Florida Health Watch experienced the emotional roller coaster of attempting to access the Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov on Thursday morning.
The insurance marketplace is the keystone of the healthcare reform law, offering subsidized and comprehensive health plans for eligible low- and middle-income Americans.
The marketplace went live on Tuesday, and immediately attracted a crush of visitors who overwhelmed the system, causing interminable delays for countless of potential consumers.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported that HealthCare.gov received about 6.1 million unique visitors in the first 36 hours.
Health Watch as been trying since early Tuesday to complete the first step: creating a unique user account. But up until Thursday morning, the many attempts had failed during various stages of the process.
But shortly before noon today, Health Watch finally succeeded in creating an account, and promptly received an email from the marketplace instructing Health Watch to click on a link in the emai to verify the email address used to create the account.
Health Watch clicked on the link, and was taken to a website confirming that an account had been created.
Success looks like this:
Overcome with joy after two days of trying, and failing, to access the marketplace, Health Watch eagerly clicked on the green button that says "CONTINUE''.
And then the following screen appeared:
Disappointment. Dejection. Frustration.
To be fair, Health Watch did try again, and received confirmation that its HealthCare.gov account had been created. But the Watch still can't get through to browse all the available health plans, because the website keeps showing this:
The federal government is running the marketplace, also called the exchange, in 34 states, including Florida, which has the nation's second-highest rate of uninsured residents with 3.8 million Floridians living without health coverage. Only Texas has a higher rate and number of uninsured.
Health and Human Services officials have told Health Watch that some consumers are getting through, and that the log jam will soon break.
HHS has not said how many people have actually created accounts or enrolled for a plan through the exchange. But representatives for Florida Blue, which is offering about 90 plans in the state, tell Health Watch that the insurer has sold an unspecified number of subsidized health plans to individuals through the exchange.
Health Watch will keep trying to access the marketplace, and report back on its experience.