Merry Christmas, everybody! On the day Obama dispatched some minions to sign him up for the cheapest plan possible, frustrated Californians were left to struggle mightily with a malfunctioning Covered California website.
Covered California has had a surge in the number of people signing up for coverage as the deadline approached. Lee said preliminary data show the number people who had signed up for an individual health insurance policy through California’s state-run exchange had topped 400,000. The previously reported figure was 109,000 by the end of November.
About two-thirds of those who have signed up so far are eligible to receive a federal subsidy that will help lower their monthly premiums, while about one-third make too much money for a subsidy, Lee said.
The need for Covered California to provide consumers some wiggle room became evident as Monday wore on, with complaints surfacing from people who were attempting to sign up for an insurance plan but were unable to do so.
Gene Nelson, an adjunct professor in the biomedical engineering department at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, had been frustrated in his attempts to apply through the website and through Covered California’s call centers.
He faced a variety of challenges on the website, including stalls, time-outs and messages warning of invalid user names and passwords that left him unable to even create an account.
When he contacted the call center for help, a recorded message told him to sign up through the website instead and then bounced him off the telephone call with a series of busy-signal beeps. He said he was not given the option to hold on the line for an available operator.
“It’s impossible,” he said.
Nelson, who will be 62 in January, said he had been without health insurance since 2009 and is trying to get coverage for him and his wife. He has not been called back this year to teach courses at Cal Poly and was not provided health insurance by the university even when he did teach last year.
He was skeptical about Covered California’s offer of a grace period for those who were unsuccessful in signing up for coverage Monday.
“But that’s predicated upon, among other things, getting the first step done so that I can apply. But I can’t get the first step done, so I don’t think it would apply,” said Nelson, who has a doctorate degree in natural sciences. “And I’m sure there will be a lot of people like me.”
Change you can believe in. Or not.
Folks took to Twitter to vent their frustration.
— Travis Manley (@teachertravis) December 24, 2013
If you’re not sure how to proceed, hit a button, any butten. Wait, any buten will do?
This is a snapshot from the Covered CA help site.Count how many items are wrong & how many ways they spelled “button” pic.twitter.com/cVmKFC762P
— Gary (@OCFuturesTrader) December 23, 2013
Oh well, now you can just claim you tried to sign up and they’ll drag you across the finish line or something.
Due to technical issues, the agency said they will institute a “grace period” for those who attempted to get coverage but were unable to sign up.
“We’re going to help people get across the finish line,” said Executive Director Peter Lee.
It was unclear when the grace period would end, but Lee said the agency’s goal was to have an insurance policy in place for everyone who “made a good faith effort” to get one by Monday’s deadline.
Whatever. They’ll just keep making it up as they go along.