Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Obamacare Glitches--A Michigan Resident's October 1 Misadventure

Today is the day and as expected, the Obamacare exchange rollout has been problematic at best.  President Obama himself said we should expect some glitches in the first few months the exchanges are open.  Twitchy has a great summary of people reporting their experiences with the exchanges.

Let's start with the definition of glitch.  I found this definition:

"A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag."

Here's my experience this morning, which appears to be typical.  You can decide for yourself whether "total failure to function" counts as "a minor malfunction, mishap or technical problem."

Michigan has no exchange of its own, so that means you go to the federal site www.healthcare.gov.  The welcome page looks like this.  I suppose if I were as young and happy as this model, I'd be smiling too.

"I'm as famous today as I'm ever going to get."

After hitting "Apply Now" I got to the "what state are you from?" page.  It looks like this:

"We're happy, you'll be happy."
For most people, what you get is the dreaded "Health Insurance Marketplace: Please wait" screen.

Early this morning, I did get a bit farther.  From here, I was able to get to the next screen.  It asks for an email address, user name, and password.  I did get that to work after a couple tries.  Unfortunately, I did not make a screenshot and can't seem to get back to that point as of the time of writing.

After the user name page, you get to set up a series of security questions in case you forget your password.  For me, each question had a drop down menu but there was no text.  There was no way to put in a question to be answered.  I gave up at that point.

Others have been having similar experiences.  Even an MSNBC anchor said she reached the point where she would have given up.  She reached that point after long fruitless waits on the help line.  The funniest part is the end of the video.  She said NBC News contacted the White House and were told they are aware of the issues and are working on them.

Normal people can't even get that far.

UPDATE!  1:23 PM ET, Oct. 1.

I just got redirected to the sign up page.

Healthcare.gov Create a Marketplace Account

That worked.  Then I got the "put in the user name and password page."  Got through that, but I don't want to show you.  Gitcherown password and user name.  That takes us to the previously dysfunctional security questions page.

Healthcare.gov Security Questions

Once again, the drop down messages don't work.  I've tried them in both Safari and Firefox with the same results.  So I put in nonsense answers without knowing the questions.  Some people are reporting that the questions are things like "What's your favorite radio station to watch?"  They say there's no such thing as a stupid question, but I think they are wrong on that.

Here's the moment of truth.  I hit the "Create Account" button.  It whirs around, and then:

Healthcare.gov Your account couldn't be created.
From the "your account couldn't be created" I hit the "Return to Create Account Page" green button.  It sent me back to the start, with everything missing except it remembered I'm from Michigan.  So from there, I give up and hope to live to fight another day.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, head of the agency chiefly responsible for regulating the health industry and arguably the most powerful woman in the world stated:  “Everyone just assumes, There’s a problem, they’ll fix it, let’s move on,’” she told reporters. “Hopefully, they’ll give us the same slack as they give Apple.”  The President this afternoon echoed this "Apple has problems too" theme.

Here's the difference between Obamacare and a new Apple product.  Apple cannot shut down Google, Motorola, Blackberry and Microsoft because their products are "not good enough," as Obamacare's rules make many insurance policies illegal as not having enough benefits.  Apple cannot pass a law forcing you to buy their product as Obamacare does.  If you don't have insurance coverage next year, you'll get fined.  If Apple's rollout is bad enough, you can always go somewhere else.  That's not true when the federal government screws up, short of moving to another country.

We'll see how it goes, but I'm not optimistic.  Setting up accounts is easy.  Calculating rates and subsidies is hard.  Securing credit card information and health history information is hard.  If they can't do the easy part, it sure does not creative confidence they can do the hard part.  I may be wrong, but I don't think so this time.

There are so many Obamacare headlines today that I'm going to skip them until tomorrow.  By the way, if you find Obamacare confusing, please check out my book.  Just clink the link at the right to check it out at Amazon.  Cheers!

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