An editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution tried to get into the Health Insurance Marketplace at 5:50 a.m. Wednesday, reasoning that it was still the middle of the night in the rest of the country.
After a horrendous launch on Tuesday in which eager Americans overran the servers at healthcare.gov, the Department of Health & Human Services harnessed the awesome power of the federal government to … create a nicer-looking “wait” page, with icons that made you think of waiting.
Which was good, because the wait for the login page was 29 minutes.
The “wait” page said, in part, “Please stay on this page. We’re working to make the experience better, and we don’t want you to lose your place in line.” Which is a clever bit of messaging that says a) we’re doing all this for you, and b) you’re not just some loser in the ether; you have your own place in line!
The editor then created his own account — something he had tried and failed to do probably 20 times on Tuesday. This time, still before dawn on Wednesday, he succeeded. And then the site started working the way it was supposed to. The pages, clean and organized and sensible, asked for name, address, family members’ names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, etc. And the site moved right along, until the editor got creeped out by having to put in his income. At 6:45, he logged out and went to work.
He logged back in at 2:50 p.m., determined to take up where he’d left off.
“We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we’re working to make your experience here better,” said the site. “Please try to login after sometime.” After sometime. Then the page thanked him for his (by now nonexistent) patience.
A colleague suggested Tuesday, “Maybe they should have gotten Jeff Bezos to do this.”
Not a bad idea. President Obama said earlier that Americans would shop on the Health Insurance Marketplace “the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.”
Except that Kayak and Amazon actually work.
The government said Wednesday that it had increased capacity on the site and streamlined the code and that things were getting better. It said that 6.1 million unique visitors hit the site in its first 36 hours, which caught HHS by surprise. Of course, about 70 million Americans are uninsured or hold individual policies — people who have a direct personal interest in the exchange. On top of that 70 million, also seeking access were about a trillion government workers, political activists, healthcare do-gooders, Obama dislikers, journalists and perhaps even foreign meddlers.
Remember: We’re working to make your experience better.