Tips for Accessing HealthCare.gov’s Federal Insurance Marketplace

As a freelancer with a pre-existing condition who is married to an entrepreneur, I’ve been early awaiting the opening of the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace. Like the rest of the country, I’ve encountered a variety of technical glitches. I keep trying and get a little further into the process every day before the system hangs. If you’re like me and can’t wait until traffic settles down to learn what health insurance plans look like under the Affordable Care Act, here are some tips for logging into the federal marketplace*:

  • If you don’t succeed with your usual browser, try a different one. Internet Explorer is the only browser through which I’ve been able to access the entire application and policy offerings. And I’ve been thorough, trying Firefox, Chrome and Safari daily as well. (Internet Explorer has the greatest market share of all browsers, so I’m guessing the site was developed first for Internet Explorer, with the other browsers being of lesser importance. That’s pure speculation, but my experience supports this hypothesis.)
  • If you get the screen that says “Please wait here until we send you to the login page,” keep that screen open and do not refresh your browser. It is holding your place in line and will eventually take you to the registration or log in page.
  • If you will be applying with your spouse, both of you should try to create accounts. My husband’s account was immediately active last Thursday, but mine is still in limbo. All the information I’ve gathered thus far has been through my husband’s account.
  • Traffic waxes and wanes throughout the day, so try to access the site at different times. The middle of the night is your best bet, but late at night on the west coast or early in the morning on the east coast are good too. If you can’t swing any of those times, just try whenever you can and be prepared to wait.
  • Prepare your application details ahead of time. Have the names and social security numbers for all everyone who will be on your application, number of dependents, and approximate income figures. Most of the questions ask you to project your 2014 income, though some ask for 2013 earnings information.
  • Keep trying! After spending at least a couple hours each day trying to access the site, I eventually accessed the plans on Saturday. I was able to spend an hour reviewing them before another glitch kicked me off the site.

*The federal government oversees the insurance marketplace for 31 states. Your experience will be different if you live in a place with a state-run marketplace.

10/16/13 update: If you’re still having trouble getting through, HealthCare.gov now has a tool that will show you information on plans in your area without completing an application. Prices will not reflect any subsidies you might be eligible for and your information will not go toward your future application.

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Comments

View Comments (4)
  • Jennette Fulda
    5 years ago

    I’m following @HealthCareGov on Twitter and they just posted a link to a tool that will give you an estimate of what the plans available to you will cost without having to go through the application process. It’s https://www.healthcare.gov/find-premium-estimates/ (Please not that none of the info you submit will get carried over to the application.)

    Finally I was able to see what plans will be available to me and the ballpark prices! In my area I can sign up for plans through Blue Cross Blue Shield or Coventry One. I was able to go to the Blue Cross web site and get more details about the plans, though Coventry One asks me to call them since their plan info isn’t available online.

    I also get the impression that if I don’t care about trying to get a subsidy I can just apply for the plans through the insurance company’s web site and forget the disaster that is healthcare.gov. Does anyone know if that’s true?

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for the information! I’ve updated the post to include it.

    I think you’re right that you can apply directly through the insurance company, but I’m not sure. Maybe call the insurance company to find out? Or assume they’ll figure out healthcare.gov sometime before December 15!

  • Jennette Fulda
    5 years ago

    Oh, God, I have to use Internet Explorer to get in? I’m a web developer and I find that absolutely horrifying. I’ve been trying everyday to get in and still haven’t been able to get a list of the plans available to me and their costs.

    The last few days I haven’t been able to log in at all because it keeps kicking me back to the login screen without even giving me an error message as to why. Before that I could get in intermittently, but got lots of different error messages when filling out the application.

    I’m giving them until November to fix things before I start to get worried. My current insurance plan is a high-risk pool run by my state, but it is closing at the end of the year because the ACA will now cover everyone. So it’s pretty important that I’m able to sign up before Dec. 15.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    5 years ago

    This is the first time I’ve used IE in years. I was involved in a website redesign when I worked for state government and the idea that some people might not use the dominant browser was lost on 98% of the staff. That was a decade ago, but imagining similar discussions for HealthCare.gov prompted me to try IE and voila!

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