Bankrate asked five writers around the country to go for an opening-day test-drive on the new Obamacare exchanges, the online health insurance marketplaces where consumers can shop for plans and learn about their eligibility for federal tax credits that will cut the monthly premiums. It was a bumpy ride for most, as the federal exchange website HealthCare.gov and state-operated marketplaces appeared to be overwhelmed. On its Twitter feed, HealthCare.gov promised that, "We're working to fix these issues as soon as possible" and said the site had received 1 million visitors in one day -- five times more than had ever visited Medicare.gov in a similar span. Consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for a plan taking effect on Jan. 1.
Delay message on HealthCare.gov
A foggy start in Florida
By Jay MacDonald
Unless you arose before sunrise Tuesday, your shopping experience on the opening day of the new Florida health insurance marketplace can be summed up in four words: "please wait" and "system down."
Florida residents were left staring at those sequential screen messages over and over for hours after the state's health exchange on the federal HealthCare.gov website crashed at sunrise and remained that way all morning. Even the call center was overwhelmed.
"The System is down" message on HealthCare.gov
So much for predictions of a lack of public interest in the new coverage.
Early risers, such as me and my cross-state cohort Richard Palmer, who teaches health policy at Florida International University in Miami, were able to sneak on before the pileup. Unfortunately, we were both tossed off without warning during the identity verification process and never reached the insurance plan pages.
"I got to the point where I was able to sign up. And when they asked me to fill in my security phrases -- such as your mother's maiden name or something -- it just didn't populate. So I put in some responses regardless, and it said, 'Sorry, the system is down,'" Palmer says.
The same thing happened to me.
I hope to find a cheaper marketplace alternative to the high-deductible health savings account I've had for years. I've never come anywhere close to reaching my HSA's five-figure deductible, and, since I'm well past "young invincible" age, I figure it wouldn't hurt to have coverage I might actually use one day.
But today was not to be the day.
Still, as a cheerful phone rep reassured me, there's plenty of time left to shop this fall. Consumers who need coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, have until Dec. 15 to peruse their state offerings. Open enrollment for metallic (as in bronze, silver, gold and platinum levels) and catastrophic marketplace plans continues through next March.