I had not been able to log into the New York State insurance exchange until today. There was a problem with their identity system, it wouldn't confirm that I was who I said I was. When I called the support line, after waiting for a couple of minutes (no annoying music, thank you) a very helpful support person slowly explained that this part of the system relied on the Federal website, and they were having problems. She offered two ways around the problem:
1. Create an account on the DMV website, and use that username and password to access the health insurance site. Apparently their identity system is federated. Because I have a New York State driver's license I would be able to do this, she said.
2. Or they could send paper forms that I would fill out and send back, and someone in their office would input the information manually and verify it.
I said I understood the options, and why it was necessary, but she explained it one more time, slowly, which I didn't mind.
So I went to the DMV site, and it was a little more trouble than I thought it should be, but I was able to create the account, then went back to the health insurance site, logged in. They asked me to fill in the same information as before, more or less, which I did. Then I went through a set of questions to find out if I was a Native American or Hispanic, etc. And then, after what seemed a remarkably short time, they were presenting me with options for health insurance. It's not the easiest site I've ever used, but it wasn't the most difficult either. I'd say it was easier than United Airlines, and not as easy as GEICO's auto insurance site, which is the fastest and best-designed commerce site I've used.
Here's a screen shot of the criteria you can use to filter out policies. I played with it quite a bit and learned a lot about insurance that I didn't know before. I didn't make a decision right now, I want to read some more, and think. But I was overall quite pleased with the process. Now maybe there are still more glitches to come, so I'll have to let you know.
But one thing's for sure -- it's been a long time since the insurance industry thought I was a useful customer. They control the health care market in this country, and health care is important. The experience here, though it had its glitches, made me feel welcome. If this is what it took to straighten things out, then I'm all for it.
I got emails from the NY state website today confirming that I am eligible and that I have chosen to receive electronic notification.
Normally a government agency communicating this way wouldn't make me feel good or bad, but when it comes to health insurance and the tension around it, I gotta say it feels almost for the first time that government is doing something for me. I know this isn't true, that it isn't the first time. I got my education from the City of New York, and they clean the streets and provide drinking water, and a billion other things. But this is tangible and new.
Maybe it's because I played a small role in making it happen, by voting for a President who would fight for this. There are a lot of things to not like about President Obama, but tackling this problem and staying with it, that's a good thing he's done.
After a very rocky start, the site so competent and well thought-out. I was expecting a nightmare. Not at all. So far it's been a very good experience.
Maybe the reason this feels so good is that we overcame the stinkers in our midst and became a better country.