He just wanted to browse health care plans. He got the Spanish Inquisition.

The Wall Street Journal did a lengthy story yesterday about the problems confronting the beleaguered Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) “exchange” Web sites that launched last Tuesday.  The Journal consulted experts who say the site is poorly coded.

At the same time, the NYT reports that administration officials say that some key software on the site failed after facing such a heavy crush of users.  And while I’m sure the crush of visitors was, well, crushing, others are suggesting that that’s not a very good excuse for a site being pretty much inoperable for a week.

The week wasn’t an entire disaster. In some places, like Washington, DC, the launch went off without a glitch.  In other places, like California and Florida, people were either finding it impossible to get to the home page, or to log in, or to fill out their application (which apparently, according to the exchanges, is the same thing as creating an account on the site – we’ll get to that bizarre conflation of terms in a moment), or to get their application confirmed, and so on.

Now, keep in mind that in some states – 14, and the District of Columbia – any problems people faced are the states’ fault, as those states are in charge of running the exchanges. But in 36 states, the federal government is in charge of the exchange.  And the federal exchange was the glitchiest of them all.

Big caveat: I had no problem logging on to the DC exchange that first day, and finding two plans that potentially interested me.  What I did have a problem doing was checking out plans for my sister in Illinois. Illinois is one of the 36 states where you need to go the main federal exchange site, HealthCare.gov, in order to review potential insurance plans.

The DC site is a joy.  You can apply for coverage or simply browse plans – and the button you click in order to browse plans is labeled “browse plans.” If you choose to browse plans, you create an account by choosing a username and password, and that’s it. Next it asks you to create some security questions, and then you’re in.  You can browse the various plans, or even apply for one if you like.

The Federal exchange is no such joy. Due to the heavy traffic, and the glitches, it took up until Sunday for me to even be able to reach the part of the site where you begin the process of setting up an account, a requirement for perusing the plans.  First off, it’s not terribly clear on the federal exchange site how to browse plans at all.  On the DC site, you click the “browse plans” button, instead of the “apply now” button.  On the federal site, you simply have to click “learn more,” and then it starts asking you lots of questions about your age range, whether you already have insurance, etc.

That then takes you to a page that is confusing as hell, and says nothing at all about browsing plans.  All you can do on that page is “apply” for a plan. I didn’t want to apply for a plan, but lacking any other choice, I clicked “apply now,” even though I didn’t want to apply now.


After I clicked through, I was required to enter all sorts of personal information, including my phone number and home address (including zip plus four, which I had to go look for), which only furthered my concern that I was actually “applying” for insurance, when I simply wanted to window shop.  I wonder how many people stopped right here, thinking they were “applying” for insurance and didn’t want to do that just yet.

So I created some dummy info – I was, after all, simply trying to help my sister back in Illinois, and the site was having none of it.  First, it required a working email address – then it sends you an email you have to click on, and then you return to the site and fill out more information.  So I went back, started all over again, and gave it a real email address this time. (The DC exchange doesn’t not require an email at all, and gives you immediate access to the various plans right after you create a username and password – though they do ask you to create some security questions.)

So I created another new account, this time using a real email address, and I kept getting error messages, telling me that it couldn’t create the account.  Eventually it worked, and that’s when things got really fun.  Somehow the federal exchange figured out that I was creating a dummy account, so it kept telling me it couldn’t verify who I was.  So I finally entered my sister’s real name, address and phone number.

Well, HealthCare.gov was having none of that.  Apparently, entering my sister’s REAL information raised some red flag, and the site was now demanding copies of my government IDs that were going to be reviewed by some actual human being before I received the honor of being permitted to simply browse some insurance plans.

I could almost hear the German accent.




“Submit documents that prove your identity.”  Right, like my mom is going to know how to scan a document, let alone upload it to a Web site.  And who, in any case, is going to start uploading their official documents to a Web site they simply want to browse?

I quit the entire venture in disgust.

Unless this is all part of the ongoing glitch – and I’m sure some of it is, but not all of it is – why should I have to prove who I am in order to simply browse the damn plans?  You don’t have to prove who you are on the DC exchange in order to browse the plans.  Why should I have to do it on the federal site?  And putting aside for a moment the ridiculous use of the phrase “apply now” in order to mean “just browse, you don’t really have to ‘apply,’ ” why require a working in-state home address and phone at all?  In order to give me accurate quotes, all they need is my birthday and my state of residence, and maybe – maybe – my county, though that’s questionable.  So a birthday and zip code should suffice.

Instead, I got the Spanish Inquisition.

Why does it matter? Well, I don’t plan on spending my entire life in Washington, DC.  (God forbid.)  At some point, I’d like to peruse the plans in Illinois because, you know, sometimes people move from one state to another.  How exactly do I look over the Illinois plans if I don’t have a “real” verified address in Illinois? And what is the crime in simply giving people access to the plans without jumping through all these hoops?  If I didn’t know better, I’d say this site feels like an effort in list-building – i.e., they want to collect as much information as possible about everyone who visits, even if they’re not buying anything, in order to create a huge database for who knows what reason.  And not to get all Glenn Beck on them, but it’s none of their damn business who I am, or what my phone number or home address is, until I decide to apply for a plan.  Period.

Then I had a eureka moment.  I’ll just call the 800 number they provide on the site, and ask them how to get the plans.  So I called, and the recording told me there was a 30 minute wait. I promptly hung up.

I’ve worked as an Internet consultant for 16 years.  The federal exchange is poorly designed.  The majority of the people are going there for two reasons – one really – to browse plans.  So give them access to the damn plans, and make it easy for them.  Don’t make them hunt all over the page in order to figure out where to even click to begin browsing, and then when they figure out they’re supposed to click the “apply now” button, even though they don’t want to apply now, don’t make them fill out an entire autobiography just to compare plans and prices.

Again, the DC site doesn’t require any of this info or all of these hoops, and it does just fine letting us browse the correct plans. So why is the federal site so complicated and intrusive ?

I’m a big supporter of Obamacare.  I wasn’t thrilled that the law didn’t go farther, but I always felt – and increasingly feel – that the fixes for annual and lifetime limits, and pre-existing conditions, for starters, would be a huge deal.  And they are.  But we shouldn’t be giving the Republicans fuel for the fire, and this Web site – poorly designed as it apparently is – is fuel.

It’s still a bit of a mystery why the DC government was able to come up with a pretty good site, while the federal one is a confusing and complicated mess.  But there you have it. Let’s hope that they get the glitches fixed pronto, then go back and overhaul the entire thing.  It should be far easier, quicker, and less complicated to access the plans.  Here’s hoping that at some future date it is.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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118 Responses to “He just wanted to browse health care plans. He got the Spanish Inquisition.”

  1. Jonathan Levy says:

    There is a form for an Appeal on Healthcare.gov my recommendation is that find it and file it now. They are denying our due process by denying access to the site which a is a government program by being arbitrary and capricious. File the appeal and they are supposed to have a Hearing officer review the case or they have violated the the due process clause of the Constitution.

  2. Jonathan Levy says:

    I got a Notice I will be kicked out january 8, 2014 unless I can prove my income for 2014, WOTF is with that?

  3. im_a_vapor says:

    I tried the federal website. I had these same problems. I’m stuck at the point where my identity is verified. The article is correct that people would just like to browse the health plans. I’m suprised I can’t do that until my identity is verified.

