Short Takes On News & Events

After 63 Tries, Reporter Creates Account On Federal Health Exchange

By Phil Galewitz

October 17th, 2013, 3:59 PM

After 17 days and 63 attempts, I  finally made it.  I was able to create an account on the federal health insurance exchange at – a task which has frustrated millions of Americans.

But as soon as I signed in with my name, address and social security number, I got thrown a trick question as the system tried to verify my identity:

“According to our records, within the last two years you purchased veterinary insurance for a pet. For which one of the following pets did you purchase insurance?”

1. Ada
2. Purranaha
3. Ira
4. Vortex

For the record, I have a dog named Cooper — and he doesn’t have any kind of insurance. And I’ve never had a pet with any of the above names.


After clicking “none of the above” and the name of the bank where I got a loan in 2008, the system verified me and let me continue. Whew!

Obama administration officials have indicated that millions of people have encountered similar problems and that repairs are underway. But they have declined to say how many people in the 36 states using the website have actually enrolled. Open enrollment goes through March 31.

I spent about 30 minutes answering additional questions about where I live, my phone number, e-mail address, income, birthday, gender and whether anyone was helping me obtain  coverage, such as an insurance agent or a “non-navigator assistance personnel.” It asked if I was paying alimony, had a student loan, or had recently been incarcerated. Then, to determine if I was eligible for a subsidy, it asked about my employer, my wages, dependents and whether I was pregnant. Before I could electronically sign  my application, it asked  about my race and whether I was a U.S. citizen.

After I did all that, I got this message:

“You have started an application for health coverage, but our verification system is temporarily unavailable. Without completing verification, you cannot submit your application for an eligibility determination. We will save your information and expect to resolve the problem within 24 hours. When you return, please review your entire application from beginning to end in order to receive your online eligibility results.”

While I still could not start shopping for health plans, I feel like I made progress.

13 Responses to “After 63 Tries, Reporter Creates Account On Federal Health Exchange”

  1. Greg says:

    So what did you do before the health exchanges opened up for enrollment and offered you the hope of never being without affordable health insurance ever again? Republicans like hearing nightmare stories about the health exchanges from people like you so they can continue to push their agenda to repeal Obamacare and take any hope you will ever have to get affordable insurance. Republicans want you to be like your dog…UNINSURED! Maybe if you keep whining and crying about how hard it is to enroll, you’ll give Republicans their wish of taking America back into the dark ages of health insurance where only those lucky enough to work for a large company “might” have health benefits. The dark ages where if you get sick, you get tossed off your plan. The dark ages where a pre-existing condition, like being a woman, is a death sentence. Is that what you want? The keep complaining! Moron!

  2. Joseph Murro says:

    Trust me – you probably did not make the progress you think you did. After a week of trying I got to the same point. However, for 6 days since, my application status stated: “In Progress” in red letters. So I called them to find out what “In Progress” means and the operator could not even access my application. She had to re-enter my information three times because “her” computer kept going down. To no avail – she put a request to “IT” to check it out and someone should contact me within 48 hrs. I wont hold my breath.

  3. Whoa Doggie says:

    It took me many attempts to browse the plans too. All my early accounts got snookered up so I just kept creating new accounts a few days apart. Account #5 worked like a charm.

    When I finally could see the plans, I was pleased to see the low prices here in Florida.

    While maddening, its not nearly as bad as the last time I signed up for insurance in 2007. At that time the fax application was about 30 pages. Every doctor I had been to in a decade had to be contacted by blue cross, and it took 6 weeks to get approved.

    So while stinks, no doubt about it, its infinitely better than what proceeded it.

  4. Dan says:

    Your “trick question” is used all the time by Equifax’s site and other credit agencies to verify identities when using them to generate a credit report. But funny, I haven’t read any media stories or heard any Republican congressmen screaming about how the credit agency websites are disasters

  5. Nance Lee says:

    I wonder how much easier it would be to service actual people in need of coverage if reporters, gawkers and others who don’t actually need insurance stayed off the site.

  6. At this point, people need to start thinking about what to do in the event (possible, I’m not ready yet to say likely) that many of the 19 million Americans who are currently insured through the individual market and are having their plans cancelled because they aren’t Obamacare-compliant, are unable to sign up by December 15 for insurance that will be effective January 1, 2014.

    Hopefully most of them will be able to obtain some sort of alternative coverage that will bridge the gap until they can get insurance through the exchange, like short-term health insurance, or membership in a health sharing ministry. Who knows, maybe some of them will even stay in the alternatives once they see the prices/premiums are much less than what is offered through the exchanges?

  7. Barbara says:

    Sean, the good thing is that people who have individual insurance or don’t have insurance can sign up directly with insurance companies without the worry of being denied because of a pre-existing condition. You don’t have to use the exchange unless you are applying for a subsidy. So there’s no need for short-term or ministry insurance.

    I have an individual policy and I got a letter saying my policy would continue, but there was no price and they said they would send more info later. In checking the plans in my area it looks like another company’s plans are better and probably cheaper. I would qualify for a subsidy but if the exchange is not working I will sign up directly with the insurer. I know I am lucky that I can afford to pay full freight, albeit with a tightening of my budget. I’m just happy to have a choice of insurance.

  8. Katie E. says:

    I think the main point to take away from this is that if you’re going to require that people insure themselves, it has to be easier for them to do. 63 tries? No – if we’re gonna be required to have health insurance then they can’t ask of us to sit there and try and retry 63 times to get it done.

  9. killroy71 says:

    63 times…what’s that insanity definition again? I think I’d just wait for the headlines saying it’s getting cleared up. After all, you have until Dec. 15. And there are still insurance agents who can do all this same stuff for you, including show you plan comparisons and enroll you. Just chill, people. And you reporters – get off the line!

  10. En Sanity says:

    Clearly buying health insurance is going to be more complicated than buying a book or a camera online, but for the system to still be inaccessible after three weeks without the President apologizing to the American people is inexcusable.

  11. naro says:

    In the past a young healthy person could buy health insurance on the private market at reasonable price. That option is now gone. He /she must now pay high premium for care that she/he do not want or need in order to subsidize the health care cost of someone else. good luck amerika.

  12. SquirrelHill says:

    107 reasons why hypocrite politicians and unions that support Obamacare want exemptions for themselves

  13. Seth says:

    Getting registered and completing your application is only part of the problem. You forgot to mention how horrible the the applications is and how poorly laid out it is. Every question you have to select a submit button, when you should have a whole page of fields that can submit all at once. And the fact that it asks 8 questions about income, each with a separate submit button, and it asks the same questions for everyone including my 2 & 3 year old kids. The whole layout and process of completing the application is horrible, and the questions asked are ridiculous and honestly the whole application should really be about 1/4 of what it is. This has nothing to do with politics, and is just simply a horribly designed and function website, and a horrible and ineffective application. Probably the worst application I’ve ever had to complete online in my life. I’m a health insurance agent and it makes me nervous even thinking about the average consumer completing this application.