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IamA Customer Service Rep for Healthcare.gov (aka one of those guys who tries to get you set up with insurace when you call in) AMSomeStuff!

Nov 15th 2013 by louismagoo • 18 Questions • 510 Points

I have worked at one of the call centers for just over a month. Unfortunately, I can't answer all questions because of confidentiality agreements. However, if I can legally answer I will!

Not the most definitive proof, but this at least shows I was hired. I would give better proof, but because I work at a secure facility I can't think of any other proof available. Sorry.

EDIT: I am glad you guys have so many questions. I have to go for a bit but I will try to answer these as I can!

Q:

Any idea how accurate the '500 million lines of code' is for the site? It seems way over-estimated, but has some anonymous, supposedly knowledgeable source, in a New York Times article.

A:

That one I have no idea on. I do know that the site wasn't built to hold more than about 60,000 users at a time, but that isn't actual insider knowledge.


Q:

site wasn't built to hold more than about 60,000 users at a time

Whoever drafted the requirements isn't too smart

A:

True.


Q:

My status has been: "Identity verification pending" "Verification under review" for weeks now. I submitted the documentation requested, how long should that take?

I'd happily do the phone verification, but the number they list asks for a pin which doesn't seem to be given by the site, and if you don't have one they hang up on you.

What do?

A:

Call in to the marketplace and let them know. We usually send that issue to a specialist to resolve (although the specialists are booked right now so they may give another answer).


Q:

I've got health insurance through my employer now.

But let's say on January 30th, my work closes and I'm laid off. I'll be scrambling to get covered through the exchange, but am I gonna get fined for not being covered after the start of the year?

A:

No, you have to be without insurance for 3 months for a fine to apply.


Q:

I have no been able to use the website, it just tells me to call in.

What is the best day/time to call?

A:

I always recommend calling late at night or early in the morning. The call times are shorter and the website tends to have less traffic.


Q:

I tried to create an account on the first day and I received a confirmation email, but the system won't let me log in. It's giving me this error in the URL

p_error_codes_list=OAM-2&p_error_code=OAM-2

I have tried resetting my password with no luck. I can't create a new account because it says my email address is already attached to one, and I'm not creating a second email account just for this. What can I do to figure this out?

A:

They actually just created a workaround for this. You should call the marketplace or talk to someone on healthcare.gov's chat.


Q:

That tends to be how it is with most things. The vast majority of sign ups to Massachusetts system happened just before they would be penalized if they did not. Most people file their taxes in March and April. People are generally lazy, but with big decisions they also like to give themselves a lot of time to think, even if their options remain relatively fixed.

A:

That is possible too, though there are a lot of people who just do it because they are supposed to.


Q:

What is the general mood in the office? Are you and your coworkers optimistic about user turnout and account completions or is there a feeling of resent and remorse about how the functionality of the system is portrayed in the news?

A:

I actually like that the news covers the system errors. Before, people would rage at us, but now they know we are all just doing what we can to help.


Q:

Hahahaha, that's a side of it that I wouldn't have expected. As someone who wouldn't think of just yelling at some over-the-phone assistant, I can imagine that having the actual system's faults on display really takes the (often misguided) heat off you.

Do you believe that these launch troubles are going to persist or will they be actually fixed at some point?

A:

Well I can see them getting better daily, based on how often I can get callers to the "finish line." It doesn't look like it will be perfect soon, but things are definitely getting better.


Q:

How do I prove that I am part of a religion that prohibits medical treatment?

A:

They are working on a form that allows you to declare yourself exempt, but it doesn't exist just yet. You can check in on healthcare.gov's chat in a moth or so for more info if you want.


Q:

Do I have to ask for a form to refuse insurance, or will my Federal withholding automatically withdraw $350 (for 2014)?

A:

Actually the fine next year is only 95 dollars (it goes up the next year though). You might qualify for an exemption in certain cases though, like if you would have to pay over 8% of your income for basic insurance, or your religious views prohibit traditional health care).


Q:

How long does the whole process of getting healthcare through this take from start to finish?

A:

Honestly it is hard to say for sure. When everything goes smoothly and there are no glitches I can do an application over the phone with someone in 15-30 minutes (depending on family size and whether an employer offers insurance). However, if the website glitches it can take an hour or more, and even then you may have to wait until traffic is low to successfully submit (which means coming back late at night or early in the morning). I have heard of people spending hours on the application, but that is only because they keep running into the same roadblock and try to get around it unsuccessfully.


Q:

How about after the application process. How long does it take to get approval and be covered after application submittion?

A:

That question is the tricky one. Sometimes approval happens immediately (that is what the system is intended to do) and you can compare and choose insurance right after you submit your application. If that happens, the whole process takes 1-2 hours, tops. Unfortuantely, that is more the exception than the rule right now, because there are two big glitches that make so that people either 1. can't be verified (this means the website can't confirm you are you, so it won't go forward) or 2. can't apply the tax credit to monthly premiums (the website won't show you insurance prices until you do this step).

Once those glitches are fixed, it takes very little time to sign up. Sometimes it works just fine, other times the system refuses to move forward. It is getting better with all the 24/7 tech updating, but it still sucks.

TL;DR It's kind of a crapshoot.


Q:

My aunt was paying $900 a month for her personal insurance last year as a clinical psychologist. The ACA is saving her a boatload of money.

A:

we get lots of small business owners actually. It's always been bad paying for insurance solo, but a lot of them are now paying a lot less than they used to. It's still not cheap or anything, but the ACA was actually designed to help small business owners.


Q:

Therein lies the problem. Nowhere on the website while signing up does it ask how much your employer insurance would cost you. If a household's income is $2400/month before taxes and such, and the only insurance available costs over $600.00/month, that's 25% of their income. I've filled this thing out TWICE. It does not ask these questions. It should-people might get a better deal (other than being forced to purchase something that they didn't want/need to purchase in the first place, cause hell, $600/month is enough for a new car or rent or nice chunk of a house payment, or clothes/groceries/etc...but that's a different topic for a different subreddit...).

A:

Generally speaking, the market prefers to allow people to stay on employers' plans if possible, as long as they are affordable and cover basic services. I am not sure how the calculator works, but I wouldn't be surprised if having employer coverage could affect the calculation in some way.


Q:

Are you secretly hoping that the law is really awful and hard to understand so that you will have job security?

A:

Haha, that isn't how I was raised. I would love nothing more than for the world to be worry free, and besides I will be quitting at the end of the year. Generally speaking, though, I think that it is unfortunate how often things are made to be complicated so that one group of people can gain an advantage (complex legal rules in the banking system comes to mind as an example).


Q:

How do you feel about freedom of choice?

A:

Honestly, I believe that the ACA is the worst of all worlds. I'm generally a proponent of free markets, but in health coverage there is a dearth of knowledge among consumers, leading to inefficient markets (I was an Econ. major before going to law school, and I wrote a lot of papers on this subject). Even though I think it's unfair to force people to buy coverage, I believe in a public option (which does not yet exist in the U.S.).

For what it is worth, I disagree with the Supreme Court's assertion that the ACA is viable under the tax-and-spend power. A public option would be, though, and (personally) I believe it is the long-term evolution of our nation's medical practices.


Q:

Another question, can I sign up for an exchange plan for a limited amount of time? For example, I just started a new job and won't be eligible for group insurance until March. Can I enroll in a plan for 2 months and drop it when my employer coverage starts?

A:

Yes, but you wouldn't be able to re-enroll until 2015 unless a "qualifying event" occurred. Of course, losing your job is such an event, so either way you should be fine.