Signing Up for Obamacare: One Healthcare Writer’s Experience
Signing Up for Obamacare: One Healthcare Writer’s Experience

I did it!  I am one of the 1 million or so people that have enrolled in health insurance for 2014 using a health insurance marketplace, but let me tell you, it was no easy task.

In September, I left my job at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to move back home to Tennessee. I now rely on a handful of part-time health policy consulting jobs, and my husband is a self-employed attorney. Suddenly, after years of stable federal employee health insurance coverage, we found ourselves out in the scary world of the individual health insurance market. What follows is a play-by-play of my experience.

October 2: Despite a burning curiosity, I waited a full day to allow any opening day traffic to subside. It took me a solid hour to set up an account, and the errors ran the gambit. During my first three or so tries, the security question dropdown boxes were empty. During my subsequent five attempts, I received error messages that my answers were in the wrong format with no guidance on how exactly they were wrong. Each time, I was forced to re-start the account set-up process from the beginning. After as much as 45 minutes, I had my account set up.  From there, any other efforts timed out before loading. I won’t lie; I was tempted to throw my laptop right out the window. At this point, I thought I had two full months left to sign up for 2014 coverage, so I called it a day.

October 10, 23: On a couple of occasions, I attempted to sign into my account to view my options and enroll. Each time, I was informed that my log in information was incorrect. I even tried to sign up for a new account but was informed that my information was already associated with an account. Requests for a password reset email went unanswered.

Log In Error

November 1: I was able to successfully set up a new account for some inexplicable reason. Then, I entered a mind-numbing loop comprised of the following steps:

1- Click “Get Insurance” to, well, get insurance.
2- Click “Get Started” to, you guessed it, get started.
3- Enter my log-in information even though I thought that I was already logged-in.
4- Stare at a blank screen.
5- Click “Get Insurance” to, well, get insurance.
6- Click “Get Started” even though I thought I had already started.
7- Re-enter my log-in information…

The Loop

You get where this goes. If the definition of insanity truly is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, I went insane as I repeated these steps as many as ten times.

November 26: After taking a cooling-off break for a few weeks, I gave it another try. I entered the loop. There were tears and gnashing of teeth. Of course, at this point, I hadn’t even take advantage of the new “Learn” option which allows you to see your options without actually signing in, so for the first, I tried this out and accessed some information on plans available in Tennessee. I found out that I literally have hundreds of options, but by “some information” I mean the names of the plans and their monthly premiums – not actually enough information to make a real decision.

By this time, the Administration had announced a new deadline for signing up for January 1 coverage, and I decided to wait until December, when many of the website woes were supposed be addressed.

December 3: On this day, I entered a slightly modified loop – a more promising loop.  Instead of a blank screen, I got an error message that implied that I might actually get a different result if I repeated the same actions.

Error Message

Unfortunately, I did not. However, I took a little more time on the site to have a second look at my options, and behold, there was significantly more information available– including information on deductibles, co-insurance, and even links to provider network information. I was at least armed with the information to discuss a decision with my husband so that I’d be ready to go when I could finally sign-on.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 10.00.04 AM

December 18, 19, 20: The clock was seriously ticking away towards my sign-up deadline, so I amped up my efforts and began trying daily.  Everyday, the same fated red error box…

Another Error Message

December 22:  It was getting real at this point.  I simply could not wait any longer, so I finally called the 24-7 number.  I know, I know.  I could have done this a long time ago, but as a product of my generation, I would rather waste hours online than talk to a human being. Estimated wait time: 30 minutes. Actual wait time: 1 hour 3 minutes. Twenty-two minutes later, I was told, “Congratulations, you are now enrolled in a plan.” And it truly felt like an accomplishment.

I am still awaiting confirmation from my new insurance company and details on how to make my first premium payment, but I am pretty pumped that I finally made it through the insanity-inducing process and have what I would consider fairly affordable insurance coverage for the new year.