  4. Garromond says:

    The real trouble with the federal sites is that basically it is a data gathering site first and then a health plan browser second. It seemed like I was signing the bottom line before I knew what I was signing for.

  5. Jafafa Hots says:

    Doesn’t matter if you’re a REpublican or Democrat, liberal or conservative… if you expect a website to not have problems going live for hundreds of millions of people, you’re a fool.

    If you blame that website having trouble being flooded by a sudden influx of tens of millions of hits on an inherent flaw in having government run the program that website is about – OR an inherent flaw in having a corporation run the program that website is about – you’re an ignorant fool.

    If you think complaints about a website are complaints about “government controlled healthcare” then again, you are a fool.

    If you don’t remember the fiasco that George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D program was, if you don’t remember that it was a DISASTER for MONTHS, that it took YEARS to straighten out and changed implemented by the Democratic congress to get it working, you’re an ignorant fool.

    This is all disregarding your paranoia and delusional ranting about “dictators” and your straight-out-of-the-GOP-playbook racist fearmongering.

    The TRUE problem with the ACA is the same as the true problem with Medicare Part D – they are both REPUBLICAN-DEVISED plans that are actually just massive corporate subsidies.

    Corporate welfare. Not unlike oil subsidies.

  6. Reality Is Real says:

    Mr. Jafafa Hots – you do actually realize you’re berating the Republicans, and those who are struggling with the ACA website, while talking about your official wait time on receiving SSI and Medicare…I say to you, sir, that you are complaining about the length of time for TWO government-operated entities, right? You do fully comprehend that SSI and Medicare are ran by the government? You know, the SAME entity who will now control the healthcare industry?

    You are officially complaining to others who have crap on their shoes, and you don’t even see the crap on your own shoes! Welcome to the New America – where government controls every aspect of your life, twisting you arm to comply with laws they exempt themselves from…kudos, sir – you have intentionally created a dictatorship government. I tip my hat to you and your liberal party, for fundamentally transforming America – and the best is yet to come.

    Eventually, however, government will grow tired of supporting an ever-growing class of Americans..those who depend on government…welfare cuts kick in on November 1st, 2013..and they are already bickering about the $700 billion dollars welfare is going to cost the government over the next several years…money that would better serve the Muslim nations Barack Obama supports vehemently, just as he did sending Pakistan $1.7 billion dollars on the heels of the end of the government partial shut-down.

    So, while you sit hypocritically complaining to others about their struggle with this government-controlled healthcare, as you whine about how long it took you to receive your government-controlled assistance – think about your future under this administration…trust me, they ARE thinking about you!

  7. Matthew Minard says:

    same here buddy… had a decent 3500 deductible plan, with a 100 dollar a month premium. Now I will be paying over 300 a month unless I find a way unto Obamacare….

    basically I’m screwed

  8. Matthew Minard says:

    I also live in a state (NC) that did not take the federal money for medicaid… I guess this native son of NC will have to move in order to qualify for insurance I can afford. Oh well about that whole trying to become an English teacher …

  9. Mary Paddock says:

    Through the federal exchange, I’ve gotten as the page that’s supposed to allow me to “resume”, but it often comes up blank or simply shows the link to the go to the Missouri Medicaid site where I’m supposed to apply for medicaid for my youngest. We already know we don’t qualify for medicaid–we make too much by Missouri’s standards (narrowly, but we do). If I reload the page the “resume” button reappears–sometimes. Then I can go to the page where I’m supposed to be able to look at healthcare plans. I click on “bronze” or “silver”, etc, but nothing shows up.

    Further complicating the issue–I already know we don’t qualify for the subsidies it’s offering because my husband has insurance available through his employer that meets the requirements set forth by the AHA. Because of a ridiculous rule that states that if a single premium is less than 9.5% of a family’s income, then the family doesn’t qualify for a subsidy, we’re out in the cold. We could afford to insure a single family member–it’s the family rate we can’t afford. Heck–if I had $600 to spare every month, I wouldn’t need insurance, We’d just go to the doctor when we need to and put the rest in savings in case one of us winds up in a hospital.

    Until now I’ve been a fan of the health care act, but all it’s done for the lower middle class is throw up expensive roadblocks.

  10. Kristen Jones says:

    Same with me–completely blank screen, no matter what browser… :/

  11. flankton says:

    Yep… if you live in in NC, like me, Obama just ruined one of the last parts of the country that was actually functioning correctly… we had low premiums for years. i was paying 75/month this year… next year it goes to 332/month due to obamacare, we are subsidizing NEW YORK. Whats more, I cant even get the subsidies to work, so he effectively TAXED me into poverty by increasing my premiums with no subsidy. There will be revolt if something is not done.

  12. flankton says:

    I put my real information in, and it still couldnt verify my identity… it has been “verifying” my idenittiy for ten days now… the woman on the phone couldnt even tell me what was going on. lol… The ACA raised my premiums 340% and then told me it would cover half of the raise with a subsidy… but the darn website to get the subsidy doesnt work, and there is noone to call who knows how to fix the verifying identity problem… so essentially, ACA STRIPPED ME OF HEALTHCARE INSURANCE. Because of OBAMACARE I WILL NOT HAVE INSURANCE NEXT YEAR… and i have been paying my premiums for 10 years!!!!! THIS NEEDS TO BE FIXED NOW..

  13. silent karmic says:

    Speaking of statistics…a little factoid I though I’d pass on: Mr Barack HUSSEIN Obama (or whoever the hell he is) received a greater number of votes than the number of registered voters in precincts throughout the nation. Hmmmmm…

  14. SpringTexan says:

    Who cares if it looks clunky or generic if it works. That’s the important thing.

  15. Michael says:

    How did you browse the NY plans? I also tried, but stopped when it asked for my SS#, address, and phone… Would appreciate some help with this. Thanks.

  16. Walternator says:

    So you impersonated your sister on a government website, and had a problem? Now your sister will have to go through the process you caused. Genius, you are. Glad you aren’t trying to help me. I don’t see protecting someone’s identity as a bad thing myself, but hey, if you do, that’s fine.

  17. Clint Harris says:

    Yep.. .same issues. I figured I will wait about 2 months before trying again.

  18. Whitewitch says:

    Sorry for your struggle with the ACA, I hope the problems work out soon. I believe that food, water, air and healthcare should be available for all people. As for sex…you can take this conversation to the silliest point you would like…I am not laughing. Sex is bad topic to add to the mix…and if you think that breeding is your given right…I can not help you.

  19. Harry Grier says:


    Let’s begin with my comments and how I showed my cards.

    When trying to create a delivery system for any product, physical or not, it is best to find out how many customers there will be. In this case we have a much anticipated service that has been heavily promoted since March 2010. Certainly the 30 million uninsured Americans would be availing themselves of this service, most likely within the first day or two of it’s opening. Now due to the heavy promotion of the service, the seller has to anticipate a worst case scenario. Kind of like the mad rush at Walmart the day after Christmas with 52″ TVs on sale for $399. How to best estimate how big the rush will be is the hard part. Granted I approached it from a very simplistic viewpoint. I figured that anybody who voted for Obama would certainly want to see what the
    service would provide. I figured they would also want to see it the day it started. The people who voted against him would probably wait until they absolutely had to sign up just simply because of their disdain of the ACA and what it means to them. In other words the seller built up a created lots of demand for the service. Apparently the people in charge of this vastly underestimated how many users would hit the system on day one.

