By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE – Dear readers, you may recall that on Tuesday — the first day of the rollout of the new health care law — I posted a story on my attempt to get information on what individual health care coverage I was eligible for here in New Mexico.
I already have insurance through my employer, but like many in my state, I’m curious to compare what I’m paying for now with what I could get through the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.
On Tuesday, I couldn’t get an answer. Nothing has changed in the last three days.
The NMHIX can handle accounts from small businesses. Officials at NMHIX boasted on Tuesday it had signed up 29 small businesses in the first 45 minutes of operation, and that by midday about 100 had enrolled.
But if you want information for individual accounts, NMHIX directs you to the federal government’s website, www.healthcare.gov.
That website features a smiling young woman and this headline:
The page may say, “The Health Insurance Marketplace is Open!” but on Tuesday, I couldn’t create an account because, while filling out the application process, the drop boxes on the security questions didn’t work.
As has been mentioned in stories across the country, the healthcare.gov site was plagued with glitches.
So, now that three days have passed, I tried again.
I logged on at 10:49 a.m. Friday, saw the smiling woman and clicked on “Apply Now.” Up popped:
After 14 minutes, the site took to me the “Let’s Get Started” page. I started filling out the necessary information — name, address, email, etc. — to create an account.
This time, I was able to get to the security questions and the drop boxes actually worked. Great, it looked like I was on my way.
But after filling out the three security questions, up popped:
I thought I filled out the questions correctly, but nevertheless I returned to the account page and tried again.
After filling out the boxes a second time, I got the same message.
So I called the NMHIX hotline again (hold times are shorter than on the federal number) and this time, I talked to an operator named Deborah.
“Am I doing something wrong when I fill out the security questions?” I asked.
“No, the security questions are not working,” she said. “They tell us it could be two to three weeks before they get it fixed.” “They” meaning the fed’s www.healthcare.gov site.
Apparently, some applicants get as far as I did before the system freezes up, but Deborah said others don’t.
She said I could click on the “Chat” button to let the feds know about my issue. I did, where after a nine-minute wait, a chat operator named Salina came online.
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” she wrote. “We are aware of the issues and we are working in resolving them.”
Salina offered no time line for clearing up the glitches. “…Unfortunately, I do not have that information…Again, I apologize for the inconvenience,” she wrote.
After my story Tuesday, a couple of New Mexico Watchdog readers relayed similar stories. Bob in Santa Fe wrote to tell me his son thought he had created an account but:
“After about 15 minutes, he signed onto his account, found the email, and clicked on the link. Nothing happened for several minutes. Then a message came up saying that too much time had elapsed, so this account was canceled! I tried again, but we were back to square one. I did get through, but after I had entered all of the information, a message told me that the system was down. Twice!”
Another reader, John, left me this comment: “I have been able to at least to get log-in information but so far have not been able to connect — the system says wait as we have heavy traffic, guess everyone else is attempting to check out health insurance at 4 and 5 AM. Looks they got the slowest dial up speed they could!!”
We’re not alone, but that’s little consolation.
I’ll try again in a couple of days.
Contact Rob Nikolewski at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski
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