As the owners of small businesses, my family has been curious to learn how much insurance would cost us once the Affordable Care Act kicks in – and what our choices of networks, providers and whatnot would be.
With the arrival of the October 1 open enrollment period, my first computer stop was healthcare.gov to begin comparison shopping among the four ACA plans vs. the COBRA plan that we have through the end of 2014.
Here’s how it went:
October 1, 2013
7:30 a.m. – I first encounter the Health Insurance Marketplace waiting room.
7:33 a.m. – The drop-down boxes on the security questions aren’t working.
7:34 a.m. – The healthcare.gov website blames users for errors it created.
7:36 a.m. – I click on the “Live Chat” button.
7:48 a.m. – Live chat robo-message says, “Please be patient while we’re helping other people.”
8:21 a.m. – After telling me to “Please be patient while we’re helping other people” more than 30 times, the robo-message tells me they are having technical problems – but they hope they answered my question.
9:41 a.m. – @HealthCareGov Tweets, “Thanks for all your comments and updates as you enroll. We apologize that wait times on the site and hotline are longer than expected! We’re working to fix these issues as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.”
10:00 a.m. – HHS spokeswoman says, ”We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience.”
11:00 a.m. – I tell them I can’t set up an account. They don’t respond.
11:00 a.m. – 10 p.m. – I try periodically to get on to the site. Hours spent in waiting room, followed by security question drop boxes not working.
Sometime during the day – President Obama says the long waits prove how badly the program was needed and compares ACA to iOS7.
(Note: I got iOS7 on opening day.)
5:51 p.m. – Secretary Sebelius, after urging people to sign up in the morning, retweets this from @HealthCareGov: “2.8 million people have visited http://HealthCare.gov today and we’ve received 81k calls! We’re excited so many people want to #GetCovered”
10:42 p.m. – After another lengthy wait in waiting room, the drop boxes finally work! I am just inches from seeing my choices!
10:43 p.m. – Or not:
10:46 p.m. – I, of course, hadn’t chosen the same security answers to different questions. But, whatever. I choose separate security questions and answers – and advance to the next page!
10:47 p.m. – I receive an email to verify my account. I. Am. So. Close. Or not:
10:48 p.m. – Two tries later, and I’m in!
10:49 p.m. – Or not:
10:50 p.m. – And, of course, I’m sent back to the waiting room:
11:49 p.m. – And this is what I’m looking at an hour later:
October 2, 2013
12:25 a.m. – I close the laptop and go to sleep, only incrementally closer to learning what my health insurance options are.
7:58 a.m. – After a lengthy waiting room stay (hello, my old friend!), I’m told my username and/or password is wrong.
7:58:30 a.m – Still wrong.
7:58:43 a.m. – Still wrong.
7:59 a.m. – 8:25 a.m. – Back to the waiting room.
8:26 a.m. – healthcare.gov tells me the account it says I created and verified at 10:50 p.m. the night before does not exist:
8:27 a.m – And back to the waiting room.
Tony Jewell is the founder of Boardwalk Public Relations in Ventnor, New Jersey. He is a former corporate and state and federal government spokesman. This post originally appeared in his blog, Life in the Affordable Care Act.