Tips and tricks if you're trying to sign up for ObamaCare - New York News

Tips and tricks if you're trying to sign up for ObamaCare

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PHOENIX -

The woman on the cover of the ObamaCare web site is smiling, but more than 3 weeks after ObamaCare's launch, many of the people trying to use the site aren't smiling at all.

That's because the site continues to be plagued with major problems. People haven't been able to sign up. Others can't even get past the initial registration page.

President Obama has ordered "all hands on deck" to get the site fixed and running smoothly, but questions about why these problems weren't caught before the launch and why it's taken this long to fix it persist.

Thursday, here in the valley, we may be able to ask those questions directly to the person who is overseeing the site – Kathleen Sebelius.

But just how problem-plagued is the process to sign up? And is everyone getting a "system error message" when they try to sign up?

The government is really pushing people to sign up on the website, and when I tried at first, I couldn't get through. But there's a couple other ways you can sign up.

You can call, or you can fill out a paper application. And people I spoke with say they're having better luck doing it the old fashioned way -- mailing it in.

"I could not get on the site at all, then when I got on the site, I went to certain areas, it just wasn't functioning properly and I gave up," says Mickey Izenman.

It's easy to give up when you keep getting an error. The online process, when you get through, is long one. First you have to pick a username and password.

Then you have to answer a barrage of personal questions, questions that verify your identity -- about 45 minutes worth of questions -- before you can check out the actual health insurance plan options.

"This is like going to a car dealer and spending the first 45 minutes with a credit manager doing an application before ever seeing a car or sticker on the window," says Alan Leafman.

Alan Leafman is a health insurance broker.

"We've gotten exactly one person through the website since October 1."

I also called their hotline to see how long it would take to register for health insurance over the phone, and... "All of our representatives are currently assisting other customers, please stay on the line, your estimated wait time is 15 minutes."

Whether on the phone, or online, waiting seems to be the norm.

This retiree says he was paying $500 a month for health insurance, with a $5,000 deductible. He got frustrated and ended up going through a broker.

"I can get a policy now which isn't even the best, next to best, for roughly $200 a month with a zero deductible and 90/10 coverage," says Izenman.

But that was no thanks to the government's website. He filled out and mailed a paper application.

"I don't know who the people in government consulted with when they designed this website, clearly they didn't consult with many insurance people or even consumers," says Leafman.

The old fashioned way with pen and paper takes less time to fill out than doing it online. But it could take about a couple weeks or more for the government to confirm the application.

But this way, you have time to pick out a health insurance plan.

Doing it online, if you get through, is instantaneous, but at the end of the process you have to pick a plan. And there are dozens of plans to choose from.

Health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be in the valley Thursday, visiting a healthcare call center in Phoenix. There have been calls for her resignation because of the way the launch was handled, but President Obama is sticking by her.

Download the paper application for ObamaCare: marketplace.cms.gov/getofficialresources/publications-and-articles/marketplace-application-for-family.pdf

Sign up in person at a local office: localhelp.healthcare.gov/

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