The venerable Consumer Reports magazine (“CR”) is about as non-partisan a publication as you will ever find in America. For decades, it’s stayed true to its goal of giving consumers good information so that they can make reasonable purchasing decisions in the open marketplace. That’s why it’s a stunning indictment of the Obamacare exchange that CR’s best advice to its readers is to stay out of the exchange entirely, at least for the time being.
In a blog post at ConsumerReports.org entitled “How to successfully register for health insurance on HealthCare.gov : We got advice from a pro software tester,” the consumer magazine passes on advice from Ben Simo, a Phoenix software tester who blogs at “Is There A Problem Here?”. Before getting to that advice, though, the magazine says that, if you’re trying to get onto the exchange without success, you’re not alone:
Frustrated by trying to register on HealthCare.gov? You’re hardly alone. Of the 9.47 million people who tried to register in the first week, only 271,00 were able to create an account, according to one analysis. That’s about 1 in 35. Many people couldn’t even create user names and passwords.
Simo, incidentally, takes the problems personally, since he wasn’t even able to get one of his family members to successfully navigate the system. After that frustration, he looked to his professional experience to come up with some suggestions for CR readers.
Tip No. 1 is “Follow instructions when creating a user name.” Having offered this tip, CR immediately acknowledges that this is “not as easy as it seems,” because of “garbled instructions.” A successful username boils down to including, at a minimum, one upper-case letter, one lower-case letter, one number, and one of a short list of permitted symbols. If you think that’s crazy, you’re in good company. CR tells its readers that “Simo says the instructions are needlessly complicated and logins will end up being less secure because users will be putting the info on Post-Its stuck to their computers. . . .”
Tip No. 3 is a reminder that, if you actually succeed in enrolling, check your email inbox for a confirming “account activation” email. If you don’t respond to that email without a few hours, you’ll get timed out and have to start all over again. And if the email never comes, you’ll have to start all over again anyway.
(Read More: The Obamacare Hotline Number: 1-800-F**K-YOU.)
Tip No. 4, for the computer savvy amongst you, is to “Clear your cookies.” Because it’s taking people dozens of tries to get onto the system, when they finally do succeed, their browser is stuffed full of cookies with data and code that Healthcare.gov left there so that it could retrieve that data later. The problem is that, because of a “design error,” the “cookie files are bigger than what the website can accept back.” So, if you finally get registered and try to sign on, all you’ll get is a blank page. You can either clear your cookies (your browser’s help page will tell you how) or switch browsers.
But if all else fails, says CR, give up:
If all this is too much for you to absorb, follow our previous advice: Stay away from Healthcare.gov for at least another month if you can. Hopefully that will be long enough for its software vendors to clean up the mess they’ve made.
Wow! Those are some seriously harsh words from a publication dedicated to helping computers and speaking the truth about sellers in the marketplace.