By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
Updated 8:20 p.m. Thursday
LINCOLN — Two weeks into the roll out of Obamacare’s online health insurance market, the two organizations chosen to help uninsured Nebraskans navigate the system haven’t been able to sign up a single person for coverage.
Community Action of Nebraska was awarded about $562,000 and The Ponca Tribe of Nebraska nearly $38,000 to help people find health insurance on the federally run insurance exchange that began operating — and we use that term loosely — Oct. 1. The online marketplace, Healthcare.gov, repeatedly freezes, says “come back later” or crashes when people attempt to create an account so they can shop around for a plan.
Roger Furrer, executive director of Community Action, was tasked with helping nearly 40,000 uninsured Nebraskans navigate Obamacare. The group hired 62 “navigators” to educate Nebraskans and walk them through the enrollment process.
Although Community Action had received about 450 calls as of Wednesday, Furrer wasn’t aware of a single person who had successfully navigated the process, either online or by phone.
“It’s still an exercise in frustration for most people,” he said. “We are finally starting to get people past the barrier of creating their account.”
Jan Henderson, spokeswoman for the Ponca Tribe, said they haven’t been able to sign anyone up either.
“Our navigators are still having problems accessing the application online,” she said via email. “We try several times a day and have called the (toll free) number in which we are told that they are experiencing technical difficulties.”
The tribe is charged with helping American Indians in 15 counties navigate the new health insurance program.
Furrer said people would get close, and then the website would crash. One person was very close to success — at the verification stage — when some of the information they’d already entered didn’t pull through.
“We knew that it was going to be a rough start,” he said. “I don’t think that we estimated that it would be as slow as it was.”
Furrer said Nebraskans have been very patient and polite about the glitches, but their patience is wearing thin after two weeks.
“They basically just want confirmation that they’re not the only ones having the same problem,” he said. “The number of frayed tempers is beginning to increase … It’s a totally understandable reaction. I totally get it. We would love to be able to fix it.”
But fix it he can’t, since Nebraska is one of nearly three dozen states that opted not to create their own insurance markets and instead left it up to the feds.
He thinks part of the problem is most of his clients are trying to sign up during the day, during peak traffic times.
Although the crush of people trying to get on the site was initially blamed for the glitches, experts increasingly believe the site was bogged because initially, people were required to first set up an account and divulge personal information. The site now allows people to check out the prices before setting up an account.
That’s what puzzled Lincoln accountant Todd Blome when he tried to use the website to see what the marketplace had to offer after learning his individual Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska plan was being cancelled and he’d have to pay a 65 percent higher premium for a similar plan that complies with Obamacare mandates.
Whereas he got his previous plan by shopping around on ehealthinsurance.com without having to divulge personal information first, on Healthcare.gov comparison shopping is the last step.
“This is so backwards and counterintuitive,” he said. “What other e-commerce site handles a product shopping and purchase experience like this?”
After two days of trying to log in to Healthcare.gov, he finally succeeded, but then was asked “a bunch of personal information,” including his Social Security number, email address, income and phone number.
“I’m not interested in the government’s full body cavity search so I entered some bogus information,” Blome said. “The page crashed when I clicked to go to the next screen.”
He wasn’t able to log in again the next day and after several days of trying he said, “I’m done trying.”
Blome decided to directly contact the four insurance companies selling policies on the Nebraska exchange. He can buy a policy directly from them since he’s not eligible for a federal tax credit anyway. Blue Cross is one of the companies, and their options are the same ones he’d already been presented (the cheapest is a 55 percent increase in his premium).
He wasn’t able to get pricing from two of the companies, and the fourth company, CoOpportunity (a cooperative created with federal financing) had a cheaper premium ($750 versus $826) but with higher co-pays and much higher out-of-network costs.
He plans to shop on ehealthinsurance.com again when they have new plans available later this fall.
“I’m officially done with the federal exchange,” he said. “My patience and tolerance for dealing with this government-run mess has reached its limit. I’m actually very blessed that I don’t have to purchase my insurance through the government exchange. I feel sorry for those that have to.”
Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.
- Obamacare compliance means less money for TN service agencies
- The mystery of Obamacare spending in Arkansas
- Obamacare raises questions for MD small business owners
- Kansas official on Obamacare: ‘Let someone else be the guinea pig’
- Obamacare insurance marketplace has plenty of kinks on first day
- OR’s Obamacare insurance marketplace hits technological snag
- Fail: Day 1 of the New Mexico Obamacare rollout
- Senator asks: Do you want this dysfunctional government taking over health care?
