Yesterday marked the inauguration of an integral component of the Affordable Care Act-the online exchanges where uninsured Americans can compare and purchase health insurance plans. After months of hype the day arrived, and at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday I began the quest for health insurance on the exchanges.

Unfortunately, my account could not be created at that time. Or any other time that day. Attempts at 10-minute intervals resulted in a balance between “system down at the moment,” and “please wait here until we send you to the login page.” Occasionally, an error message stated that the security question answers must be different. Evidently, three random responses to questions that would not appear from the drop-down boxes were insufficient.




It’s okay, though, because after a mere twelve minutes on hold, two terminated calls and myriad failed efforts to use the “live chat” option, I considered myself freed from the necessity of personal communication to get help.

Two hours of unsuccessful attempts at accessing the exchanges did, however, provide time to explore the informative elements of the exchange website, including links to subsidy calculators and lists of essential health benefits (EHBs).

A minefield of caveats, however, tainted otherwise optimistic health insurance claims. For example, the site admits that “you should expect that your final cost will be different from the rough estimate provided here,” in reference to the subsidy calculator, and, “final premiums and costs may differ from the estimates, perhaps significantly,” depending on location and coverage plan.

As the clock approached noon, opening morning for the exchanges concluded in defeat. Despite the site’s laudable efforts at providing explanations, informing the public about a complex healthcare system is a challenge that and the Obama administration have yet to conquer.

For now, we must be content with staring at the still-wrapped health insurance packages under the ObamaCare Christmas tree. But considering the way the rest of the website appears, here’s hoping the insurance plans on the exchange come with a receipt-but I don’t think they do.