CNN: No, you can’t buy health insurance through ObamaCare 800 number

posted at 1:01 pm on October 26, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Actually, the video below doesn’t do as good a job of telling this story as CNN’s written story does. On Monday, Barack Obama insisted that people could call the toll-free ObamaCare (1-800-F1UC-KYO) to buy insurance if the website wasn’t working for consumers. Danielle Dellorto tried testing that out and found a much different reality from the call center:

They told me we needed to first get set up with an application. That part was very simple too — I was asked basic questions like my name, address and Social Security number.

Five minutes later, they said I was I all set.

So did that mean I was enrolled? No.

I have to call back– in one to three weeks — for that.

Turns out, the call center can’t actually process applications over the phone. They can just take your information and submit it for you.

Once I get a paper statement in the mail saying I’m eligible to enroll, I can then call the center back and enroll over the phone, the representative said.

In fact, people can’t even get information on which health plans they have as choices. The call center won’t discuss terms and prices until after the paper statement arrives:

From a consumer standpoint, the most frustrating aspect was that I couldn’t get any specifics about the various insurance options during this call either.

I was told they can’t divulge the information about the four levels of coverage choices until I get that piece of paper in the mail — a long, drawn-out process for something that it appears could be done immediately with technology.

Dellorto noted that the call wait times for the center seem pretty reasonable, at least when she called, but the effective wait time is three weeks.  Prior to ObamaCare, people could look up various insurance plans from carriers in their area on the insurer websites and simply call the insurer to buy a plan.  Now, though, in order to qualify for the federal subsidies that go along with the mandate, consumers get forced into the utterly incompetent government program and can’t find out anything.

Oh, and that approach relies on the same computer system as the web portal, so …

With the supposedly state-of-the-art $600 million HealthCare.gov portal malfunctioning, President Barack Obama is urging Americans to go ahead and try to get health coverage by mailing in a paper application, calling the helpline or seeking help from one of the trained “assisters.”

But the truth is those applications — on paper or by phone — have to get entered into the same lousy website that is causing the problems in the first place. And the people processing the paper and calls don’t have any cyber secret passage to duck around that. They too have to deal with all the frustrations of HealthCare.gov — full-time. …

POLITICO reporters who got recorded announcements earlier in the week — sometimes directing them to try HealthCare.gov — can now get through to the call center. Once they connect, staffers like “Justin” try to get people’s information into the online system.

But “Justin” doesn’t have a fast track. Asked if the website works better for him than the general public, he responded: “No.”

“The site does not work for us either,” he said.

Small wonder that industry experts contacted by CNN advised that the best approach to this debacle would be to “blow it up, start over“:

Experts say the major problems with the Obamacare website can’t reasonably be solved before the end of 2013, and the best fix would be to start over from scratch.

After assessing the website, Dave Kennedy, the CEO of information-security company Trusted Sec, estimates that about 20% of Healthcare.gov needs to be rewritten. With a whopping 500 million lines of code, according to a recent New York Times report, Kennedy believes fixing the site would probably take six months to a year.

But would-be Obamacare enrollees only have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage starting at the beginning of 2014. Nish Bhalla, CEO of information-security firm Security Compass, said it “does not sound realistic at all” that Healthcare.gov will be fully operational before that point.

“We don’t even know where all of the problems lie, so how can we solve them?” Bhalla said. “It’s like a drive-by shooting: You’re going fast and you might hit it, you might miss it. But you can’t fix what you can’t identify.”

Several computer engineers said it would likely be easier to rebuild Healthcare.gov than to fix the issues in the current system.

I say meet them halfway.  Blow it up, and then replace it with real market-based reforms that gets government out of the way.


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