Will Slate’s Health Care Guinea Pig Finally Get Insured?

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Dec. 4 2013 4:36 PM

Have You Tried Signing Up for Obamacare—Just for Kicks?

Will Slate’s health care guinea pig finally get insured?

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The improved healthcare.gov has seen increased numbers of successful sign-ups since the start of December.

Photo by Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

For the last two months, our healthcare.gov guinea pig Alice has had one frustrating moment after another. She visited the site repeatedly since its series of rolling pratfalls started on Oct. 1. It never worked. She endured rounds of customer service help, which was no help at all. One interaction with online representative PGSTX0534 was indistinguishable from an MFA student's pastiche of Beckett. She tried to get eligibility determinations, premium estimates, and other useful information and the answers ranged from vague to maddening. Meanwhile, Alice was one of those on the individual market who had received a note saying that she would soon be losing her insurance. She suspected she would be uninsured by Jan. 1. 

Alice then decided to try a different route; she tried to sign up via a paper application, which led to a more old-fashioned experience with Pony Express wait times. (It took three weeks for her just to get the starter paperwork.) Another three weeks after returning her paperwork, she called each day to find out if her forms had been processed. They had not. 

Monday, I asked her if she had tried the new and improved website. She said she'd give it another try, just for kicks. This is the response I received: 

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Hi! I just completed the application part of the process on healthcare.gov and it went perfectly!! I have also found out my exact amount for my eligible tax credit $468.00 per mo (YAY!). And the policy that I want Blue Cross Gold PPO will be $388.78 per month with a $0 deductible and a $5,500 maximum out of pocket. (YAY!) The full price of the plan is $856.78. My current premium is $694.98, so with the new premium of $388.68, that's a savings of $306.20 a month (DOUBLE-YAY!!).

Success is sweet, especially when you feel you earned it.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk. Follow him on Twitter.