    Now on to your next comment.
    You would like to see a one payer health care system and that it should be for everybody. I’m guessing that you feel that health care is a basic human need and everybody has a right to it. If I’m correct please read on. If I’m wrong tell me to put my “big boy panties on” and go to the next paragraph.
    Ok since you’re still reading this paragraph I assume I’m right in our thinking. Lets extend this “basic needs” theory of yours out a little bit. What are the main essentials for every human being besides health care? According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, physiological needs are the physical requirements for human survival. If these requirements are not met, the human body cannot function properly, and will ultimately fail. They are: They are: air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep. Air, and sleep are pretty much free for now. Should food, drink, shelter, and warmth be provided through a one payer system? How about sex? What if a person can’t find a
    suitable mate? Should a mate be provided through a one payer system? What if they can’t afford a mate? Should the cost of the mate be subsidized? Now I’m being silly. Trying to add a little levity to the argument.

    Now on to your comment on Corporatism. At it’s core ACA promises to reduce the cost of health care insurance by introducing competition into the mix. I know that isn’t what you want, but hear me out. Competition is not necessarily a bad thing. By allowing companies to compete for customers, all customers, they will eventually find the correct price that the marketplace will bear for a given good or service. This has never been tried before. I buy my car insurance from a company that is across the country from me. I buy my
    homeowners insurance from a company three states away. Why can’t I buy health insurance the same way? I am stuck in a state where BCBS has over 85% of the market share. It’s true. I researched it. Normally the government would be all over a company with a monopoly like that. Why has the Justice Department allowed it to go on for decades regardless of which party was in control? Corporatisim as you call it is the most efficient delivery system of goods and services at the best price when competition is allowed to flourish. Do you think for a moment that a private sector company would have mishandled the grand opening of ACA in the manner that the Feds have? I doubt it. The private sector has too much to lose. They are called customers. In the Fed’s eyes, we aren’t customers, we are tax payers.

    Now to your final comment.

    Was I ONE of those? Those whats? I’m assuming that you mean a mean old nasty republican who conspired with 145 million others who voted against Obama to do massive calling campaign on day one to bring the system down. Kind of like a denial of service attack on a computer network. Nope I’m a single guy who has to buy health insurance through the Marketplace because I am not allowed by the new ACA law to buy it through my company. What is that you say? My company won’t give me health care? Shame on them!!!! Evil Corporatism at work!!! Kill them!!! Oh by the way the company I work for me. That’s right. It’s an S corporation with me as the sole W-2 employee. As the owner of the company, under ACA, I am forbidden to buy my insurance through my company. I have to go into the marketplace. Other companies get to deduct the expense of their share of employee’s benefits. My company doesn’t. Employees who buy their health insurance through their company get to buy that insurance through the cafeteria plan and pay with PRE-tax dollars. I don’t get to do that. I will have to buy my insurance
    with dollars that have already been taxed. I guess that’s what Ms. Pelosi meant when she said “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in
    it.” I guess the logic is that anybody who owns a company must be rich so let’s make those evil people really pay. So to answer your question I was calling the Marketplace on day nine to SHOP for insurance. It’s the law, and I’m not one to break the law.

    Now let me share with you my experience with ACA and Healthcare.gov thus far.

    September 9, 2013

    I created an account and got an email requesting that I verify myself.

    Your Marketplace account has been created. There is one more step left before you can use your account. Click on this link to verify your email address (link deleted for privacy reasons)

    I received a second email after verifying myself.

    Welcome to the Health Insurance Marketplace! Now that you’ve signed up for email updates, you’re one step closer to getting the health coverage you need. We’ll send you tips and alerts that will help you stay on track to get health insurance that fits your budget and meets your needs.

    Enrollment in health plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace starts October 1, 2013. Coverage starts as soon as January 1, 2014.

    To get a head start, find out what you can do now to get ready to enroll.

    Want answers fast? Just answer a few quick questions to find out what programs you may qualify for and learn about topics that matter to you most.

    Feeling social? Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more news and updates about the Health Insurance Marketplace. Visit HealthCare.gov/connect to watch videos and check us out on Google+.

    We’ll be in touch soon!

    And remember, you can always update your state info, change your notification settings, or subscribe to new topics by changing your subscriber preferences.

    Note that they asked me if I’m feeling social and direct me to places like Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Remember the word Google. It will pop up later in this little missive.

    Want proof that I was able to log into my account on September 9?
    Here is an email showing that I changed an email subscription setting.

    You have made the following changes to your Health Insurance Marketplace subscriptions:

    You subscribed to topics:

    · For Account Holders

    You will receive an email update when new information becomes available.

    Then I made the fatal mistake of logging out of my account on September 9. When I tried to log in again just a few minutes later to check something, it didn’t recognize me. Apparently I’m so dense that I forgot the password that I had created (and written down) just a few minutes earlier. I had to reset my password.

    You’re getting this message because you forgot your password. Please click the link below to reset your password. If you didn’t request this change, please call 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. (the link is deleted for privacy reasons.)

    After resetting my password, I still wasn’t able to log into my account again. I called the customer service number and they were able to see my account on their end. They assured me that once the system went live on October 1, I’d have full access to my account. They knew they had some technical glitches and were working through them but everything would be fine by October 1.

    October 9, 2013

    After hearing about all of the horrible problems that have been going on since October 1, the grand rollout of Obamacare, I purposefully waited until tonight to try to log into my account. I figured at worst I’d get a message saying the system was overloaded and to wait my turn. (Think of the line at the IRS office where some grumpy bureaucrat yells “NEXT!”)

    When I tried to log in I was surprised that I immediately got a response. Healthcare.gov didn’t recognize me. After several attempts (remember I had
    written my user ID and password down and was able to log into my account on September 9) I asked for an email reminder for my user ID and password. Upon receiving the email I clicked the link in the email to take me to the reset password page. Instead of the reset password web page I got the following response.

    Forgot password

    We weren’t able to process your request because we couldn’t find a Marketplace profile that matched the information that you provided.

    So in frustration I created another account and received this message:

    Almost there…

    sent an email to [email protected]. (email redacted for privacy reasons)

    Click the link in the email message and you’ll be one step closer to having health insurance.

    I switched over to my Google email account and waited for the email to
    appear. When it arrived I clicked the link in the email within five seconds of receiving it……and got this response.

    You didn’t check your email in time.

    You should’ve gotten an email from the Marketplace with a link, but too much time has passed for that link to work. Re-enter your information now, and we’ll send you another email. Check your email soon, and click the link in the email to create your Marketplace account. If you’ve already verified your email address, you can log in (link deleted for privacy reasons.)

    By this time I’m extremely angry. But I figured what the hell, I’ll be a sheep and follow instructions. So I tried creating my account for a third time and got this message:

    Create a Marketplace account

    Important: Your account couldnt be created at this time. This username already exists. Enter a different username.

    Now, more amused than angry,I began asking my computer silly questions like: “Are you serious Clark?” (quote from Holiday Vacation). I also said a lot of other things that aren’t suitable for publication. After I had calmed down, just for giggles, I decided to Chat with a live person to see if they could solve this great mystery of the universe. I mean this must be more complicated than cold fusion and therefore requires intelligence greater than my 156 IQ.

