The Conversation

Healthcare.gov is Taking Pre-Orders by Phone

What has been common knowledge on the right since Monday is now making its way onto the left leaning Wonkblog at the Washington Post. The phone number the Obama administration has been giving out will not allow you to purchase insurance because it still relies on the broken website:

In conversations this afternoon with the call center, I was repeatedly told that I could not enroll in coverage over the phone.

"The only thing we can do is submit an application for you," one call-center representative told me. "We can't purchase anything for you."

"No, you cannot do that," another one said, when I told her I had completed my application and would like to enroll in a specific plan.

An HHS spokesperson, who seems to spend a lot of time reading Sarah Kliff, emailed about the story saying "when call volume is high, or when the application is unable to be processed online, call center representatives will help to fill out an application and the consumer will be contacted at a later time to move forward with shopping and enrolling in a plan." This is just another way of saying the same thing. When the website works the phone number will also work. Right now it doesn't work.

The Obama administration clearly knows this is the case, so what they are doing is having people fill out applications which can not be transmitted. In essence, the 800 number is taking pre-orders. People will be contacted later when the actual product becomes available for purchase.

In theory there's nothing wrong with taking pre-orders. Lots of big retail outlets offer this service for popular items. However, people making these orders are usually aware they are not placing an actual order for a product that is ready to ship. They are, in effect, getting in line.

What the Obama administration should be doing is shutting down the website until it is fixed. In lieu of that, they could tell people they are looking for pre-orders which will be fulfilled later. What the administration is actually doing is using a handful of signups, as little as one a day in some states, to conceal what is actually happening right now.

Healthcare.gov is, at best, taking pre-orders. If the administration cared about American's time they would tell them the truth.


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