Toll-free number won’t save consumers from ObamaCare website
By Brendan Sasso - 10/28/13 05:00 PM ET
Applications for ObamaCare insurance must be made through its troubled website, even if consumers use a toll-free number touted by President Obama.
Obama and other officials have urged people struggling to sign up to try calling or mailing their information to the government.
But officials told The Hill that all applications must eventually be processed through the government website, which has been plagued by glitches and errors.
People can give their information to government representatives over the phone or through the mail, but those representatives have to enter that information into HealthCare.gov.
The fact that all applications must be processed through the troubled website appears to undermine the president's claim that there are effective alternatives for enrolling in the programs.
“But even as we improve the website, remember that the website isn’t the only way to apply for coverage under these new plans,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.
“We’ve updated HealthCare.gov to offer more information about enrolling over the phone, by mail, or in person with a specially-trained navigator who can help answer your questions. Just call 1-800-318-2596 or visit LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov.”
Two officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services acknowledged that the website glitches sometimes prevent the government representatives from entering the information into the online system. When the agents are unable to enter a customer's information online, they store the data and try again later, according to the officials.
The government uses the online system to verify applicants' eligibility for the insurance exchanges.
The technical problems have prevented many people from signing up for insurance through the exchanges, threatening to derail President Obama's signature policy achievement.
The White House said last week that it expects to have the technical problems ironed out by the end of November.
President Obama promised a “tech surge” of additional experts who will work to fix the site, and appointed former Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients to lead the effort.
Townes-Whitley, Princeton class of ’85, leads CGI Federal’s Civilian Agency Programs (CAP) Business Unit, which earned the no-bid contract to build the Obamacare enrollment website Healthcare.gov. CGI Federal is the U.S. arm of a Canadian company. (Related: Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate is executive at company that built Obamacare website)
The Department of Health and Human Services reviewed only CGI’s bid for the Obamacare account. CGI was one of 16 companies qualified under the Bush administration to provide certain tech services to the federal government. A senior vice president for the company testified last week before The House Committee on Energy and Commerce that four companies submitted bids, but did not name those companies or explain why only CGI’s bid was considered.
Townes-Whitley, who went by her maiden name Toni McCall at the time, and her classmate Michelle Obama, née Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, are both members of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni, and worked together in two different radical student groups on campus. (Related: Michelle Obama and CGI Federal executive belonged to student group at Princeton that hosted pro-terrorist speaker)