I Tried, and Failed, To Sign Up For Obamacare

“Obviously, we screwed it up.” — President Barack Obama, December 20, 2013, discussing health care reform in response to a question at a year-end press conference

I tried to use the Obamacare exchange in my state, I really did. I probably spent about seven hours on the site in four or five sessions over the past few months.

Theoretically, I’m the sort of person who might benefit from the program. I don’t work for a big company that provides health insurance for its employees. We had been getting our family health insurance by paying for a “cobra” policy that extended the benefits my wife had gotten from her former job, but that has an 18-month time limit. So we need new health insurance for our family effective January 1, 2014. (A modest health reform might extend that 18-month time limit to, say, four years, but the drafters of Obamacare were not interested in modest reforms.)

In the past, I had bought health insurance through the Authors Guild. But because Obamacare outlawed individual policies of the sort that had been available through the Guild, that is no longer an option. (A modest health reform might have encouraged the purchasing or provision of health insurance through voluntary professional associations such as the Authors Guild, but the drafters of Obamacare were not interested in modest reforms.)

I live in Massachusetts, a state that had, under Governor Mitt Romney, pioneered the “individual mandate” and “universal coverage” that are at the center of Obamacare. You’d think they’d have a functioning Web site for health insurance. And they did, a year or so ago when I window-shopped for health insurance. Since then, however, to become compliant with Obamacare, the state scrapped the old RomneyCare web site and replaced it with a non-functioning Obamacare site.

By “non-functioning,” I mean, “non-functioning.” As in, it really doesn’t work.

Initially, I waited, figuring the site would be fixed by the time I needed to buy insurance. Indeed, there were plenty of signs that the site was being repaired.

“Attention: scheduled maintenance: This site will be unavailable from Wednesday December 11th at 2 p.m. until Thursday December 12th at 5 a.m.,” the home page declared at one point. When I returned another time, there was no time span given, just a sign that said “Maintenance in Progress: Welcome The Massachusetts Health Connector is currently undergoing maintenance. Your health coverage needs are extremely important to us. Please check back soon.”

Obamacare’s defenders like to blame Republican obstructionism for the program’s problems. But Massachusetts has a Democratic governor, Deval Patrick, who is such a pal of the president’s that they regularly have dinner during Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacations. Both houses of the state legislature are solidly under Democratic control. One can’t blame the Republicans for this one.

I did call the phone number listed on the site and ask for help at one point. The woman who answered helpfully told me that the language on the site about a December 15 deadline was wrong, and that I actually had until December 23. She also gave me the phone numbers of three insurance companies I could call directly. (A modest health reform might have just planned on consumers purchasing insurance directly from insurance companies rather than on some government-operated web site, but the drafters of Obamacare were not interested in modest reforms.)

The Massachusetts Web site did eventually begin to function well enough for me to compare plans and find one that would work best for me. I stuck it in the shopping cart the way you would with a purchase at L.L. Bean or any other online shopping site.

Instead of a credit-card check-out, though, I found myself in a kind of tax-return hell. The annual pre-April 15 encounter with the IRS is bad enough, but the idea that one should be required to go through the whole thing before buying some health insurance is downright obnoxious. The website wouldn’t accept a hyphenated last name. It had strong opinions about abortion (“How many people are in your family? Include unborn child(ren) if  someone is pregnant.”)

Finally, about two-and-a-half hours in, I got an error message that said “a connection to the server has failed. (status=503).”

That’s when I gave up on Obamacare and went to the Web site of a health insurance company. Unlike the government web site, the health insurance company’s Web site worked, at least long enough for me to enroll. It was not ideal — “sorry, credit card payments are not accepted.” And they don’t seem to accept electronic copies of the three proofs of state residency, either. But at least it’s possible to purchase health insurance that way — or at least I hope it is. If it isn’t, I plan to blame President Obama. He’s the one who, by his own admission, screwed it up.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • wwhorton||

    Wrecker!

  • Evangelical||

    Does anyone else share the sentiment that judges just write drivel and simply strike down laws they dont agree with just "because I said so"? Judges now are dictators for a favored minority against the will of the people.

  • MLN||

    No, I don't agree. Judges are trained to make reasoned judgements. And usually they have a political bias as shown by their reasoned actions on the supreme court. For example, how can a corporation be treated as an individual?

  • Miley||

    my best friend's half-sister got paid $13253 a week ago. she is making money on the computer and moved in a $315200 house. All she did was get blessed and apply the information explained on this web page............... WWW.JUMP26.COM

  • Sevo||

    ..."One can’t blame the Republicans for this one."...

    Don't you believe it for a minute.

  • soflarider||

    One can't legitimately blame Republicans for this one.

    There, fixed it.

  • Don'tTreadOnMe||

    “a connection to the server has failed. (status=503).”

    Official O'Care server error code key: "Status 503: FYTW!"

  • OneOut||

    Another O'care article today about the Prez signing up for O'care had this to say ""Like some Americans, the complicated nature of the president’s case required an in-person sign-up,” the official said. “As you’d expect, the president’s personal information is not readily available in the variety of government databases HealthCare.gov uses to verify identities.”

