Enrollment Troubles

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Well, you've talked recently about the process for signing up insurance and how it's much improved. We know that the web site has gotten better. At the same time, people like Kerry from Illinois said that the navigators-- the folks who've been hired to help people-- that she's encountered couldn't really answer her questions. And Katie from New Mexico wrote in to express her fascination with healthcare.gov. She's still facing some problems. And she asks, "How can you impose deadlines and fines when people are sincerely trying to sign up and the federal online site is still dysfunctional in some cases."

Well, I have to tell you, obviously, after a really bad first month with the website-- where it just didn't work and it was inexcusable, and I think I've publicly apologized to everybody for the fact that it should have worked-- it got fixed fairly rapidly. And if you go to healthcare.gov today-- and a lot of people who are watching this will be able to immediately access it-- what you'll find is is that it works pretty darn well.

Now, sometimes what may frustrate people is it's not so much that the website's not working as it is that they may have a particularly complicated situation. They may not know all their tax information. In order for them to qualify for the tax credit, the Treasury Department and the IRS essentially have to calculate what their income is. And you know, that ends up being a little bit complicated. Some people may need some help on that.

Keep in mind, though, that you have to compare this to blind, private insurance. Most of us are lucky enough to get health insurance through the job. So somebody from HR hands you a form, you kind of read it through and you sign something. But if you ever actually try to buy health insurance with an agent by yourself, it's a complicated process that actually takes a lot longer than signing up on healthcare.gov.

So we haven't been able to eliminate any inconvenience. It's still a big transaction for families to sign up for health insurance. But the web site itself, actually, at this point, is working quite well. And people have until the end of March 31 to sign up. And we know that it's working because we've got 4.2 million people who've already signed up.

You know, on a daily basis, we're getting tens of thousands of people who are signing up. We're able to monitor whether there are long wait times on the website, whether things are getting stuck. Ever since the terrible experience back in October and early November, there's somebody watching the screen at all times, an entire team of techies. And if they see something get stuck, they're right on top of it.

Now, as one of the people who wrote mentioned, we also have what are called navigators. These are essentially people in community centers, or nonprofit clinics, or affiliated with a church who are supposed to be helping walk folks through the process. And those folks are trained. They're supposed to have the answers. But as is true with any service when you deal with somebody, if you've got a complicated situation, you say, well I have this job, my income is here, I'm not sure exactly what my income's going to be there, working through how they qualify for tax credits and what plans may be available may be, sometimes, a little bit complicated.

But I would start with healthcare.gov. If you don't find that that's convenient, then you can call a 1-800 number. 1-800-318-2596. 1-800-318-2596. And if after either using the call center or the website your questions are still not answered, then the website or the call center can direct you to a place in your hometown where somebody will actually sit there and walk you through the process. And I think that most people will find that, at least since that first month and a half or so when things were really not working well, that now it's actually working quite well.