Well, I have experienced a first. I have waited in line, online. Yes, my friends, I went to healthcare.gov again and this time, instead of clicking away on the "create account" button to no avail, I got a message informing me that I was waiting in line. They called it a "queue," perhaps hoping that the British accent would make it sound more intelligent. It would seem that the government wants to make sure that visitors to the site get the full bureaucratic experience, lines and all.
Obamacare is a mess. I suppose that's not news to most people, but I'm not just making a statement, I am living the mess right now.
I am a poster-child for Obamacare. Single mom, seven kids, un-insurable pre-existing condition, employer doesn't provide health coverage. I currently pay $115 a month for $3500 a year deductible "catastrophic" insurance for myself. But that policy is going away January 1st and I need something to replace it. (The kids are already completely covered.)
Enter healthcare.gov. I made my first visit to the site with some trepidation. I had been hearing that the rollout wasn't going as well as planned. But I'm an optimist. I'm certain it will work for me! So, after putting all my kids in bed, I settle myself in front of the computer and prepare to start the enrollment process.
I click the create account button. Nothing. Click. Click. No error message. Nothing. Should I call? Is the problem on my end? I'll call. After the required bureaucratic messages, I get through to a live human. Her voice sounds suspiciously like a recording. She stumbles over a word in her script. Ok, maybe she is real.
There are a lot of people visiting the site, she says, that's why I can't create an account. How about I just fill the enrollment form out with her and then I can create my online account later?
How long will it take? About 10 minutes. I doubt that, but I sigh and dig in. What information do I need to have? Just name, address, social security number. I doubt that too. I know bureaucracy. There's no way this is going to be ten minutes and three pieces of information. But I'm committed. Let's go.
After 20 minutes, she's managed to get my name, address and phone number. She begins to list the kids, even though they don't need insurance, because the government needs to have a list of everyone on my tax return. She never deviates from her monotone-bureaucratic-recorded voice, even as the number of children grows. When I finally tell her that Austin is the last, she says she is going to place me on hold for a minute. So she is human after all. I know she is telling her colleagues, "This lady is crazy. She has seven kids!!!" Glad I could relieve the monotony of her existence for a brief moment.
After an excruciating 56 minutes of answering questions and pulling paperwork out of files, Miss Monotone drones, "Your healthcare application has now been completed..."
"your application cannot be submitted because our verification system is currently down. You are welcome to log in to your account at healthcare.gov and submit it there."
"But I don't have a healthcare.gov account. That's why I called you. I can't create an account."
"We encourage you to keep trying."
And so it goes. That exchange took place a month ago. I have since managed to make it through the line, create an account and even enroll. For a mere $203 a month ($88 more than I'm paying now) I can get a policy with a $6350 deductible.
Here's the catch, though, I haven't managed to actually PAY for my policy, which, of course, means that I do not, in fact, have a policy for next year. No premium payment, no coverage. But the "pay for policy" button on the healthcare.gov site doesn't work! I was instructed to contact the insurance company directly if they didn't contact me in "a few days." I've tried. No dice. Can't get through.
As far as I'm concerned, "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'"
Where's Ronald Reagan when you need him?