    Chat session with Brenda was copied verbatim:

    [9:10:02pm]: Thanks for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Please wait while we connect you to someone who can help.
    [9:10:05 pm]: Please be patient while we’re helping other people.
    [9:10:09 pm]: Welcome! You’re now connected to Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Thanks for contacting us. My name is Brenda. To protect your privacy, please don’t provide any personal information, like Social Security Number, or any other sensitive medical or personal information.

    [9:10:45 pm]: Harry I created an account on September 9. I’ve tried to log in tonight and it doesn’t recognize me. I asked that my user ID and password be emailed to me.

    [9:11:09 pm]: Harry I clicked the link and it said that it didn’t recognize me as a user. Note: Brenda was typing while I was in mid stream and it appears that I ignored her question. I was being impatient. I answered her question at 9:12:46.

    [9:11:27 pm]: Brenda Where did you click the link from?

    [9:11:46 pm]: Harry I created another account and clicked the link in the email within five seconds of receiving it and it said that i didn’t click fast enough.

    [9:12:11 pm]: Harry Tried to create the account for a third time per the instructions. It said that my user ID was already taken.

    [9:12:46 pm]: Harry I clicked the link in the email that was sent to me the second time I created an account.

    pm]: Brenda Thank you. My system shows you are using a “Chrome” browser; do you have access to a different browser?

    [9:13:55 pm]: Harry Are you serious? I have to access this through another browser?

    [9:14:30 pm]: Brenda Other browser have shown to be more compatible with the website.

    [9:14:54 pm]: Brenda You do not have to, however, if you chose not to you will need to continue trying.

    [9:15:00 pm]: Brenda I apologize for the inconvenience.

    [9:15:34 pm]: Harry Is the browser incompatibility due to Google or is it on your end?

    [9:16:28 pm]: Brenda Unfortunately, at this time I do not have specific information that tells what is the case.

    [9:17:25 pm]: Harry Ok, I’ll try Microsoft Explorer.

    [9:17:39 pm]: Brenda Thank you for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    [9:18:12 pm]: Harry Thank you

    [9:20:50 pm]: Harry No joy.

    [9:21:11 pm]: Harry Do I have to create an account through IE?

    [9:21:41 pm]: Brenda If you where successful created an account through Chrome, you should not have to.

    [9:22:56 pm]: Harry I tried again. It doesn’t go anywhere. Is this because of the technical glitches I’ve been hearing about?

    [9:23:08 pm]: Brenda Unfortunately, yes.

    [9:23:51 pm]: Harry 10-4 I’ll wait a few more days and see what transpires the next attempt to log in. I’ll try it through IE.

    [9:24:27 pm]: Brenda Please keep in mind, Open enrollment is the period of time each year when you can apply and enroll in a Marketplace plan. For coverage in 2014, the open enrollment period begins on October 1, 2013, and ends on March 31, 2014.

    [9:26:20 pm]: Harry I’ll need coverage on January 1, 2014. Can’t wait until March 31, 2014. Thank you for the info though. I know you guys are having a tough time trying to help folks through this difficult time. It’s not your fault the system is broken.

    [9:27:01 pm]: Brenda Thank you for understanding.

    (End of transmission)

    So folks this is my experience so far with the great and wonderful Obamacare. I can’t wait until it’s time for my proctology exam…oh wait…I think I just had it free of charge. I’m good for another year. Obamacare has already lowered my healthcare costs!

  20. Drew2u says:

    I’m probably going to have to move unless my governor is booted out of office next year.
    in the meantime I have a tooth that doesn’t exist anymore but the nerve sure does!

  21. Whitewitch says:

    No reason to be sorry Harry. Two things (1) first you assume that I support the ACA – although I do believe everyone should have healthcare in America and that it should be free, I do not whole heartily support the ACA – as Nathanael below says this is CORPORATISM at it finest; and (2) I think you left out a very important part and that is that it has been stopped, harassed, slowed down and stymied in any way possible by the Republicans, who even knew if it would even come to pass.

    Also, lots and lots of systems crash when they are hit all at once with tons of uses…from TicketMaster to the Lottery system for ComicCon! So put on your big boy panties and get over it.

    My hope is that we go to true one-payer health care FOR ALL, not just the wealthy or the employed…for ALL!!!

    Not sure why they are having programming problems as I was not invited to be on the team that developed the application, I will say though this is a huge program and I venture to say not enough money was spent on getting a working system in place that could handle the traffic.

    P.S. Harry – you show your cards when you say things like “I figure that everybody who voted for him would be hitting the site on DAY ONE” and then say “I was just told by ACA….” Are you one of the ONES or just feel special enough that you should get to call the ACA and bug them with questions when you are not actually applying.

  22. Nathanael says:

    (I should be clear: there are only two insurance companies in my county. There are others in other parts of the state. There are supposed to be three in my county, but the third one has no phone number for their marketplace plans, no website for their marketplace plans, no information anywhere, and is obviously not actually selling plans.)

  23. barbarajmay says:

    It took over an hour just to find a password they would accept. Finally, I just called friends until I found someone who had gotten in. I took their password. I am now making my 5th attempt to navigate the labyrinth of the Minnesota website MNSURE. If it’s this hard for me, and I’m an attorney, how the heck is the average guy going to do it?

  24. Nathanael says:

    Apply by mail.

  25. Nathanael says:

    I plan to apply on paper at this point.

  26. Nathanael says:

    (I know about the county based restrictions in NY from the list published by the Governor regarding which companies were licensed to sell insurance in which county. This, I actually found on the NY exchange website without logging in.)

  27. Nathanael says:

    Valuepenguin is pretty good. It shows you more choices than are actually available, however. For instance, in New York it shows all the plans available *statewide*, but actually your available plans are restricted by county of residence.

    Still, you’re right, it’s what the “exchanges” should have had.

    FYI: New York and California don’t allow higher rates for smokers. New York doesn’t allow higher rates based on age.

  28. Nathanael says:

    This isn’t socialism. This is corporatism. Socialism is what they have in the UK, where you just get free health care from the government-employed doctors.

    Socialism works. This nightmare brew of dozens of private insurance companies…. does not work.

  29. Nathanael says:

    That’s fairly disgusting, and I can believe it.

    However, it’s easy enough in NY to find out the pricing in any county whatsoever, by going through the individual companies’ websites, so that can’t be the reason why you can’t browse in NY.

  30. Nathanael says:

    The “exchange” in New York is completely, utterly useless for browsing if you’re an individual (it works OK if you’re a small business). I’ve had to call each insurance company individually to get information. Luckily there are only two of them.
    However, the insurance options in NY are actually an improvement. (Previous rates were upwards of $1200/month, which is basically unaffordable for anyone. Now they’re DOWN to under $700 something. And there’s an out-of-pocket limit — which there *wasn’t* before — making the insurance more functional.)

  31. Nathanael says:

    You’re in the “so poor you’re supposed to get Medicaid” category.

    If you are in one of the states which agreed to expand Medicaid, you get Medicaid: free health care. Medicaid got a lot better in the last couple of years, too.

