(CNN) - What is it like to sign up on the online exchanges created by Obamacare?
After a Congressional hearing Thursday dissecting the problems plaguing healthcare.gov, the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services that oversees the new programs under the health care law said almost 700,000 applications have been submitted online on either the federal or state websites.
But the Obama administration has so far refused to say how many have actually managed to sign up for insurance.
Gabe Cohen gave it a try. Thirty minutes in, he was "pretty frustrated," the D.C. resident said.
Laura McNeil thought it would be pretty easy to fill out the online forms. She'd already gotten a good start, making a profile from home.
But early Thursday evening, the federal version of the online exchange was a glitch-riddled mess, telling her repeatedly that her form was "incomplete," without telling her what more she needed to do.
Cohen and McNeil were part of a demonstration on CNN's "The Situation Room," joined by fellow D.C. resident Hazami Barmada in a display of what it's like to sign up via the online exchanges of the Affordable Care Act.
An hour into the demonstration, Barmada was about ready to give up on the website. She'd begun looking up her analog filing options "to do it by paper," she said.
All three told CNN they liked the idea of having the health insurance options afforded them under Obamacare.
More importantly, "these are the young, healthy people the system needs," CNN's Tom Foreman pointed out.
The labyrinth of America's health insurance "system" needs people like Barmada, Cohen and McNeil to sign up for health insurance in order to offset costs for those who are older and use the health care system more.
Well into the demonstration on Thursday, however, the only options seemed to be to keep on slugging through.
"It's not what we anticipated four weeks into the program," "Situation Room" host Wolf Blitzer said.
Julie Bataille, the CMS director of communications, seemed to agree with some of the criticism by contractors testifying before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, saying that "due to a compressed time frame, the system just wasn't tested enough, especially for high volume."
It's unknown how many people were on healthcare.gov on Thursday evening along with CNN's three volunteers. But estimates are that as many as 20 million logged onto the website when it first went live October 1.
More than three weeks later, contractors and the Department of Health and Human Services are scrambling to catch up.
By the end of the 90-minute demonstration, Barmada reported a breakthrough. She'd finally gotten through and made some progress. How much, however, was not clear.
"It's processing," she said. Barmada, who's self-employed, was ultimately able to sign up for an insurance plan, which was cheaper than her current plan.
The other two were not able to complete the process by the end of "Situation Room."
An hour in, Cohen said he thought he might have gotten through but he wasn't sure. The system told him it would need to process his eligibility and he would have to wait. It gave a helpful timeframe too. The wait?
"It said maximum 45 days."