Now who's having trouble with health care signup? Ask Congress
December 6th, 2013
09:44 PM ET
11 months ago

Now who's having trouble with health care signup? Ask Congress

Updated 2:02 pm ET, 12/7/2013

Washington (CNN) - Congress itself is now having so much trouble signing up for the Obamacare exchanges that late Friday the top administrator in the House of Representatives laid out a backup plan in case lawmakers and staff can't get through the process by the time their enrollment ends Monday.

The red flags started reaching critical mass Thursday and Friday, when some staff and members of Congress told House administrators they were having trouble enrolling through the Washington health exchange, known as DC Health Link. The D.C. exchange is the official signup portal for Congress, where members must go to get health care through their job.


Thursday night the chief administrative officer of the House sent an e-mail, obtained by CNN, to thousands of Congressional staffers bluntly describing a problem.

"We have made the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and DC Health Link aware of the significant problems preventing Members and staff... from enrolling in a healthcare plan via the DC Health Link website," Dan Strodel wrote.

But the spokesman for DC Health Link, Richard Sorian, disputed that anyone has been blocked from enrollment.

"We have not had any capacity problems," he told CNN. Sorian said that volume has increased as Congress nears the Dec. 9 deadline for its enrollment.

So far, Sorian says, one-third of all Congressional members and workers who are designated to go on the exchange have enrolled. About half have filled out applications and started looking at plans.

That leaves a large group that has not enrolled yet and could mean a rush of people signing up Monday, though Sorian notes that many eligible staffers may be getting healthcare elsewhere, such as through a spouse's plan.

Among those who still need to enroll are many members of Congress.

"I tried to get on the exchange, so did my staff, but none of us could," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, told CNN.

"I tried to get on the website for over an hour," echoed Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas.

The reports of problems led to an unusual step by Strodel – setting up a backup plan. He sent an e-mail Friday night to all members and staff designated to go onto the exchanges. The e-mail, also obtained by CNN, stipulates that anyone who tries to get through the D.C. exchange but can't enroll by the end of the day Monday will have an additional week to contact his office and sign up.

In addition, Strodel took the unusual step of opening up House payroll and benefits offices this weekend so that staffers and members could come in person to see if their enrollment has been confirmed by the DC Health Link.

While many offices expressed frustration with signup at the end of the week, a large number of staffers also insisted that the process worked smoothly for them.

Sabrina Singh, an aide to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, told CNN that she enrolled in the D.C. exchange in 15 minutes Thursday. As has been the case across the Obamacare exchanges, it could have been a problem of peak usage overwhelming the system.

"I know some people were frustrated, but I went later in the day and enrolled with no problem," Singh said.

Singh admitted that other staffers had trouble getting on the site.

The mixed experience will end Monday one way or the other. The DC Health Link will only allow congressional staffers to sign up until then. After that, anyone who couldn't enroll in a plan will have to go to the backup plan.


Filed under: Capitol Hill • Congress • Healthcare
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. Dain

    All but Harry Reid's staff of course.

    December 7, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    GOP morons !!!!!!go back to your own state to sign up, go incompetent clowns!!!!!

    December 7, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Can't imagine any group who deserves this issue, more than the Dems in Congress, who voted this monstrosity into law.

    December 7, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. TeaParty4Life

    Oh but it's ok because their intent was good right? Sure it was...the feeble minded voting the inferior in office. A real recipe for disaster!!thanks demoncats for destroying this nation you morons. Being liberal is truly a mental disorder.

    December 7, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Namedave

    Wow. Obama says that he did this to help. But is screwing most. Just like the liberal brain damaged, saving the drowning by throwing big rocks.

    December 7, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. destroyerofeconomies

    The entire democratic ticket is watching their political lives flash before their eyes! Good work libs!

    December 7, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. emskadittle

    This sounds like just another way for house republicans to get and exemption, so they won't have get obamacare

    December 7, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. DarqueSide

    Funny, it seems the only people having a problem getting on the site are Republicans and the people who seem to be getting through right away are Democrats. Maybe the website has a 'sniffer' for political affiliation? Or, more likely, each side is making political hay rather than being totally honest about their experiences...

    December 7, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  9. simplyput

    Had ACA coverage until ACA website. Only an imbecile would get near this site.

    December 7, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  10. Jonathon Powelly

    These are the people who run the country and they can't even figure out how to use an alternative method of signing up? Ridiculous.

    December 7, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  11. hender1123

    Where's the story on staff members quitting because of sticker shock. If more Congressional leaders were as close to Obama as Reid maybe they could protect those staff members, too. It's gotta be a big insult to work for a politician and get stuck with Obamacare just like an ordinary citizen.

    December 7, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  12. kate gallagher

    If they are having such difficulty, they should check to see if is not inf fact one of the fake websites put up repugs, they have done so in CA. They are really just filth.

    December 7, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. smith

    The ACA Doesn`t help anyone except somebody who has a major illiness or disease. Maybe we should have just made a program for those folks and left everybody else alone. I doubt most folks would care about a 1/2 % tax increase over what we are dealing with now.

    December 7, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  14. penguin

    I suspect many of those who say they are having treouble are Republican staffers who haven't tried to sign up but are just saying they are having trouble. The trouble Republicans have is that nobody beleives anything they say. They might be telling the truth but it's more likely that they are lieing.

    December 7, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. NC

    DUH my sister's 10 year old grandson helped her sign up. She is paying $300.00 less a month.

    December 7, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  16. Peppy

    This thing stinks so bad no dems are calling it Obamacare any more, shocking, cowards !!!

    December 7, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  17. kelly

    Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan all voted to keep the government shut diwn to delay Obamacare.

    December 7, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  18. MrManhattan

    I wonder if those Republican'ts knew you have to use a computer to get to a website?

    December 7, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  19. ThinkAgain

    @smith: "The ACA Doesn`t help anyone except somebody who has a major illiness or disease. "

    Really? You really don't understand the benefits of preventive care – for people of all ages. What a dweeb!

    December 7, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    I'm not surprised the tea bags in Congress are having a hard time signing up. They are not the sharpest pencils in the box.

    December 7, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  21. rs

    destroyerofeconomies
    The entire democratic ticket is watching their political lives flash before their eyes! Good work libs!
    _________________
    Which party committed treason by voting for financial ruin in October? Who shut down the government causing more than 1 million Americans to be out of work? Who cost the U.S. $24 billion dollars in just two weeks? Why I believe that was the GOP. Any of that stuff beats a bad web site (that is now fixed) as negative PR any day.

    December 7, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  22. rs

    smith
    The ACA Doesn`t help anyone except somebody who has a major illiness or disease. Maybe we should have just made a program for those folks and left everybody else alone. I doubt most folks would care about a 1/2 % tax increase over what we are dealing with now.
    ____________
    Except that the GOP (and the Heritage Foundation) demanded the individual mandate- requiring everybody sign up for health insurance, which in turn required regulation of the insurance industry to make them efficient, and forced them to junk their bad policies. This is what the GOP wanted. Now, not so much…. but the GOP no longer knows what it stands for these days.

    December 7, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  23. rs

    DarqueSide
    Funny, it seems the only people having a problem getting on the site are Republicans and the people who seem to be getting through right away are Democrats. Maybe the website has a 'sniffer' for political affiliation? Or, more likely, each side is making political hay rather than being totally honest about their experiences…
    Nah, Boehner got right in and signed up. Maybe GOPpers generally just have lower computing skills.

    December 7, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  24. Scott

    Everybody will kick the bucket someday unless they get Obamacare quick, and for free.

    December 7, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
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