Exchange This: My Quest to Sign Up for Obamacare

At about 10:30 am CDT on October 1, 2013, the day the Obamacare health insurance exchanges opened for signup, I began the signup process. It didn’t start out very smoothly. Image About an hour later, when this error finally cleared, I began creating my account. I entered my name, address, preferred username and password, and was prompted to select from a list of security questions. The only problem: there was no list. Image So I refreshed a few times, returning back to the first error message, and waited. When it finally cleared, I was back at the first signup page, so I tried to login with the same user/pass I had already created, but those didn’t work. I thought maybe I had misremembered them after waiting two hours, so I entered my information to have an email sent reminding me of my username. I was greeted with this for a while. Image I never received an email. It turns out that if you get stuck in the signup process, your account is never created. Even though you’ve entered your name, address, email, username, and password, you have to do it all over again every time the process is interrupted. Three hours later, the security questions finally appeared. New problem: it wouldn’t take any of my answers. Image Conveniently, this inaccurate error message blames the user for the problem. I chose three different security questions (necessarily, since the drop-down menus eliminate previously selected options) and entered three different answers. Yet I was told that I had entered the at least one of them twice. Helpful. About an hour later, the system finally stopped blaming me and finally started blaming itself. Image A more accurate, but equally unhelpful error message. I tried to start the process again at home after I left work, this time in a Chrome browser since I had been trying in Firefox the previous 6 hours. Unfortunately, I encountered the same problems. I got to the security question bug and attempted to initiate a live chat with support personnel (who are working, despite the government shutdown). That apparently wasn’t functioning at all. Image After watching a couple hours of television with my family, I came back to try again. This time the entire system was inaccessible, with a flashy new error message. Image When this message finally cleared, I started over, selected my state, clicked Apply Now, only to find that the signup page no longer existed. Image I have resumed my effort this morning and been greeted with the previous flashy “lot of visitors” error, now 24 hours after I first embarked on this quest. Finally back into the signup process, but again greeted with no security questions to select. After returning from lunch to my office, I tried again. I got through the security questions and was informed that my username was already taken. Either my account was created at some point in the last 26 hours, or the error is…in error. I’ll find out when I get past another flashy “lot of visitors” error.

45 hours later…SUCCESS! hc9 Now to see what kind of “affordable” plans await me.

Well, maybe…

hc10

Upon finally trying to login, I was told my user/pass was incorrect. So I had a link sent to reset my password, copied it into the browser (since it’s not clickable from the email), and got this.

hc11

Huh? And I can’t even chat with someone to help. Why is there not a queue system for live chat support?

hc12

Neat.

hc13

Now even the error messages have error messages.

hc14

Four days later, I’ve entered a recursive fail loop. I try to login, but my user/pass is incorrect. I try have an email sent to reset my password. I get the email, click on the link (which includes my username), then it says my account isn’t valid, and when I request a reminder of my username, I never get the email. Helpful.

[Further updates to come, as this saga does or does not progress…]

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