    If you’re in one of the Republican-controlled states which didn’t expand Medicaid, because that jackass John Roberts on the Supreme Court made a completely unjustifiable, unconstitutional ruling claiming that they didn’t have to — well, if you’re in one of those states, MOVE. If you don’t move, you’re screwed.

    We’d welcome you in one of the sane states. (Which include California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, West Virginia, and other nice places).


  32. Drew2u says:

    Using the Premium Estimation Tool to browse for health coverage, I wonder if the formulas are wonky. For me, the cheapest Bronze plan (the estimation tool doesn’t ask for income or other stats other than a vague age and location) is:

    Medica Applause Bronze H S A
    PPO | Bronze
    Estimated monthly premium for only you

    Yeah, that isn’t going to happen.

    I go into the Subsidy Calculator to see what subsidies I could probably get, since I make about $8,000/year (yay useless college degree). With that, I get $0 in subsidies:

    Household income in 2014:70% of poverty levelUnsubsidized annual health insurance premium in 2014:$4,673Maximum % of income you have to pay for the non-tobacco premium, if eligible for a subsidy:NoneAmount you pay for the premium:$4,673 per year
    (which equals 58.41% of your household income and covers 100% of the overall premium)You could receive a government tax credit subsidy of up to:$0
    (which covers 0% of the overall premium)So with that cheapest bronze health insurance, I’ll be paying $3,784.08/year for insurance, minus any out-of-pocket expenses. That accounts for 47% of my annual income, leaving me to survive on $4,215 for food, transportation, housing, student loans, and whatever dental plan I’d be signing up for in addition to health insurance.
    I hope this gets adjusted because as-is, it’s unsustainable.

  33. Harry Grier says:

    I’m sorry Whitewitch. The ACA was signed into law on 3-23-10 and upheld by SCOTUS on 6-28-12. There has been plenty of time for this program to be implemented and debugged. I have no idea how much money has been spent on it thus far but I’m sure it’s more than a $1.00. President Obama quoted over and over that there were 30 million Americans without healthcare coverage during the 2008 campaign. Let’s use that number to start with. Build a program that can handle the traffic of 30 million people on DAY ONE, MINUTE ONE. You know that those will be the first people who will need and want the info. Next step, build into the traffic capacity another 157.4 million people. How did I get to that figure? Obama got 51.1% of the popular vote in 2012. There were 308 million Americans per the 2010 census. I figure that everybody who voted for him would be hitting the site on DAY ONE, MINUTE ONE. So build a site that can handle traffic of 197.4 million users at one time.

    The fact that it has compatibility issues with Chrome is unforgivable. I was just told by a ACA help person on Chat that my Healthcare.gov doesn’t like my browser. I guess the programmers didn’t know about Google. It’s such a small company, insignificant really, compared to Microsoft.

    Welcome to Socialism folks. The government is here to inefficiently redistribute wealth and make everybody equal regardless of individual effort.

  34. Whitewitch says:

    No they have not…completely untrue…thanks for sharing though.

  35. Anita Hill says:

    They have had three years and 600 billion dollars to make this website. It’s been up for over a week and it’s still in shambles.

  36. j j says:

    Same here — good description of the problems. I’m from Illinois and I only wanted to browse plans but ended up submitting an application. It never asked me if I had private insurance, or considered that, as an unemployed person, maybe I want to search for something cheaper than my expensive private plan! Instead it appears that now I have been slotted. It gave me some vague “final report” indicating that I might qualify for a subsidy. AND THAT WAS IT! Pretty piss poor. I don’t even understand what is supposed to happen next. I still don’t understand if I have the right to browse for cheaper plans.

  37. TM says:

    This was my experience exactly. Although it took until Tuesday for me to get this far, and now I’m waiting for identity verification, and NOBODY can tell me how long this will take, but they can direct me to Experian who wants a reference number, and directs me back to the MPCC, who doesn’t have this number and directs me back to Experian. Circular reference. I’m window shopping right now. I’m 57, single male, non-smoker, excellent health, with no history of chronic health issues. I purchase an individual plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. BCBSNC notified me that they weren’t going to continue my current plan past the end of 2013, that they would map me to a comparable BCBSNC Obamacare plan (that I would have to purchase on the exchange). The comparable plan isn’t really comparable. First is that the monthly premium goes from $289 to $715, a 250% increase. Major sticker shock. Second is that the out of network deductible (I travel a lot) goes from $3500 to $7000, and now there is a higher co-insurance split that I’m responsible for. There are cheaper BCBSNC plans, but all of them do not include my current doctor. At first I thought that I was being targeted because I’m a republican, but I’m somewhat relieved to see that thus far Obamacare is equal opportunity in it’s poor design and implementation (hope you see the humor in this). But seriously, with this many “glitches” at the start, I can hardly wait to see what the actual healthcare is like.

  38. xray vizhen says:

    I finally registered on the federal site (I’m in NJ) but now after I put in my user name and password I get a blank screen too. For a half as second I see an “authenticating” message briefly flash in the top left corner, then nothing. I actually called Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield, one of the companies that will be providing coverage, and they told me that they won’t even have pricing on the 5 plans they’ll be offering until October 22nd. So I’m not going to bother myself until then. But why launch a system when some of the carriers aren’t even ready?

    This is not just a “scalability” issue (AKA initial crush of traffic) or programming issue, this is a management screw-up of colossal proportions starting at the top. Obama better get this right or his legacy is toast.

  39. TiredGeezerLady says:

    My sister (in Illinois) got an account, chose her username and password, and gave them all the info they wanted, and her account was verified. Now, when she attempts a log-in, she gets either blank screens or error messages ALL THE TIME. She has never once gotten to a place where you can actually look at a plan. And she (and I, on her behalf) have tried hundreds of times. It doesn’t work in Illinois at all.

  40. Garromond says:

    why is there no ” apply now ” button on the Spanish version. ( Illinois 0

  41. benb says:

    The ACA websites have been flooded and they can’t handle the load. Big deal. This is a transient (short-term) problem and it will be worked out (if any GOP website had anything valuable to offer it would be swamped, too, but…doesn’t happen…for the obvious reason). When I have to listen to some GOP flathead bitch about it, I realize he doesn’t know squat about Technology and probably wonders why his virus-infected laptop is so slow. These are not the folks who should be making decisions that affect peoples’ lives.

  42. Kyle_C says:

    You can’t browse health insurance plans because pricing varies by geography. They don’t want people to see the wide pricing variation that exists for no particularly good reason except the relative strength of various regional oligarchies.

  43. Whitewitch says:

    Very good post!!! I hope you find an easy road ahead of you.

  44. Whitewitch says:

    I give you guess a B+ most excellent!

  45. Jafafa Hots says:

    It took me four years without income, paying for my medical bills on credit cards, two court appearances and appeals before I got my Social Security Disability and Medicare.

    A website is slow, and you couldn’t sign up the day it went live as it was crushed by tens of millions of visitors?

    Here’s a thought. Give it a week or two for chrissakes. There is NO website that can handle an onslaught of millions of users in the first day and handle it.

    I wait and fought and slept on relatives couches for four years to get Medicaid.
    You can try logging in next week and not try to be “the first on your block” like this is some kind of Apple product.

