Now who's having trouble with health care signup? Ask Congress
December 6th, 2013
09:44 PM ET
9 years 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.

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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. ladies first

    can we move forward with immediate results healthcare needs to be able to pay the services rendered

    December 6, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  2. Sheila

    this whole health care plan is a loser – it needs to be repealed – for what ?? So this country can "pay" for the 30 million that don't work ? or are on food stamps / welfare ? They already have a health care plan – all they have to do is stand in line, at their local E.R. hospital, it's called Medicaid.

    December 6, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  3. regenesis0

    I overflow with sympathy for then. No one works harder at not getting anything done than our representatives, and this is how we repay them? For shame.

    December 6, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  4. watching_rome_burn

    That's a little reassuring to know they don't seem to be any better at this Obamacare stuff than regular Americans. Now we just have to hope all the regular folks who can't negotiate the website have influential friends to get them extensions and back up plans when they need it. Of course, since many regular people discover they can't afford the premiums it probably won't be too much of a problem either way.

    December 6, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  5. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Hmmmmm, let's see... The GOP Congress that has been waging a life or death battle to kill ACA is going to say all is well? Is this really news?

    December 7, 2013 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  6. rycher

    No problem. Obama will just wave his magic "i can change any part of any law i want" wand and exempt them..

    December 7, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  7. CryBabies

    Its a real life version of "Grounhogs Day"

    December 7, 2013 02:32 am at 2:32 am |
  8. Cathy

    Am I missing something? These statistics are worthless. In the real world, you need to "PAY" your premium right away when one gets any insurance. I see "nothing" about that! "Sign-ups" means nothing!! WHERE IS THE MONEY??? Folks could very well stop paying their premium after this is all said and done. They realize the extreme expenses it entails for health care. All bills, every thing has to be considered. Sign-ups=MONEY!

    December 7, 2013 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
  9. Thomas

    Randy Weber, R-Texas and Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky would have a difficult time folding laundry !

    Both have been avid do nothings and stanch critics of the Affordable Healthcare Act .

    December 7, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  10. John Duresky

    It's good that We The People also get such personalized care and assistance as these staffers get from the OPM. Oh, wait, no we don't. We're just the cattle who pay the taxes to allow them to have such personalized care. We are simply "anecdotes" that Jay Carney dismisses during his daily press briefings. However, let's stay focused on priorities. It's important that those staffers in Congress get fully covered in order to be able to serve us and not be distracted by a loss of coverage. Such service will include answer problems from anecdotal taxpayers who find themselves without coverage on January 1 or paying fines for not having health care when they thought they had made it through the process.

    December 7, 2013 06:25 am at 6:25 am |
  11. Gurgyl

    Very pathetic congress in USA history, vote all these idiots out, USA.

    December 7, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  12. Chris Asking Question

    So...the Democratic politicians and staffers stated they had no problems signing up while the Republican politicians and staffers stated they had problems signing up. What is the truth?

    December 7, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  13. Logictox

    One word, "FIASCO".

    December 7, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  14. Mr. M

    On CNN Sunday evening, liberal ESPN columnist LZ Granderson justified the President's repeated lie about ObamaCare, claiming that Americans knew he did it for their own good.

    Granderson; "Now with President Obama, it is true. He should have been more forthright with how the Affordable Care Act was going to impact the country. But with that being said, all Americans know politicians lie. The question is, which lies can you live with? And, time and time again, Americans have said we can deal with the lies that President Obama tells us because we believe in his heart, he has the best interest for the American people."

    This is proof in their own words that they live the lie.

    December 7, 2013 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  15. wendel

    boo hoo congress is a mess maybe they should be working on immigration or the minimum wage?

    December 7, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  16. Belle

    Funny how the Republicans had a hard time but Democrats had no problem–makes one wonder!

    December 7, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  17. jinx9to88

    Well they are not the brightest people we have serving this country.

    December 7, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  18. Evergreen

    Waiting to the last minute seems to be standard operating procedure with Congress, whether it's signing up for healthcare or producing a budget.

    December 7, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  19. HaroldLewisBlair

    After sending 700 million of taxpayer dollars to a Canadian company- this system should have been working along time ago- now hundred of millions more will be spent- thousands of American jobs could have been saved- it is evident that the 700 million wasnt spent on developing this wretched system-(I retired from 38 yrs in the computer field)-this whole thing stinks of political payoffs made in smoke-filled backrooms of the Democratic party- which is the only thing that Obama does well- powerful people have installed Obama and spent millions in hiding his past history and many more millions keeping the news of Obama's in-eligibility to be president out of the newsmedia- while Obama preaches to the poor and spends millions on giveaways to get their votes- he (Obama) is controlled by the rich lest they reveal his past history- Obama's whole life is a lie from beginning to end- and his FRAUD is only exceeded by his INCOMPETANCE-

    December 7, 2013 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  20. Eagle0831

    But of course Obama gives them an extension. Let the rest, except the unions and Obamapals, eat cake!

    December 7, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  21. Anonymous

    I personally think it is wrong to force people to buy something they cannot afford. like myself and millions of others I can't hardly afford to buy groceries. now obama wants me to spend my grocery money on insurance I don't need.

    December 7, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  22. Peppy

    But bammy said it was fixed !!! Go figure.

    December 7, 2013 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  23. HenryMiller

    This is absolutely bloody hilarious! If someone had set out write an inane TV comedy about the incompetence of Big Government, they couldn't have done a better job!

    December 7, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  24. rs

    Wait a minute… shouldn't Representatives be using their state exchanges instead of the D.C. one? Oh, yeah, Texas didn't elect to join the ACA or expand Medicare. Now if that were the source of the problem, THAT would be funny!

    December 7, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  25. Gurgyl

    To BCBS, this is what you get by firing cheap foreign labor, leaving USA citizens, immigrants, by your greed, denying patients outright, by charging more, etc, now, I am proud of ACA LAW. It is not going to be repealed, so don't bribe congress idiots.

    December 7, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
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