Getting Better?

TPM Reader JC decided to actually try logging in to and got a surprise …

I saw the comments of TPM reader RN. I too have been writing software for almost 35 years.

I have been dismayed by what I was reading about the site and decided to investigate for myself.

I live in Georgia and am covered by my employer so I do not need to apply for insurance. I thought I would try to set up an account and take a look at the page source of some of the web pages to try to understand the technology behind the site.

My first observation is that the pages involved in setting up an account loaded and responded very quickly. In fact, the response was much better than most sites, comparable to Amazon, and faster than TPM. I don’t know if improvements have been made or the volume was low since I was doing this in the early morning or perhaps because so many people have been frustrated that they have given up. At any response was very snappy and the account set up, including receiving the email, and confirming it took less than five minute. Everything was without error and, after setting up the account, I was able to log back into the site with no issue whatsoever.

I took a look at some of the HTML source. The HTML does not look like old technology. It may not be bleeding edge but it looks to me fairly modern. Stylesheets are used and the formatting methods are modern. I can also see extensive use of JQuery Javascript. I can also detect references of JSON which is also a fairly contemporary data format. This is not old or antiquated technology. I can’t tell what sort of backend server technology is being used but whatever, for me on this morning, it responded well and without a single error or glitch.

Inspired by JC I tried to. After all this, I hadn’t actually tried to use the site. Most of my experience was the same, with a significant exception. I logged on and the site was fast and modern looking. I easily checked out rates as a small business (that’s my main point of contact with the health care insurance industry). Since I live in New York, it directed me to the New York state health care exchange website, which seems to be working very well. (Here’s Sally Kohn’s experience with the NYS site – some real frustrations but also big savings.) So I lied (I hope this is a white-lie) and said I was in South Carolina (that seemed like a place I could be certain hadn’t set up an exchange.)

I have a lot of experience buying health care for about 25 people in two different jurisidictions – New York and DC. And this made it much simpler. But there’s one catch. When I tried to set up an account it told me that my account couldn’t be set up right now. I needed to try later. Somewhat annoyingly, it allowed me to go through the sign up process before telling me that. And then I had to fill it out again to try again. The second time, the same thing happened. But this time the ‘not now’ message told me to call a phone number.

I’m not trying to sugarcoat this. Not being able to create an account and actually enroll online is a pretty big problem. If I’d gone online just now trying to purchase health care coverage I wouldn’t have been able to. At least I’d have to have gone the phone route. JC didn’t have any problem on that front. But I did. But browsing around the site was far different from the epic clusterf*$k I’d been led to expect.

If you’ve tried it out, please drop us an email at our comment line and tell us what your experience was – especially if you were actually shopping for coverage, not just checking it out like I was.

Late Update: … More from TPM Reader MH

Dear TPM,

I live in New Mexico, a state that uses the national exchange website. I tried to set up an account during the first week in October and was completely unsuccessful.

A week later, however, I signed in, shopped for coverage and, after a couple of days of considering my options, purchased coverage.

The site was a little slow, especially when I was comparing plans, but overall it allowed me to do what I wanted to do.

Our family now has the best, most affordable health insurance plan we’ve had in decades!

Masthead Masthead
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