    You realize your whining is not only revealing technological cluelessness, it’s handing the GOP a big talking point at the very moment they’re trying to kill the ACA as their first win before heading on to end medicare, medicaid, social security, food stamps, etc.

    Those of us in the system have had to FIGHT for it at extensive personal cost.
    I’m bankrupt, and near homelessness.

    You have to wait a few days for the bugs to get worked out? Cry me a river.

    You do realize that you make the right-wingers claims that we’re a bunch of whining people feeling entitled look plausible with this pathetic whinging, don’t you?

    There are people in this country facing far greater difficulties getting to exercise their right to VOTE.
    Get some perspective for chrissakes.

  46. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Yeah I imagine that’s so. Here’s my based-on-nothing guess on the situation: They hired consultants to build the site who are actually decent at modern web coding (see the use of backbone.js) but built the back end on existing government infrastructure, under guidance of the old farts. They couldn’t use cloud-based services with easy load balancing because of HIPAA regulations on use of private health data. (I know of university course registration systems beefy enough to handle traffic they only receive a day or two each year, because they say FERPA prevents their using commercial cloud hosting.) So they used their own server farms but did some inefficient things on the back end which worked fine under small loads but which locked up with heavy traffic. Now they’re scrambling.

  47. SkippyFlipjack says:

    btw I say “most” because there could be possible ajax cross-domain issues with some of their code but as you say, most of the common ones — jquery, jquery plugins, backbone.js, etc — could be located elsewhere. Images too, just dump them on S3.

  48. BeccaM says:

    I don’t know — it’s possible California (and maybe other states?) don’t allow different rates for smokers vs non-smokers. That would explain why the toggle doesn’t do anything.

    As for county of residence, I suspect it has to do with the calculated cost of medical care within that county. I’m in the same county as Albuquerque. I’ll bet that means my rates would be higher than if I lived out near Farmington or some other podunk place.

  49. perljammer says:

    This is a great find, Becca. I got the same exact premium rate prediction that I got from the Covered California site, but this is much simpler and faster. One curiousity I noticed: toggling the Tobacco Use response between Yes and No had no effect on the premium. I tried it because I’m an ex-smoker and wanted to see how much difference it would make. Huh. By the way, the California site didn’t even ask about smoking, which I thought at the time was sort of odd.

    Looks like the big cost driver is simply age. If I were 20 years younger, my premium would be cut in half. The cost driver I don’t really understand is county of residence. Why, for example, is the premium so much higher for Imperial County compared to neighboring Riverside county? The annual difference for a 40 year old is over $1200 for a Silver plan.

  50. BeccaM says:

    I’ve gone through that. It leads to an information page with a bunch of links and other information, but nothing even close to “browse available plans in your area.”

  51. perljammer says:

    Heh. Ironically, it seems that some of those javascripts were intended to ensure compatibility across a variety of browsers. Oops.

  52. BeccaM says:

    Having spent more time than I can admit on the Healthcare.gov website, as far as I can tell, there is NO way simply to browse health insurance plans. I mean, I could be mistaken and maybe there’s some button or function somewhere, but if it exists, I haven’t seen it.

    You can sign up for a login. You can go through the entire extremely invasive — and often illogical — process of applying for a plan. (Seriously: What small business owner or self-employed person is going to be able to estimate with any accuracy whatsoever how much they will earn in the 2014 calendar year?) I don’t think “browse plans” is included in the Healthcare.gov site anywhere.

    I ran into all the same roadblocks you did, John. All of ’em. Up to an including the “sorry, you’ve exhausted your attempts to verify your identity, now send in some more identity thief bait” — only to have the system bomb out on an error in actually taking the scanned file.

    For what it’s worth, someone sent me this link here:

    No idea as to the veracity of a site named ‘valuepenguin’ — but it actually seemed to produce useful information and the ability to browse plans based on basic information. Age, gender, smoker or not, location, and a rough income estimate — none of it requiring a registered login. It’s everything that should have been on Healthcare.gov in the first place.

  53. cole3244 says:

    i believe all the states are allowed to have their own sign up procedures, maybe thats a way to stop aca from being implemented nationwide by the opponents.
    dc would obviously have the easiest sing up no?

  54. BeccaM says:

    Ditto. I have several IDs I use on websites — none of them ‘BeccaM’ because that’s too public — and was annoyed to see them trying to force a number or symbol onto it.

    There’s no logical reason, it won’t enhance security. For that matter, it’s possible to enter an entire insecure password.

  55. Naja pallida says:

    I ran into that too, ended up making up a username that I’ve never used before, and that I’m likely going to forget, so had to write it down.

  56. Whitewitch says:

    That is true – however the people directing the Contractors are often dyed in the wool old school government employees (I am not putting down government employees – always wanted to be one). However, having worked as a contractor for governmental IT departments, I have seen more than one “old-fart” that wanted it done their way – even though it was the very wrongest way (made up that word eh?).

    So I should have stated that those directing the development of IT projects might not be the most forward thinking – sorry!

  57. Badgerite says:

    It seems to me the first order of business for the exchanges is to get out information to interested consumers. Nobody wants to start enrolling in something before they know what they are enrolling in. And a lot of people are unsure or do not believe they qualify to use the exchanges when they may in fact qualify. So interest is high but enrollment may not be at this point and the sites should have been designed with that in mind.

  58. By the way, I’m not defending the system. I imagine that indicates your bias in the matter. I’m just trying to understand what is happening and trying with my experience to help explain what might be going on. As for signing up, it’s just a cold hard fact that there are many methods for signing up, and the government did indeed provide those methods.

  59. I took the questions as rhetorical. The idea that I am responsible for answering them with specifics for individuals I don’t know is odd. As I said, if someone doesn’t have insurance and they want it, they will find a way through one of the various methods to get it.

  60. No, not actually. “Forced” is an incorrect verb for this situation. Obviously, the people decided to give up in an admittedly difficult situation. They weren’t “forced” to quit.

  61. I agree. I’m just saying that just because the site is difficult, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to use.

  62. We have no way of knowing. You know as well as I that the number of people signing up tells you zero about the number of people who would have signed up. Or would have at least browsed in order to sign up. It’s hard to believe that the BS I went thru sunday night would not turn a lot of less-techy-minded people away.

  63. I’m constantly afraid of what I’m going to copy in place of a URL :)

  64. But again, they didn’t require DC to have all that bs when logging in. If they were worried about fraud, it would have been consistent nationwide.

  65. MarkB says:

    John, I suspect that to browse plans, you don’t click the “Apply Now” button; rather, you click the “Next” button at the bottom of the page. If my guess is correct, the three “Your Next Steps” items are actually “What other things can I do?” items that should be denoted in a sidebar.

  66. nicho says:

    Just because some people have succeeded doesn’t mean that others haven’t been forced away. Major failure in logic, which kind of describes what I’m reading about the system. Geeks writing programs for other geeks and not real people.

  67. nicho says:

    Yes, I understand you are defending the system, but you didn’t answer my questions.

  68. Baseless fearmongering isn’t really constructive for this conversation.

  69. barbarajmay says:

    I can’t get into it at all in Minnesota. i get the same crappy “Your identity can’t be verified”. I had to send a photocopy of my drivers license to the state by snail mail, and god knows when they will get to reviewing that. I am discouraged by the crappy to impossible web interface. I frankly doubt I’ll ever be able to get into it. I can’t imagine how people with less education or experience than I have are handling it.

