By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
Janice Baker credits her hard-headedness as the key reason she became the first person in Delaware to successfully sign up for Obamacare.
And it only took her 11 days to do it.
Baker, the 59 year-old owner of a dog kennel in Selbyville, was touted by the state’s Department of Health and Social Services this week for being the first successful enrollee in the state health exchange. It is unclear if anyone else has made it through the troubled, glitch-riddled enrollment process.
Baker told Watchdog.org on Wednesday she tried to sign up for health insurance by logging onto the newly-created Delaware health insurance exchange on Oct. 1, the first day the exchanges were open.
“I tried several times and it wouldn’t create an account for me,” Baker said.
Getting annoyed, she called the hotline provided on the website and spoke with one of those taxpayer-funded “navigators” who have been tapped by the Obama administration to help people enroll.
After about half an hour, it looked like they were really getting somewhere.
And then, the navigator’s computer froze and wouldn’t allow them to finish the process.
Baker said she tried again the next day and everything happened the same way. She couldn’t get the website to work on her computer, called the hotline, and gave all her information to an Obamacare navigator.
Then the program froze again.
“It was frustrating,” she said. “But I’m a little hard-headed and maybe that was why I kept trying.”
After what she estimates was “seven or eight” attempts to log-in through the exchange, she finally had a breakthrough. On Oct. 11, she reset her browser and cleared temporary data from her computer, which apparently made all the difference. That night, nearly two weeks after the exchange went live, Baker was able to purchase health insurance through the exchange website.
The next week, the state announced Baker was the first person to successfully use the system.
“My thought is now that we have Janice, we’re going to see more and more people successfully getting through the screens and getting through the enrollment,” Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services, told reporters during a conference call this week.
The state promised to make upgrades to the system, but did not return calls from Watchdog.org.
Though attention has been focused on the problems with the federal health care exchange website, Baker’s story is proof that the state-run sites are experiencing similar problems. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., decided to set up their own exchanges and another seven decided to create a joint state-federal exchange, which Delaware did.
Another 27 states declined to set up any exchanges, leaving the federal government to run theirs.
Despite all the frustration, Baker, a Democrat, said she still supports the Affordable Care Act. She had previously been denied health insurance on three occasions because of several pre-existing conditions, she said.
Though she declined to discuss her financial situation, Baker said she didn’t qualify for subsidies through Obamacare.
According to the department, there are 90,000 residents of Delaware without health insurance.
At the rate of one person every 11 days, only eight would be enrolled in the health exchanges by the first enrollment deadline at the end of the year.
Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org. Follow him on Twitter at @EricBoehm87
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