Nagoonberry

This world. This place. This life.

User Error

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I’ve tried for weeks to access my Healthcare.gov account, which I created before the October 1 launch date.

First I forgot my password, and couldn’t answer the password recovery questions correctly—though I answered them truthfully.

LiveChat said I needed to call someone on the phone, who would reset my password. The phone representative at first told me she couldn’t reset my password. When I pushed her, she looked into it, and successfully created a new password for me. It would come in my email in a few hours, she said.

It did, but it didn’t work. Each time I entered the password, the blank log in page reloaded.

I’m not in a hurry—yet—so I waited to see if the website was glitchy just then. Waited  about a week.

Tried again this morning, and failed again. Since Willa was sleeping, I decided to try again with a phone call. This customer service rep promised to unlock my account, and send a new password. She suggested that if I continued to have trouble, I could create a new account, with a different email address. She also answered the non-tech questions I had about signing up.

Got off the phone. Checked my email. There it was. Trie again. No luck.

By then, Willa was awake, so LiveChat was a better option. “David” told me that I could create a new account, using the same email address. He apologized—as all the Healthcare.gov people do—for the inconveniences I’d encountered.

I created a whole new account—even used my other email account, even though David said I didn’t need to.

Same problem. Blank log in screen.

I was really frustrated. And I told the next phone representative that, when he suggested that perhaps my only option was to apply over the phone. I didn’t want to do that, I told him, because Liesl and I want to look over the plans at our leisure.

After getting off the phone, again, I went back to my Friday morning activities—a bit of writing, chatting with Kenneth and Chris via HipChat about this week’s Interdependent Web, entertaining Willa with bugs and rattles and giraffes.

Somewhere during this process, I’d read further down the log in screen, where it says, “Having trouble logging in?” I read about allowing cookies, and removing cookies, and clearing my search history. I was successful with everything except getting rid of the cookies (I have the same trouble with the other kind of cookies, too).

When the laptop started overheating, I switched to my iPad.

After a bit, it hit me: if cookies are the problem, and the cookies are on the Mac—maybe I can log in on my iPad.

ipadAnd it did. Oops.

Some combination of an aging MacBook, a not-quite-current browser, and a too-full cookie jar had kept me from logging in.

The magnitude of Healthcare.gov’s challenges dawned on me.

I’m just one person.

Now imagine all the people who are trying to access Healthcare.gov, most of them better at using their technology than they are at knowing how it really works. Anxious about changes to their healthcare plans. Using aging equipment and imperfect, diverse operating systems.

The opportunity for user error is enormous.

But it’s a rare politician who can get away with telling the people, “It’s your fault.”

And certainly not our scholarly, bookish president, who sounds like he’s lecturing even when he’s just trying to explain.

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One thought on “User Error

  1. Amazing story! I finally just printed out the application and took it to the neighborhood health center. That’s what you can do when Bernie Sanders had a steady job as your mayor twenty years ago.

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