Dec. 9, 2013 -- Ready, set, try again.
If you need to buy health insurance for 2014 through the federal government's web site, Healthcare.gov, you may already know this drill. The site has famously had a variety of technical failures during its rollout.
But the bugs are being fixed, at least partially, and just in time: People who want coverage to start on Jan. 1, 2014, must act quickly and sign up by Dec. 23, 2013. Whether you started an application already and got stuck along the way, or you want to give it another try, here are some tips to get you enrolled.
1. Reset your application.
You can erase old applications. The federal government says you might especially want to do this if you visited the site in October or early November when it was having a huge number of problems.
You can also erase an old application if the web site seems to be stuck.
Here's how: Once you log in, check if the Healthcare.gov site tells you that you already have an application "in progress." If so, select the application and click the “remove" button.
Then quit your browser. Reopen it and start a new application. If you still have problems, call the Customer Call Center at 800-318-2596.
You can also continue an application online if you started it offline with a paper application or phone call. Get details here.
2. Create a new account.
3. Window shop for plans and doctors.
A new feature gives people more leeway to "window shop" for various types of plans without needing to apply. You'll only need to provide a few basic facts about yourself, such as where you live.
Click on "see plans" on Healthcare.gov to start shopping around. This feature will allow you to review the plans and see if they cover your doctors and medical networks.
Several web sites, such as thehealthsherpa.com and valuepenguin.com, allow users to search for premiums available in their regions. Some brokers and individual insurers allow you to search their web sites for plans, too.
In some cases, you may find these web sites easier to use than the ones run by the government. But be aware that these web sites may not have complete information about all available plans. And they may have made special arrangements that affect where you're sent when you click on a plan. A broker, for instance, may only allow you to get coverage through specific insurers that it works with.