-lackey Republicans and DINOs for all the problems that are plaguing implementation of Obamacare now. And yet with a straight face they blame it on a fatally flawed Obamacare. Shameless evil men.

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    • Macy500

      Stuart you certainly deserve whatever happens…..LMAO Please be sure ….it wont be a Republicans fault…it isnt Bushs fault…..it is Obama and the democrats…..remember that.

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    • sschlichter

      I knew it. Mike Lee wrote the crappy code in healthcare.gov.

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  • birdsarewild

    I have had this problem also. I sell insurance and had to go through a story very similar to that on the CMS site. There was training, that was not near long enough to teach people about the plan – and those people who in most instances won’t even have to be a licensed insurance agent will be the Navigators. Gives you a warm fuzzy feeling huh? Then if you are an insurance agent you had to apply for an ID with them after they ask you questions about places you lived 20 years ago. The site for that portion went down frequently and trys had to be made every day. Now the site has login problems as the login page is directed to a page that is not there. This system of data collection and integration that they are trying to was done very very badly. What a waste of money.

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  • dutch

    The problem appears to be usage. healthcare.gov is getting more usage than several big business sites combined. You can beta test all you want, but there’s no way to test or predict what affect 6,000,000 users will have without actually trying it. I understand more servers are being added,

    The second problem is state government. Only 14 states opted to set up their own exchange, but those states are having better luck, again probably due to lower volume than the national system. The 36 states relying on the feds to set it up for them have Republican Governors or Republican Legislatures. Republicans hate the ACA and have made no secret of it. Denial of usage due to volume is an old hacker trick. I’m not saying anyone is trying to crash the system on purpose. It just occurs to me that the states could have been more cooperative. Now they’ve positioned themselves to blame the feds when being more pro-active would have served their constituents better.

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    • http://www.utahpoliticalsummary.com/ Curt Bentley

      Dutch:

      The demand certainly hasn’t made things any easier, but I don’t believe all (or even most of these issues are due to strain on servers. I have enough of a background in web application design to perceive that this is coded extraordinarily poorly.

      Your second point is a valid one. Certainly things would have gone a lot more smoothly had the states not decided to spend two years in court trying to overturn the law, agreed to open insurance exchanges, and all opted-in to Medicaid expansion. There’s not doubt. Furthermore, Republicans (and I’ve called them out on this a number of times) have done *nothing* to constructively advance the ball on health insurance reform. That said, lots of talk and poor implementation seems to be a consistent theme with President Obama’s administration, and it can’t all be laid at the Republicans’ feet. This and other things bring to mind the scripture about carefully counting the cost before you start build a tower. After all, it wasn’t a secret that this type of opposition would be forthcoming. And to the extent it wasn’t foreseen, well, that seems to me to be another example of the President’s tendency to dismiss and underestimate his opposition.

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  • samazf

    https://www.facebook.com/IhateObamacare – there is a Obummercare Horror Stories Facebook page now.

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