    Now why would that be ? The Prez's situation was "complicated" like some American's ? The Prez's personal info isn't available in the variety of government's databases to verify identities ?

    What's so special about his info ? As an American citizen long before he was even a Senator, why shouldn't his info be in those databases ?

    Were they just afraid of website problems ? What other problems could they have been afraid of if the Prez tried to sign up on the website ?

    National security ? I dunno, do you ?

  • ||

    Either they don't want people to know that he's a smoker. Or they don't want people to know that he's lying about not being a smoker.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    DHS couldn't verify his citizenship.

  • Controse||

    Because he has a stolen SSN.

  • Wind Rider||

    Obviously Stoll is just tech-unsavvy, and this screams there is a problem with his individual machine. Did he try power cycling it?

  • Sevo||

    Percussive maintenance works occasionally, also.

  • ||

    I will be honest with y'all. I signed up here in Texas over the weekend. It was relatively painless (if punching a hole in the wall can be considered painless). My wife was freaking out because she insist we have the offspring covered and her employer coverage "didnt meet Obamacare standards" and was cancelled. $50 more than what we were paying with a $6,000 individual deductible and labs aren't covered till we meet the deductible. Pissed off doesnt even begin to cover how I feel right now

    Oh and thanks to all you suckers paying full price/more taxes cause we had to take the damn subsidy just to afford the shit plan we got.

  • XM||

    Yes, the real suckers are the hapless taxpayers. I make just enough (or little) money to qualify for medi-cal. I don't have to buy insurance at all.

    Other people's success is my advantage. Thank goodness Romney lost the election.

  • Evangelical||

    Hey join the civil war man. If we are mustering an Army ill be there.

    im tired of waiting on pu.ssy politicians to get the job done.

  • OneOut||

    Why was your employer provided plan canceled when the employer mandate had already been postponed for a year ?

    Only individual purchased plans faced the mandate this year. (until that all blew up and was changed at the last minute)

  • ||

    I think the way my wife's employer coverage worked it was basically individual insurance. I think that's how a lot of part-time people get benefits through their companies, although I could be wrong.

    Of course there's also the possibility that they're just using obamacare as an excuse to drop coverage for the part-timers to cut cost. Something I predicted 3 years ago when this turdnugget was passed.

  • Dave Krueger||

    He puts the finger on Obama...

    I wouldn't put my fingers anywhere near Obama.

  • Eric Bana||

    Dear Mr. Stoll,

    We here in the Obama administration don't due modest legislation; we do big things. You see, only big project from the government can truly solve our nation's complicated problems. Although the ACA is having some small hiccups in its implementation, it is clear it will be wildly successful in the near future. The ACA will deliver on the most urgent of the country's needs regarding healthcare and insurance: bending the cost curve down, making sure everyone has health insurance and access to health care, offering plans that actually fulfill people's needs--all while not adding a dime to the deficit.

    You're welcome.

    -The Obama Administration

  • Libertarius||

    via Winston Smith

  • Charles Hurst Author||

    First this is an obvious reason why no one should participate in ACA. Do you really trust the government with your information and their ability to expedite your information into a system which thus far has been a debacle?

    And again, it isn't the website. It is the concept. That the government deems it should force you pay so another may not. And no matter which way you look at that concept, defend that concept or rationalize that concept it come down to one definition--Marxism. What Barry did essentially is lay down that anyone he deems in need should be paid for by those more successful. Marxism. No different than when they laid down the progressive tax in 1913 instead of a much smaller flat rate tax for everyone.

    The problem is Barry thought the young would just go with it. Then he found out the young no longer thought he was nearly as hip as they did when they voted him in. Because pretty much anyone with a job doesn't want to be told they must pay so another may not.

    If you would like my fiction to become a reality, fiction based on history, mind you, keep participating in Marxist policy. I won't--no matter what. Because once they have gotten you used to ACA and realize they can't sustain it--the next step will be dramatic tax increases--of course that will only be on the ones who are successful as well.

    Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE.

  • MLN||

    "Do you really trust the government with your information and their ability to expedite your information into a system which thus far has been a debacle?"

    Seems if you pay taxes, they've already got everything they need. No worries, there.

    " It is the concept."
    The concept is to make illegal, the corrupt practices of the medical insurance industry. And that has been accomplished with the ACA.

  • prolefeed||

    A modest health reform might extend that 18-month time limit to, say, four years, but the drafters of Obamacare were not interested in modest reforms.

    That's not a modest reform. That's a job-killing or employer-health-care-offering-killing proposal. COBRA individuals have terrible loss ratios due to mainly sick people opting for it.

  • MLN||

    COBRA is mostly terrible, because before ACA, if you lost your job and your group insurance, COBRA was all that was available. Their rates were terrible because, yes, a lot of sick people who lost their jobs had this as their ONLY option.

    Not now, with ACA it'll be a lot easier to get good insurance.

  • Unable2Reason||

    It's comical how they attribute the number of people trying to get insurance through O'care as 'strong interest in participating' when it's compulsory and millions of people are being thrown off their existing plans with nowhere else to go.

