Fear and Loathing on HealthCare.gov
October 8, 2013

Fear And Loathing On HealthCare.gov

Last Tuesday, October 2, was the day the country was set to change. This was the day that HealthCare.gov opened for business; when state- and federal-run healthcare marketplaces opened. These marketplaces are for those that have to purchase their own health insurance and where they can go to compare and buy healthcare plans. As a freelancer, I am among the millions who will need to shop at HealthCare.gov.

This activity I dread. About four years ago I shopped for healthcare when the COBRA for my previous job was set to run out. Let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was confusing. And every month when my premiums are withdrawn from my account I feel bitter about the expense and the declining amount of coverage I get from those escalating premiums. I don’t have much higher expectations for what’s offered on the health care marketplace. But I’m trying to keep an open mind, at least until I can actually get onto the website.

Tuesday came and went. I was busy with assignments. Also I wanted to wait until some of the kinks were worked out. Thursday I decided to give it a try. I went to HealthCare.gov; selected my state and clicked “get started.” That was met with a busy screen stating, “We have a lot of visitors on the site right now. Please stay on this page.” This hold screen refreshes until there is enough bandwidth to login and refreshes to a registration page. I kept this on in the background while doing some work. After a while I did get to a registration page. I filled out the form, and then it said it had to send me an email, which I would have to click on, to verify my email address. I did that, and got an error page. I did it again, and got a page saying, “Oops, looks like you already verified your email.” So I decided to log in. I figured that would work. I was wrong.

The site didn’t recognize my username and/or password. I was very careful to type that in correctly, but maybe my password had been off? So I asked it to recover my password. I got an email telling me how to recover my password, when I clicked on the link I got the overload screen asking me to be patient and wait. And then several more error pages. I also tried to recover my username, and it didn’t recognize my email address. At this point the site was just impassible. It didn’t recognize me at all. So I tried to register once again. After several overload screens asking me to be patient, I was finally able to complete my registration. I got to the point where it asked me to set up three security questions. I did that, and it told me I can’t have two or more of the questions have the same answers. I assure you, they were all different. The site went through this several times. And then I gave up. I spent the better part of Thursday trying to register and gain access to the site, and I decided I had to walk away. Better luck next week.

Demand for HealthCare.gov was overwhelming. Apparently the government, and the parties responsible for setting up the HealthCare.gov website, didn’t expect every person who is now required to purchase their own insurance to try to access the website. USA Today reports the website was overwhelmed. US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park told the paper that the government expected HealthCare.gov to draw 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users, “but instead it has drawn as many as 250,000 at a time since it launched October 1.”

Parks and his crew said they would shut down the site at off-peak hours over the weekend so technicians could make repairs to the website.

It may be too little too late, but the government should have looked to the enterprise space to get things up and running. And possibly the government should have staged a rollout, instead of opening up the marketplace and scaring everybody into logging in at one time.

“Launching Obamacare from the government point of view was the first major problem,” said industry analyst Jeff Kagan. “The government point of view is simply wrong. Why didn’t the government ask for corporate help before the train wreck?”

If Obamacare were to be rolled out by a corporation, it would have divided the market into segments and assigned dates for those segments. Say, those that already purchase their own healthcare first since they will be likely to be active in getting new coverage. Then open it up to the uninsured.

“Compare how the government rolled Obamacare out to the way a large corporation would have done so,” said Kagan. “The US Government mistakenly thinks they can simply roll out Obamacare and it will go off without a hitch. That’s the first mistake.”

Kagan continues. “Any company with this same opportunity, would have planned and tested when and then have finally rolled it out only in a very limited area, say a market or two. They would watch closely for problems, then fix them along the way. Only after several months worth of testing and fixing would the corporation be convinced this was ready to roll out nationwide. Then they would roll it out slowly, keeping control over the entire project.”

Well, Kagan wasn’t an advisor to the government on this issue, so the government went another direction and rolled HealthCare.gov out to every person in the United States. I just hope that I’m able to get into the site and can find insurance before deadline‚Ķ and before programs get filled up.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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