‘Keep checking your e-mail': a conversation with the HealthCare.gov hotline

uninsured awareness

On Monday morning, the Department of Health and Human Services added a new "apply by phone" button to the home page on the HealthCare.gov insurance Web site. My colleague Ezra Klein and I decided to give the phone number a try.

Ezra tried calling twice and was put on hold. His hold music then went silent, and eventually his calls was dropped by the system. I fortuitously ended up on the phone with a consumer representative right away, spending, at most ,about 10 seconds on hold. She asked for my name and phone number, told me hold on a moment, and then yawned. I asked if it had been a busy morning. She responded, "Yes, a little bit."

I told the consumer representative that I had filed an application in the system, and that  I wanted to check on its status. She asked if I had received an eligibility determination; I said I wasn't sure. She took my Social Security number to check on it, and said I hadn't received the determination.

"It's not in our system just yet," she told me. "We have a lot of people trying to create accounts. Keep checking your e-mail or expect a letter in the mail this week."

If I wanted to get a sense of costs, I could click on the site's "See Plans Now" button. But, as of early Monday, buying coverage over the phone didn't seem to be in the cards. It couldn't happen until my application made it out of the eligibility verification process, and, as my call center representative told me, there wasn't anything she could do to speed along that process.

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