  • Sevo||

    Unable2Reason|12.23.13 @ 9:44PM|#
    "It's comical how they attribute the number of people trying to get insurance through O'care as 'strong interest in participating' when it's compulsory and millions of people are being thrown off their existing plans with nowhere else to go."

    Yep.
    'Look at all those folks in the stadium scrambling for food after we've been starving them! How amusing!'

  • ||

    After five hours of Hell, I gave up. Well, not really gave up. There was just nothing else I could do. There were no other options. I jumped through every hoop they threw at me until the hoops just didn't work anymore. There was no one to help. You won't get through if you try to call and there is no one you can email. I tried the chat function several times. It just tells you they are helping someone else for about 20 minutes then they say you've run out of time and kick you out. I tried coming back to the website and trying again, but it kept taking me to the same place I couldn't get past before. You just can't sign up for this even if you want to. It's physically impossible. I guess they knew that, though. They're going to rake in a lot of cash when they start fining people. It's actually pretty brilliant when you think about it.

    I still like my plan better, which is to require every man, woman, and child to own a passenger pigeon. If you don't own a passenger pigeon, you pay a hefty fine. No exceptions.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    2-3 million have signed up.

    Stoll must be handicapped in some way.

  • Derpetologist||

    Which is what, a whopping 10% of the uninsured? And aren't most of them going on Medicaid?

    Break on the champagne, my friend, our troubles are over!

  • Brian||

    I thought the uninsured were around 45 million, meaning that it's succeeded in grabbing about 4 to 7%.

    Even with that, I heard the enrollment was about 1 million. They projected 7 million. 2.2% of the uninsured have signed up for insurance.

    It amazes me that the ruling class has any credibility left with anyone in terms of central planning.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Palin's Buttplug = Never correct.

  • Brian||

    I hear that the Massachusetts exchange has enrolled about 1200 people. Our wise central planners projected that it would enroll over 250,000.

    So, maybe Stoll is handicapped, with about 99.5% of the rest of the Massachusetts citizens projected to sign up.

  • Sevo||

    Palin's Buttplug|12.23.13 @ 10:03PM|#
    "2-3 million have signed up."

    First, define "signed up".
    Next cite your source.
    And finally, your a sleazy pile of shit who lies regularly, so WIH would anyone believe you?
    Go fuck your daddy.

  • Mike M.||

    Ha haaaaaa, look at who decided to take a break from diligently working on his book! What chapter are you up to, scumbag?

  • RishJoMo||

    Sammy Desosa says that aint gonna happen bro!

    www.AnonIs.tk

  • John Galt||

    You spent hours over a months long period trying to sign up for Obamacare, now all your personal information is in the hands identity thieves. And there's a root-kit on your computer.

  • Libertarius||

    And the Thought Police (headed-up by Noam Chomsky) has hacked your webcam.

  • John Galt||

    Noam is super into his hacked videos of me taking a dump while I surf the net. Personally, I have no problem with his perversion, just think he should pay the $5 a minute like everyone else.

  • Controse||

    Oboutme said "Obviously we screwed up." His cavalier bearing said "So what?"

  • ||

    It took me about two hours to sign up. There was a slight problem where I accidentally filled out two instead of one online form because I did not follow the directions properly. In frustration I quit. The next day I called the Marketplace and got through with almost no waiting. The woman there straightened out the mess I made and I was signed up with the plan I needed in less than 20 minutes. I had to wait for the Insurance Companies website to update my info for 72 hours then I paid and now I have insurance. Since this is the same story I am hearing from my friends, minus the screw ups I caused, I can only surmise that yours is not the rule but the exception. Blame whomever you want. It is human nature to assign a scapegoat.

  • Sevo||

    ..."Since this is the same story I am hearing from my friends, minus the screw ups I caused, I can only surmise that yours is not the rule but the exception."...

    1) You're just plain lying
    or
    2) You were very fortunate.
    Marty, those news stories for the past two months came from news organizations that lick Obo's boots, and they couldn't hide the disaster that O'care is.
    So which is it?

  • ||

    America If you lose your coverage, your doctor, your insurance BLAME a Democrat. If your rates go up astronomically and you can’t get what you were promised……Next time you go and vote...remember WHO did this to YOU! DEMOCRATS!

  • MaggieMansfielddva||

    uptil I saw the draft for $8854, I accept ...that...my brother was like realie earning money in their spare time online.. there brothers friend haz done this 4 only about seven months and recently paid for the depts on there home and bought a gorgeous volvo. see page
    ===========================
    WWW.HomeProfitSystem.COM/tec30
    ===========================

  • Porkov||

    All of these problems everyone is having with healthcare.gov makes it patently obvious that the US government needs to take over the IT sector and straighten things out. If you want to know the moment all the problems began, it was when the Bell System was broken up and AT&T was deregulated. If the government had taken over IBM instead and folded it into AT&T, none of this would be happening now. It's not too late to put things back the way the should have been in the first place.

  • MLN||

    Websites come and go. The only purpose, to a great extent is to provide a simple way to shop around for the best deal. If you're clever enough, I suppose you don't need the website. Just shop around, already.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement