When Will the Federal Health Care Site Be Fixed and What Can You Do in the Meantime?

Thousands try to sign up for Obamacare; few are successful. What gives?

The thousands of people who have tried to sign up for Obamacare have been greeted by the 21st century version of a constant busy signal -- they keep trying to log on but just can’t get through.

The administration this week finally admitted that the “glitches,” as they were called from the start, were actually more like big, huge mind-numbing problems.

President Barack Obama said as much on Monday, describing the rollout as not having “worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work.” President Obama compared the exchanges to a supermarket with broken registers. “Precisely because the product is good, I want the cash registers to work,” he said. “I want the checkout lines to be smooth. So I want people to be able to get this great product. And there’s no excuse for the problems, and these problems are getting fixed.”

Jeff Zients, who was appointed by the White House to supervise the site overhaul, told reporters, “We are confident that by the end of the November, healthcare.gov will be smooth for the vast majority of users.”

In testimony this week on Capitol Hill, contractors tasked with building the software program explained that unanticipated high demand, combined with technical problems regarding everything from identity management of enrollees to the email system sent to confirm registration, logjammed the healthcare.gov site. The government has not released official figures, but according to the research firm The Advisory Board, at least 350,000 people have applied for coverage and at least 115,060 have picked a plan and enrolled.

To fix the problem, software engineers are working overtime and private-sector tech experts have been recruited to get to the source of the problem and get the system working at optimal speed.

Consumers are being reminded that the website isn’t the only way to enroll. They can also apply by calling (800) 318-2596, and that they have until Dec. 15 to register for coverage that starts on Jan.1, 2014. If you don’t have coverage by the first of the year that’s okay, the Affordable Care Act allows a three-month grace period before any tax penalties kick in, so in truth you actually have until March 31, 2014 to sign up. (According to The New York Times this is a new interpretation of the law, announced by the Obama administration on Wednesday).

So if you still want and need coverage, don’t give up. You can:

  • Apply by phone by calling (800) 318-2596.
  • If you live in a state that created its own exchange, you can avoid the healthcare.gov debacle and go directly to your state’s exchange site. Those states include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
  • Wait until the problems with the website are ironed out and then enroll online with (hopefully) less hassle.

To learn more about whether you qualify for coverage on the insurance exchange, check out our Completely Painless Guide to What Obamacare Means to You.  

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