We've heard a lot about the new health insurance exchanges (A.K.A. marketplaces) since they launched this month. What follows is a blog of my attempts to navigate New Hampshire's marketplace. So far, it's been an error-ridden process with recurring visits to a virtual waiting room.
Day 1: October 1st
Creating an account.
Using Google Chrome browser, I go to Healthcare.gov. I click log in at the top right corner of the first screen.
This brings me to a screen where I had the option to either log in with an existing account or create a new one. I click on the link to create a new one and fill in my name and email address. The following screen requires me to provide a user name and a password. And the third and final screen requires me to select three security questions and type the answers to each.
After completing each required field, it gives me the following error message.
Day 2: October 2nd
Still creating an account.
I click the log in button on the top right corner of the main page and I am directed to an online waiting room.
I wait on this page until it changes. At approximately 2:00 p.m. I check the page to find it has changed and I begin the process of filling out my information. When I reach the third page, where I must select security questions, the drop down boxes do not respond.
I attempt to circumvent this error by entering three different, dummy answers (like 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c or red, green, blue.) I try to keep the answers memorable since I cannot enter questions.
I hit "create account" and after a moment of processing, it displays the following error message.
I copy the URL to the log in page into an Internet Explorer (version 9) and Mozilla Firefox browser. Each window displays the waiting room message.
Firefox encounters the same problem with the security question dropdown box.
Internet Explorer has no dropdown glitch on the security question screen.
A message displays that says an email has been sent to my personal address. I click on the link in my email and it opens a web page with a message stating that I've successfully created an account.
I hit the "continue" button and receive an error message stating "Access Denied."
After trying the same in other browsers, and encountering the same error, I resolve to attempt a fresh log in. Still in Internet Explorer 9, I go to Healthcare.gov and click the log in button. I am directed to the waiting room page.
I am given the option to log in. I enter my username and password and hit "log in," but it says the information I have entered is invalid. I repeat the process a few more times to ensure there were no typos.
I call the 800 number and provide my state of residence and ask for a representative. Kim answers and after giving her my name and state, she offers to try the website herself. She says that the site is "overwhelmed" by the number of people attempting to use it. At the end of the four minute phone call, I am advised by Kim to wait until about 5:00 p.m. to try logging in again.
I attempt to sign in again. I am directed to the waiting room page.
An error message appears stating that the system is down and provides a reference code.
I call the 800 number again. The automated system asks what state I am in. It has trouble hearing me. It asks if I want to complete a survey after the call and I say no. It has trouble hearing me. Hold music disappears.
Unsure if I am in queue to speak with a representative, I hang up and call again. This time the automated system gives me the option to ask for a representative. Jessica answers. She acknowledges the problems they are having with the website and offers to help me apply for coverage over the phone. I do not have my federal tax return info available to give her. She says the over-the-phone application process would take about 15 minutes and the results would be delivered by mail after an unknown period of time.
I ask Jessica to confirm that my online account has been created. She places me on hold. Two minutes pass and Jessica returns. She says the only way they can see if I have an online account is if the email option becomes available to them at the end of the application process.
Day 3: October 4th
I log into the website with success after waiting in the waiting room page for a few minutes. But when it asks me to confirm my identity with a series of questions I fail. I try again. This time the questions are different but I fail again, even though I am answering the questions truthfully.
Day 5: October 7th
After waiting in the waiting room for a few minutes, my log in information is declined. The error message says the information I entered isn't valid.
I call the 800 number and ask for a representative. Randall answers. I provide him with my name, username and phone number and describe the problem I'm having logging in. Randall says Experian is the entity responsible for my 'silly questions' for the identify verification process. Their direct number is 1-866-578-5409. He offers to conference them in but says there may be a delay in their system.
The third attempt to conference in Echelle, the Experian agent, is successful. I provide her with my name and the last four of my social. She asks for a reference number. I have none to give her. She places us on hold. She returns after a minute and asks for my address, full social security number, date of birth and telephone number.
Echelle begins to recite questions similar to the ones online. I answer each and she tells me that my identity has been confirmed. I attempt to log in again. This time I am directed to the waiting room page.
The error stating my info is invalid appears. I try to log in again and it an directed to a server error 500 page. I hit the 'back' button and I am finally logged in.
When I hit 'next' I am given an error message stating my identity has not be verified. It advises me to call the Experian help desk. I press the large green button stating 'I have verified my identity over the phone.' I fill in my date of birth, full social security, address and phone number.
After pushing 'continue,' I am told that my identity was not verified. I am directed to upload documents that prove my identity.
I call the Experian help desk. Stephon answers. He asks for a reference number. I have none still. Stephon looks up my account with my name and the last four of my social. He says I have been accepted in their system and he says it may be a problem with the website. He asks for my phone number and places me on hold.
Stephon returns. He asks if my phone number is associated with my credit profile. I am unsure, so I offer to provide an old number. He says we must try going through the identity check all over again with the old telephone number. He says the system has accepted me with the old phone number.
I keep Stephon on the phone while I wait in the online waiting room to log back in again.
I sign in with my username and password. It directs me to a 'page cannot be displayed' error again. After hitting 'back' and 'refresh' a couple times, I return to type in my log in info. I get the error again and hit 'back'. This time I successfully enter the website. After starting the application process, it again says my identity isn't verified and that I need to upload documents. I click a link that says 'If you aren't able to upload your documents now, click here to continue your application.'
I see a new screen that says "Start your application."
I complete the application process and a message appears stating my results will be sent after my identity is verified.
When I hit the 'save and continue' button, I am given an 'unexpected error' message.
Day 6: October 8th
I find a message from the Marketplace in my email inbox. It says I have a message waiting for me and that I must click a hyperlink to retrieve it. I copy and paste the hyperlink into Explorer. It brings me to the main healthcare.gov page.
For the very first time, I am not directed to the virtual waiting room upon clicking 'log in.' It takes me four attempts to log in before I am successful in seeing my profile.
3: 55 p.m.
When I reach a page called "My Applications and Coverage," I am given the option to view my pending application. It provides me with an ID number. At the top of the page is a message that says, "Regular Notification: You have a notice available about your identity verification." This is followed by a 'download' link. When I click on download, I open a pdf file with a letter explaining that I must send them a copy of an official identification and lists the various forms of identification that would be acceptable.
One copy of any of the following:
- Driver’s license issued by state or territory
- School identification card
- Voter registration card
- U.S. military card or draft record
- Identification card issued by the federal, state, or local government, including o Military dependent’s identification card
- Native American Tribal document
- U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner
Or two copies of any of the following:
- A birth certificate
- Social Security card
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decree
- Employer identification card
- High school or college diploma (including high school equivalency diplomas)
- Property deed or
I'm directed to mail the copies along with an attached barcode provided at the end of the letter to its London, KY address.
Day 7: October 9th
I am able to access the website with ease. No waiting room. No error messages. The status of my application is still "in progress." I call the 800 number and after selecting my state, I receive a busy signal. I hang up and call again. This time Kimberly answers.
After describing my problem, she says everyone is having "glitches" and this is one of them. She says they are working to correct them. Sensing the issue was possibly not being given much critical attention, I ask if I am indeed expected to submit copies of identification forms by mail (as the above letter advises) or if this is an error on the website that will be corrected (since my ID was verified twice by phone).
Kimberly places me on hold for a brief moment and returns offering to have a supervisor call me back. I agree. I ask when I can expect such a call and she says within 48 business hours. She asks me what hours of the day are the best for reaching me. I tell her.