- Jobs, coverage at risk with Obamacare, MN union health official says
- Oregon’s Obamacare ads resemble middle school art
- VIDEO: Obamacare vs Affordable Care Act: Comedy triumphs in court of confusion
- Patience is key to navigating Illinois’ Obamacare marketplace
- Hawaii residents, lawmakers frustrated with health connector glitches
- Healthy young, key to Obamacare, aren’t buying it
- NM’s health exchange tries to lure ‘young invincibles’
- Obama drama: Senator blames governor for big rate hikes
- Progressive group navigates Oregon students through Obamacare
- Maddening: Trying to log onto federal health care site
- You know that one guy who successfully signed up for Obamacare? He didn’t
- What’s wrong? It’s been a week, and Obamacare website still not working
- HHS Secretary Sebelius back in FL after embarrassing Obamacare rollout
- Health centers enroll Floridians in Obamacare as application problems persist
- VIDEO: Stewart skewers Sebelius on Obamacare
- Obamacare effect? 9 companies exit Nebraska’s health insurance market
- Obamacare: Children of undocumented parents face an uncertain future
- Which way do we go? Obamacare navigator registration in TN in question
- NM health exchange tries to ease problems with Obamacare website
- CPA says hype over Obamacare small business tax credit is misleading
- Obamacare navigator under fire for arrest warrant
- Reports of Obamacare fraud emerge in Tennessee
- After two weeks, FL online Obamacare enrollees are hard to find
- Illinois state governor touts 100K Obamacare enrollees, all in Medicaid
- Kansas lawmaker calls for crackdown on Obamacare navigators
- WI health care exchange seeing few getting through
- Hawaii’s Obamacare exchange relaunches with more glitches
- We’ll know next month how many people in NM signed up for Obamacare — maybe
- Zero: Number of Nebraskans Obamacare navigators have signed up
- It took this Delaware woman 11 days to sign up for Obamacare – and she was the first
- How many people have signed up for health insurance in VA? Who knows?
- What else? NM federal health exchange ads stalled due to website problems
- Blue Cross hires temp workers to deal with Obamacare glitches
- If Obamacare is the next Medicare, will physicians leave en masse?
- Three problems that won’t be solved by fixing the Obamacare exchange glitches
- Plenty of Oregonians interested in Obamacare, but none can enroll online
- Criticize this: Obamacare premiums a near match to WI disclosures
- Report: Missourians will see sharp rise in premiums under Obamacare
- Kansas navigators say they’ve enrolled no one in Obamacare
- Obamacare too costly for rich Coloradans, Democrat congressman says
- Study: Kansas premiums to spike following Obamacare rollout
- Hang on to your candy: Creepy Uncle Sam is back
- Obamacare or bust: NM Watchdog turned back again
- Medical journals, experts refute claim that Medicaid cuts ER use
- Arkansas spends $4M on Obamacare ads, wants more
- LOL: In July video, HHS bragged about being ‘on schedule’ with Obamacare
- Illinois uses Day of the Dead to market Obamacare
- Sebelius denies GOP’s Terry ‘unreliable’ Obamacare info
- About 290,000 Washington residents lose health insurance plans
- Broken promise: Obamacare cancels almost 20,000 Kansas health care plans
- Top hospitals opt out of Obamacare
- Obamacare moves to intensive care
- Obamacare provision could lead to more Medicaid fraud
- Obamacare: Religious groups want to ‘move mountains’
- Obamacare hitting Wisconsin residents with double whammy
- Kansas AG: Obamacare threatens consumer privacy
- 1,500 in New Mexico have to move out of the high-risk insurance pool
- Cover Oregon website fiasco creates jobs, but costs millions
- For Florida’s Obamacare small business exchange, it’s crunch time
- Only 877 Wisconsinites have signed up for Obamacare, federal report says
- Just 172 in NM have completed Obamacare applications: ‘Woefully inadequate,’ says NMIX board member
- With only 346 Oklahomans signed up, leaders decry ‘Obamacare debacle’
- Defying Obamacare: ‘Send them the bill,’ NM insurance official says
- Kansas Obamacare enrollment dwarfed by nearly 20,000 cancellations
- Numbers don’t lie: In Illinois, Obamacare means Medicaid
- Wisconsin governor proposes insurance plan to address Obamacare rollout failure
- Tennesseans might know Tuesday if they can keep canceled health insurance
- People demand answers over Oregon’s Obamacare fail
- Calif. says ‘no’ to Obamacare freebies, makes own law
- HI health exchange violates federal law, League of Women Voters say
- Obamacare video winner: ‘Forget about the price tag’