aNewDomain.net — Our Ted Rall set out to register for ObamaCare online. He found it to be a full fail. Here’s his story — screenshots and all. Sounds like the White House needs a UX guy.
My pre-October 1 cartoon covering the then-impending launch of the so-called Affordable Care Act — this now known as the droll and cute name ObamaCare — anticipated that the fifty states’ “healthcare marketplaces” sites would crash right away.
Even after all these years and all this crap, Obama defenders remain. And they collectively jumped down my virtual throat.
Faithless they cried! They are right. I am faithless. And I was right, as you see from reports in The New York Times about the crashes.
Yet the pro-Obama media made excuses for the system’s lack of preparedness. As the NYT reported:
It remained unclear whether the array of problems — many people received messages saying the system was down and others were unable to create accounts to buy insurance — stemmed more from heavy traffic or from flaws in design.”
I’ll pick (B) “flaws in design.” Cuz, like, no one could figure out ahead of time that millions of Americans would immediately check out those sites when they went live?
That’s why I waited to write this column. And I wanted to show you what it is like to register for ObamaCare.
First step is to find the site. No problem — if you’re a native English speaker, tech-savvy and a computer programmer who went to an Ivy League engineering school. I admit my Ivy kicked me out, but still.
To the Google!
No one should have to do this. It’s crazy. The administration should have sent everyone a postcard that contained the basics, including the URL. I get a postcard every year telling me where to vote. Why didn’t the government do the same thing for Obamacare?
All following screenshot image credits: Ted Rall
Here’s what came up:
The site came right up. So far, so good. Yes, we can! But then … an error message. Actually this error message was more like a you-might-get-an-error error message. That is even more-confusing than a regular old error message. It’s like a store that puts a sign on its window reading: Maybe Closed. Maybe Open.
It wants me to come back later? This is not the American way. Did Chris Columbus come back later?
Basically, yes he did come back later, but shut up. (Telling people who know facts to shut up is the American way.)
Did the Conquistadors come back later? They were Spanish, not American, so again — please shut up.
I need healthcare today, not tomorrow.
Well, I do need it tomorrow, but you know what I mean.
Wait a sec. What exactly is an insurance assistor? Does it involve anal probes?
Don’t ask. Don’t tell. Get Started? That’s me! I start feeling better at this point.
But now after eighteen minutes of hard reading I am again not so happy. Registering online for anything sucks. Can’t I just log in with Facebook or Twitter or Klout like I do for everything else?
Nope. Okay. So let’s create an account.
Good news! The User ID I wanted is available. Now I’m suited up and ready to go on a wild shopping spree — for some awesome ObamaCare!
Or … not so much.
I have to wait for the confirmation email to arrive.
Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Whoops, there it is.
I can click? I will click. There. I clicked. A new browser window opens. Aha!
Okay, President Obama. You’ve won me back. Drones and bankster bailouts be damned. Who can resist the charm of a government program whose secret-question options include “first concert you ever attended” (Sid Vicious solo) and “favorite comic book /cartoon character as a child” (Peanuts/Popeye)?
The “band poster” (Blondie, or was it The Clash?) question is hip. I am beginning to smile.
Let’s ignore the “last 5 digits of your favorite rewards card.”
I picked a password.
There’s a whole lot of clicking going on — clicking I need to keep doing. But I’m American and unstoppable. Like Coronado.
Back to the first screen …
ObamaCare is a metaphor for the Sisyphean meaning of life. Just go back to the beginning and start over, back to the virtual rock of the sort-of-error message.
Did you know that an artist once defined minimalism as an empty room containing one cat? I think he did. Or she did.
I try to fact check the thing about the cat line online, but I can’t find it. Maybe I dreamed it up. I slept a lot during art class.
Well, it was a 9 a.m. class with the lights off and boring slides. What did they expect? Reload.
Click Here to Login? Sure. But then …
Whoa, there it is!
I don’t need no stinkin’ invitation code. I’m me. I invite myself in. Yo!
Hmm. Rules of Behavior.
Whatever. I’m not reading them any more than I’m going to read the 57-page Terms and Conditions for updating to the crappy new iOS 7 for my phone.
Next step: A form where I’m asked to enter my full legal name, Social Security Number, gender, date of birth, address, phone number, email address, language preferences — can’t they get this stuff from the NSA? — and my consent to a General Privacy Attestation.
Below that I see a notice on who to call if I am blind. But if I were blind, I couldn’t read the notice …
Next I get some freaky Facebook-style-identity-verification questions that prove they already know all about me.
Reload … reload … reload …
It’s taking forever. I’m afraid to hit reload. What if I lose all the work I put in so far?
The website moves glacially. It reminds me of a time I tried to buy train tickets for India online. I only got through at night, a New York night, because it turns out there’s actually someone processing the tickets manually on the other end and they only work during the day.
So. It’s been two hours. Deadline time is upon me.
That was interesting. All I need to get me some Obamacare is to:
1. Finish confirming my identity with creepy Facebook-like questions
2. Enter info about my family
3. Do something called a “Public MEC”
4. Enter my income details
5. Summarize my income, which apparently means something other than income details
6. Other stuff, whatever that is.
7. Shop for a plan
As Aetna insurance says: “Exchanges are new and easy to use.”
If I’m ever able to access one, I’ll surely be able to confirm that.
For aNewDomain.net, I’m Ted Rall.
Based in Boston, Ted Rall is a nationally-syndicated columnist, editorial cartoonist and war correspondent who specializes in Afghanistan and Central Asia. The author of 17 books, most-recently published The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt, Rall is twice the winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and is a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Follow him @TedRall, check out his Facebook fan page and definitely follow his Google+ stream here. Ted’s upcoming book After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan is due out in 2014.