Healthcare.gov Thinks I’m Ineligible For Insurance Because I’m In Jail?

The good news is that lots and lots of people were interested in signing up and shopping for health insurance once exchanges opened on October 1st. The bad news was that the site and its identity-verification services weren’t up to the task. So the Department of Health and Human Services apologized in a blog post…a post that accepts user comments. These comments make interesting reading.

Healthcare.gov, of course, is the federal government’s portal site for states that didn’t set up their own health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Consumerist’s own informal test showed that New York’s site was working just peachy last week, and we were able to shop for plans and get accurate prices, but we didn’t go all the way through and enroll.

Of course, we can’t vouch for the accuracy of these comments, and neither can the Department of Health and Human Services, but they do show a fascinating array of consumer issues and possible bugs.

A reader named Maggie posted:

I have been a vocal supporter of the ACA since it’s passage and anxiously anticipated using the Michigan Exchange via healthcare.gov as my family of 4 must find a new policy before our current Aetna policy is eliminated as of 12/31/13. Of note, our current policy was eliminated because of the ACA. I didn’t complain even though this is one of the detractors’ favorite, now legitimate, complaints about the ACA. Further, we will not qualify for a subsidy, so I expected this process to be relatively simple. I am embarrassed, appalled and angry that we have not been able to even get on to apply at this late date. Excuses will no longer suffice. The site MUST be fixed and fully operational in the next month or a huge number of qualified people must be hired to enroll people like us so that the Admonistration [sic] doesn’t lose the support of people like my family. FIX IT NOW!!!

Another commenter had a suggestion:

Assuming each person using the healthcare.gov website is worth MINIMUM WAGE, give us an estimate — to the nearest $1M dollars — of how much citizen time YOU have wasted. Perhaps you and your kind might learn a little humility by cutting checks to the unsuccessful citizens (no fault of their own) to compensate them at Minimum Wage Rate …

since NSA of course has the total logs of all attempts, successful and unsuccessful matched up to bank accounts and USPS mailing addresses.

We only know of one documented instance where something like that has happened, and it didn’t involve the federal government.

ProPublica picked out a few illustrative gems, including Joanna, who managed to use the site to clone her daughter.

It appears that my daughter was added twice so that I now have two daughters with the same name and social security number. I am unable to delete one of them. Also, the drop down menu that relates to what relationship someone is to another is faulty. I choose that my husband is the father of our daughter and that my daughter is a dependant [sic] to me and my husband. What it actually shows though is that my daughter is a stepdaughter to her father and that my daughter is now both my husband and I’s parent.

Then there’s Fred, the shopper whose dilemma we refer to in this post’s title:

Website said my wife and I were ineligible due to current incarceration. We have never been arrested in our lives, both 63!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Even insurance agents and application counselors are flummoxed. John wrote:

I am insurance agent also President of Insurance Agency (50+ Insurance Agents plus 30 employees) We have 1000′s of customers who want to sign up for health insurance and most will be subsidized. We have tried everyday since 10-1-2013. Maybe 2 applications have been processed. I have spent well over 250K getting ready for the ACA roll-out. My agency has been writing individual and small group insurance for over 25 years. We have marketed the uninsured and lower income. We have held events to get pre-enrollment applications. We just want to help people get the insurance they need. What can you do to help me?

Doing Better: Making Improvements to HealthCare.gov [HHS.gov Digital Strategy]
Healthcare.gov’s Users Speak Out: ‘Clean This Mess Up’ [ProPublica]

Have health care reform questions? Take ‘em over to our helpful colleagues down the hall at Consumer Reports’ Health Law Helper.