The face of public service in America has been taking a beating lately. Luckily for us, though, while government leaders have been mired in calamitous gridlock and hostage-taking, a parallel army of the brave and selfless has been at work—patriots who look adversity in the face and say “Bring it on.” On Tuesday, millions of these intrepid Americans volunteered to be first unto the breach when the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance marketplaces opened for business—despite the near-certainty of bugs and crashes, and despite having until Dec. 15 to sign on and shop for coverage at healthcare.gov and state-run exchanges. Slate asked these online pioneers to tell us about the user experience on Day 1 of Obamacare via email, Facebook, and Twitter. These are their stories.
They saw past mechanics for aesthetics.
Olivia Mungal: “While the design is clean and easy to use, it took me 4 hours to create an account.”
They acknowledged beauty and wonder when they saw it, and put that beauty and wonder into historical context.
Ricky Tenderkiss: “Very pretty to look at, but like trying to download iOS 7 on release day, today is likely to be hit by server overloads.”
They pondered the ontological essence of the System.
Daniel Stoddart: “Your account could not be created at this time. The system is unavailable.”
They pondered the semantics of the word important.
Len Testa: “Tried registering starting at 6 a.m. EST. It hasn't worked yet. The first time, the screen was filled with programming gibberish. The second time, none of the mandatory security questions loaded. Now every time I get through the process, I get an error saying ‘Important: Your account couldn’t be created at this time.’”
They suffered flashbacks to Comic-Con.
Sarah Swartz: “I probably should be irritated because getting Comic-Con badges was easier than this. Alas, I'm happy to wait. [The site overloading] simply means the program is popular.”
They did math. Painful math.
Randal Ford: “The cheapest plan they offer is $80 MORE per month than what I am paying now for a similar high deductible plan. The same plan I have now is around $200 more if purchased through the exchange.”
They struggled with a Zen conundrum of providing answers to nonexistent questions.
Moira Bohannon: “I'm supposed to select 3 security questions to answer in case I lose my password, but there are no questions to choose from.” Shannon Kennedy: “Keeps asking for security answers but doesn’t give any options for questions. When I try to just put words in for the answers, it says it wasn’t able to create the account and starts over.” Amber Karnes: “Got to step 3 and the security-question dropdowns are blank.”
They made reasonable but incorrect inferences about the availability of Live Chat.
Carol Haydens: “Would love to sign up but the site is not working correctly. The Federal shutdown means that Live Chat is unavailable for help.” (Not true, Carol! The workers assigned to the program are deemed “essential.”)
They gave of themselves, not for themselves but for others—and for Slate.
Amber Karnes: “I wasn’t even going to try to do it today because I knew things would be kinda crazy, but when I saw your tweet asking for input, I figured I’d try!”
They made bold declarations, even at the risk of enraging their peers.
Melissa Byrne: “It was up at 8 a.m.! And it worked perfectly.”