After two weeks of trying, I was able to successfully apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov. After spending the morning tooling around the site, here's what I've taken away from it.
1. The site is moving faster but not at full speed. Going through the application process, I quickly became familiar with this screen.
Applying without help from the government, by contract, was a breeze. There were about five minutes between starting the application and seeing my plan options, a good deal of which was spent staring at the above "please wait" screen.
4. Shopping is pretty easy! Logging into HealthCare.gov, as many Americans have learned since Oct. 1, is hard. One reporter has logged over 60 attempts to sign in, and still has yet to succeed. Another man I talked to in Indiana today has filled out three separate applications and called two different navigator groups - both of which told him they wouldn't be certified to perform enrollments for another two weeks.
The Web site, in short, still doesn't work for a lot of people and the launch, by most accounts, has not gone smoothly.
The shopping experience is, by contrast, pretty easy to use. In Virginia, for example, there are 36 health plans. You can sort them by the level of coverage they offer, the premium price, the deductible and a few other options. Three plans can be compared side-by-side at the same time.
This is the part of the health shopping experience that is supposed to be like Kayak, with different options lined up side-by-side. Below the information on premium and deductibles is on everything from the cost of prescription drugs (both generic and brand name), to whether a regular hearing exam is included and to the average total cost for delivering a baby.
All of that still doesn't matter, though, if people can't make it onto the Web site in the first place.
KLIFF NOTES: Top health policy reads from around the Web.
In states that don't expand Medicaid, over 5 million will be left out of the coverage expansion. "About 5.2 million poor, uninsured adults will fall into the “coverage gap,” created by 26 states choosing not to expand Medicaid under the federal health law next year, according to a study released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation. These people are projected to have incomes too high to qualify for their state’s existing Medicaid programs, but below the federal poverty level (nearly $11,500 for an individual) required to be eligible for federal subsidies to buy private coverage on the new online insurance marketplaces set up by the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid is the state-federal health insurance program for the poor." Phil Galewitz in Kaiser Health News.
Hawaii's marketplace has finally opened, two weeks late. "Hawaii's health insurance marketplace under President Barack Obama's federal health care overhaul began offering plans for sale on Tuesday, more than two weeks after the start of open enrollment. Hawaii Health Connector Executive Director Coral Andrews said at a news conference that consumers can now review and buy plans offered on the exchange's website." Oskar Garica in the Associated Press.
Visits to HealthCare.gov have fallen by 88 percent. "Of the 9.4 million unique visitors to the site during the first week, roughly a third attempted to register and 1.01 million completed registration, according to the analysis. Millward Brown Digital — which tracks the online activity of 2 million Americans, or 1 percent of all Internet users in the United States — said that roughly 36,000 Americans signed up for an insurance plan online the first week." Juliet Eiplerin in the Washington Post.