  70. Another good idea. There’s no possible security breach with such common script re-use.

  71. It’s important to note that JavaScript is client-side, not server-side. It’s entirely possible that the scripts weren’t well-tested on particular browsers (or versions of such), and could thus be locking up users’ browsers rather than locking up the actual website, per se.

    That said, there is a ring of malpractice when scripts are not combined and you have all these users downloading 56 files on a page load when it could have been a few, or one.

  72. I don’t know if it’s “forcing” people away, as a good number of people have indeed completed the process on the federal site.

  73. Many so-called structural issues in software can be fixed or redesigned in place. It’s called refactoring. Also, this could be a matter of a bunch of bugs in stored procedures.or other back-end pieces. I imagine they have a bug tracker where they are triaging all the bugs, and working on the most severe defects first.

    Assuming the worst doesn’t make sense based on my experience. Most projects don’t have to be scrapped and redone.

  74. Well, I believe having health insurance is enough of a motivator for a person of any means to make some effort to acquire it. The government has gone out of its way to make it easy for people. Making excuses doesn’t really hold up as some kind of strong argument.

  75. nicho says:

    And do they have lessons for people who don’t know how to use computers and the Internet, transportation for those people who don’t live near a library, and all-night hours for people who are working two or three part-time jobs?

  76. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I love that when the New York Times wants to know why the website is failing, they talk to independent experts and some of the people who built the site. When the WSJ wants to know why the website is failing, they talk to a couple of outside experts and a bunch of users who have had problems, but talk to noone on the inside and give few specifics about the problems. Typical.

  77. ezpz says:

    Jon Stewart did a good job last night of taking Kathleen Sebelius to task.



    Hmmm….maybe I’m being a tad tin-foil-hatty to think it’s no coincidence that the videos are not working at the moment.

  78. SkippyFlipjack says:

    It’s not very efficient to not bundle all those .js files but it’s not that big a deal by itself — the new york times homepage, for comparison, loads up 50 .js files. If that’s a significant issue healthcare.gov could just dump most of their static file hosting onto Amazon S3 and take the load off their servers.

  79. cole3244 says:

    i think they are worried about fraud like in medicare and that might bring a movement to dismantle the aca before it takes a foothold.

  80. NCMan says:

    well sorry, I was thinking cell phone that everyone seems to have attached to their bodies 24 hrs a day now. But, I see based on one of your other comments that you have now become a looky-loo on a federal exchange and are just causing unnecessary traffic.

  81. SkippyFlipjack says:

    You know, maybe this is the administration’s way of telling the states that didn’t want to create their own exchanges “Fine, this is what you get.”

  82. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Haha.. that’s great

  83. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I think a high percentage of government workers are outside consultants. I’m sure they used a bunch on this project.

  84. SkippyFlipjack says:

    OK, this was super annoying. I was interested in John’s experience and wanted to see the federal site myself. It’s true that you can’t compare plans before creating an account including security questions etc, which is super annoying. This was extra irritating though — why does my account name have to contain numbers, mixed case and/or special characters? Mixed case means usernames are case-sensitive, which is very unusual, and means that many people can’t use a username they use elsewhere so are liable to forget it. In addition, why the extra security for a username? And the instructions aren’t even clear — as asked I included an upper and lower case, but apparently you need a number also.. wtf?

  85. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Oh, it’s good to see that someone else does things like that.

  86. Whitewitch says:

    Wonder if this is a bad-end plan to make it “not work” so they are justified in waiting another year before the ACA starts. Nahhh, it is the silly government coders that are not required to keep up on new ideas, software and training in order to keep their jobs. They should have hired an outside consultant. It is really saying something when the DC government does a better job than the Feds at coding – Really.

  87. It was also 1130 at night, I wasn’t planning on waiting another half hour after the fiasco of trying to get online and wasting a good hour.

  88. Yes, but it’s a shitty system. The DC one is great. The fed one is lousy. It’s not just glitches. It’s confusing as hell, and intrusive as hell, and will force people to walk away. It’s the opposite of what we need and what it should be. It was very poorly done. How did they not have some total neophyte test the site and tell them “uh, I don’t get it” is beyond me

  89. emjayay says:

    I tried the NY site a few days ago and pretty quickly got to rates for various plans, although the site looked rather crude and struck me as being generally awkward. I didn’t try actually signing up, since I was just checking it out.
    Kind of like the NYC subway Metrocard touchscreen machines that look like they are from a set for the movie 1984 or something and turn out to work really well. DC Metro machines look a lot better, and are much more confusing somehow.

  90. Yep. And as I noted above, if we good guys don’t talk about what’s not working, it won’t get fixed, as no one takes the bad guys’ criticism seriously. And if it doesn’t get fixed, it only helps the bad guys. I was patient the first week. I’m not patient any more. Including the fact taht I’m wondering if I broke the law by entering a false “application” now. That site is creepy.

  91. One øf the articles I read said just that, they basically did their own DDoS attack against themselves

  92. DC site does the same. There’s a DC government site ABOUT the exchanges that looks just like the Exchange site, and when you google, the ABOUT site comes up before the exchange itself, so I always have a hard time finding the exchange, and identifying it when I get there. Needs better branding

  93. Yes, I was making homemade buns last night, and copied the “bread temperature” rules in the code!

  94. Yes, but. I’ve learned that at some point, keeping your mouth shut only helps perpetuate the problem. Right wing groups claiming the site doesn’t work isn’t credible criticism. They need to hear from us. And the amount of info they asked of me was creepy and unnecessary, and politically stupid considering the attacks from the right on this have been all about “big government” and “big brother.” The way this is designed only reinforces that. I suspect, fear, that no one raised the issue of why they’re asking for so much information of people simply browsing – probably because some govt bureaucrat said they wanted it. Well, now they know it’s a problem.

  95. emjayay says:

    Calling a government agency and only getting a half hour wait is way better than average. Earlier this year I was on NY unemployment and trying to talk to a human on the phone generally involved a bunch of levels of computer interrogation involving guessing at the right choice or six or seven to actually get to a human not a recorded message and a hangup, then being told no one was available and to make an appointment for a callback, then having to try getting an appointment for every hour of every day of the rest of the week and finding no appointments were available in the first place, then it hangs up. Calling SNAP involves having to leave a message to be called back as soon as possible, and 20 or 30 messages over several days resulted in no call back ever.

  96. Sphyg says:

    I agree. The federal website is terrible. I had to enter about 16 w2s when it could have simply asked for a single line on my tax form. But once I waded through I could view the plans. Logged out and the next day, all the info I entered had disappeared. Now I’m intending to just wait until thanksgiving for the tech guys to fix the website. I have enough info to budget for the insurance for next year.

  97. perljammer says:

    You’re absolutely right; 30 minutes is not indefinite. But unless there is a guaranteed “not to exceed” wait time, then the time on hold is indeed indefinite.

    I have personally used the “put the phone on speaker and do other household tasks while waiting” approach, with mixed results. If you happen to be close enough to the phone to pick up quickly when the other party picks up, it works fine. If you’re upstairs or at the other end of the house, the other party is likely to hang up when you don’t respond immediately. Of course, you can just try again. If enough people engage in that method, the queue gets jammed and the indefinite wait turns into “sorry, lines are too busy right now; try again later.”

