My (Failed) Attempt To Apply for Obamacare

When measuring the registration process in days is the norm, we have a problem


Obamacare was made for me, if I am to believe the President. You see, I am self-employed, unmarried, have a pre-existing condition, and I pay cash for my health care. This mostly works, except when I forget to account for the three weeks it takes me to get my prescriptions shipped from overseas via a Canadian pharmacy. It is even preferable in some instances, as the generic version of one of my prescriptions has fewer side effects than the brand-name one I am forced to use if I buy the same prescription here.

I knew Healthcare.gov had some issues; it was mentioned in the news. Unfortunately, these "some" issues were drowned by the outrage over the government shutdown. I tried to register on the website on October 1, but was told that the site was too busy, or else I got a general error message. I was not able to register until October 9.

Don't get me wrong, the registration was not straightforward. The process crashed at least seven times before it stuck and I was not sure what username and password I ended up with when it finally took. Most of us expect an instant registration process online, or maybe having to wait for an email, which will get you onto the site in question within the next 5-10 minutes. I was not able to log in to my Healthcare.gov account until 24 hours later, and as I said, I was not sure which username I ended up with.

My registration was completed on October 10, and I could now log on to fill out my application. The administration's schtick was that all you needed to do was fill in your address, birthday, and Social Security number. It was quite a bit more than this, but not so demanding as previous health insurance applications I have submitted. (There were two questions regarding health: one asking whether I have a disability, the other whether I need "help with activities of daily living.")

When I was 80 percent done, I had the option to print a complete copy of the information I provided. That amounted to five pages of information. After that, I completed and submitted the application, again expecting fairly instant results. You know, something like submitting a search for a flight or hotel room online. Not so much. The screen said my application was "processing." I logged on the next day, and the application was still processing.

It might also be worth mentioning that when I say "logged on," I mean a lengthy process of clicking that might or might not work. If it did work, I was taken to a blank page that displayed "success url." Nothing more happened after that. I worked as a Web producer many years ago, and since then I have also worked on a Web-based logistic management system that served several Fortune 500 customers and their thousands of suppliers, so that the blank page labeled "success url" did not deter me. I hit "reload" and got into the page most of the time.

When I clicked into the application that was listed as "processing," I got a message that I still needed to complete the application. That meant clicking through all the pages again, except this time, all the information was filled out. I again received a confirmation that my application had been received. The status of the application was still "processing."

After six days of "processing," I tried to use chat support. It very clearly says that you cannot give chat support any information that can identify your application. I am not sure what they are supposed to do if they cannot access and help you with your application. The wait was remarkably short, so I can't help but wonder if they've hired an army to give excuses for the non-working system.

Chat support was a bust. I was told there were glitches and that I had to call the customer service number to find out what really was happening with my application, if anything. The wait on the phone was remarkably short, too, and a nice young man again told me that there were glitches and he would be happy to take my application over the phone. I called him on his corporate-issued bullshit and asked him the two questions I had, which was if something, eventually, would happen to my application, and when that might be. After repeating the question several times, he finally said that I should check back in on the website at the end of October or beginning of November.

My inner cynic wonders whether the $67 million granted 105 different organizations to help people apply for Obamacare combined with a website that isn't even ready for alpha-testing is a hidden make-work project to boost employment numbers. The website is not working and the only way to get anything accomplished, at this point, is to fill out a paper application that is mailed in manually.

It is reasonable to question whether the personal mandate should be postponed for another year, if Healthcare.gov can't promise any action on applications submitted now until early November. Frankly, I don't trust the early November date any more than I trust Congress to cut spending in a meaningful way. Given reports on Obamacare sticker shock, I might continue to stick with my cash-and-carry health care plan, even if it does take me three weeks to fill a prescription. My doctor is really great at her job after all, and I know she takes my current health care plan.