  98. NCMan says:

    I didn’t say looky-loos should be eliminated. I’m just wondering how big a part of the problem they are. Ultimately I think the system’s capacity problems should be addressed.

    But, I also don’t think you can legitimately describe 30 minutes on hold as an “indefinite” period of time. In fact, I think it’s the exact opposite of indefinite. Certainly everyone who is interested in getting information on health insurance spends at least 30 minutes at their home occasionally when they could leave their phone on hold while doing other tasks.

  99. perljammer says:

    The people whose lives are too busy to hang on hold for indefinite periods of time are not the people who camp out in lines to buy iPhones and concert tickets. The latter group is composed of people who very likely have never heard of ACA, or if they have, aren’t eager to spend their money on health insurance because they need it to buy a new costume to wear to the next Comicon.

    What would you suggest as a solution to eliminate looky-loos from the Marketplace sites? I guess you could charge a fee for access, refundable when you purchase a plan. That would probably go over great.

  100. cole3244 says:

    calm down everyone attacking the messenger is just what the anti anything (cons & gop) want to happen.

    patience is appropriate rather than impatience so let things get sorted out and changed for the better for those in need, to lose the war now would be absolutely idiotic if not insane.

  101. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I think the link above to the WSJ article is incorrect. Here’s the correct link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304441404579119740283413018.html

    Here’s a bit about the bad coding:

    Engineers at Web-hosting company Media Temple Inc. found a glut of stray software code that served no purpose they could identify. They also said basic Web-efficiency techniques weren’t used, such as saving parts of the website that change infrequently so they can be loaded more quickly. Those factors clog the website’s plumbing, Media Temple said.

    Those are best practices that are probably not causing the issues people have been having. “Stray software code” doesn’t get executed so generally isn’t a problem. Lack of page caching could contribute to high server load but it still seems unlikely that it would have made such a significant difference. Also, there’s lots of caching that can go on at the server level that isn’t detectible at the browser end.

    Interesting to note that Media Temple’s engineers didn’t seem to have problems accessing the site.

  102. perljammer says:

    Yeah, well, there’s plenty of backlash too. Unfortunately, the technical issues appear to be structural in nature rather than simply being software errors. If that turns out to be true, then it will be a long and expensive proposition to get it “fixed so it works.”

    The chain from idea to realization for software in this case goes like this (there is a similar process for the hardware and networking side of things, but let’s put that aside for now):

    Laws and regulations -> software requirements -> requirements review -> software design -> design review -> software implementation -> testing -> release

    The closer the problem is to the start of the chain, the more difficult and expensive it is to fix. And projects pressed for time sometimes skimp on the “review” and “testing” steps, increasing the likelihood that bad decisions and errors can propagate though the process. Throw in the “lowest bidder” government procurement philosophy, and the chances for chaos get even better.

  103. heimaey says:

    I know, but still. It was all roses and yay we have a system in place…now we have to deal with the realities…

  104. SkippyFlipjack says:

    FYI I’ve checked the California site several times over the past week, starting a day or two after the day it opened, and have never noticed a problem. I didn’t go past comparing rates though, the issues may have been further along in the site.

    It’s not surprising that some of the sites are confusing. Designing clear, easy interfaces for even slightly complex tasks isn’t easy. Give the same project to 20 different groups and some of the results will be good, some not so good. Similarly, you hand a finished site to a bunch of developers and half of them will tell you that it was built in a stupid way and give you different ways to correct it.

    My beef with the CoveredCA.com site (California’s site) is that it looks completely generic, like any insurance broker’s site. Nothing that jumps out to say “This is Obamacare!” I can see lots of people being confused, or signing up for insurance on some other site because neither looked like a “real” ACA site. I know it would have been SOCIALISM but they should have had common design elements on all the states ACA sites so people would get to know what they were looking for.

  105. Andrea Royall says:

    These sites are begging for identity theft. You would have to be an utter slobbering mindless zombie to put in ANY personal info on the site.. Good luck with that people. I’m having none of it.

  106. MyrddinWilt says:

    Well I didn’t wait in line 24 hours for any of my iPhones. I didn’t wait in line at all in fact.

    The problem that is being highlighted here is the weaknesses of the US government IT procurement practices. They end up overpaying and getting rubbish in return.

    I suspect that in this case the site was outsourced to insulate it from an attempt by the Republicans to sabotage the site by shutting down the GSA which would normally do the work.

    As government IT procurement disasters go, it is actually quite a small one.

  107. perljammer says:

    Clicking the “Apply” button on the Federal website causes 92 separate files, plugins and other swarms of data to be streamed to the users computer; 56 of those files are javascript programs. This doesn’t look like “too many users”; it looks like a distributed denial-of-service attack, except the site is attacking itself.

    The Administration’s goal is to have 26 million people signed up by Jan 1, 2014. Starting from Oct 1, that’s over 280,000 per day, or just under 2 million per week. Every day that the access problems persist, the numbers get bigger. It’s going to be tough to even come close to the goal if they don’t get the website problems fixed pronto, and that’s going to be a huge challenge, given that the problems appear to be architectural in nature rather than simple software bugs.

  108. Indigo says:

    It’s less a backlash than a report on what needs to be fixed so it works. And there’s a lot of it that needs fixing.

  109. Dan Tienes says:

    It’s a shame this has to be politicized (and naive to think it won’t be). The procurement process is supposed to pre-qualify vendors, and there are thousands of rules on how they are to perform their jobs. This site is more than glitchy; it’s a disaster. Looking at some of the error messages from my perspective as a CTO is like looking at the scene of an accident. A fatal one.

    The entire industry needs to take a close look at how it builds software, with or without the politicians getting involved.

  110. heimaey says:

    And so the backlash begins.

  111. NCMan says:

    I wonder why it is that Americans a perfectly willing to wait in line for 24 or more hours for the latest iPhone or something extremely important like concert tickets but can’t be bothered to leave their phone on hold in speaker mode while they do something else around the house for 30 minutes in order to talk to someone about the possibility of purchasing life-saving health insurance?

    Has anyone seen any estimates about how much of the traffic on these exchanges is coming from people who are just playing and have no need for the exchange because they already have insurance and aren’t eligible for the exchanges or even journalists?

  112. By the way, I don’t get a chance to say this often, but I’m lucky and proud to be a Kentuckian. We did it right.

  113. As someone with an IT background, it’s likely that a full “redesign” isn’t the most tenable approach. I think the problems break down into two areas: 1) back-end procedures and performance; 2) front-end links to simply browsing plans. If these things cannot be retrofitted onto the existing platform, only then is the whole thing in trouble.

  114. The local library has computers and Internet access for those who don’t have them. And applications can be made over the phone or in person with a registered insurance agent. So, there’s really no excuse for someone to say they can’t sign up.

  115. nicho says:

    Right. Because every low-income person without health care has a computer, Internet access, and a scanner at their fingertips. But hey, let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s an important first step; we can improve it later. The other guy was worse. Or something.

  116. Just_AC says:

    Well, what John Didn’t tell you is that the 800 number is 800-F1uckyo so what goes that tell you?

  117. Indigo says:

    Designed by Republicans intent on subverting the system, do you suspect, or is this the work of the Obama administration shooting itself in the foot once again?

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