Saturday, November 30, 2013
Standing here on the streets of Hollywood with two comely Obamacare cheerleaders by my side, I’m feeling fired up and ready to go. I’m feeling like the change I’ve been waiting for. I’m feeling like whatever Obama cliché you can think of. And all I want to say, like the late Todd Beamer before me, is, “Let’s roll.” Or more like, “Let’s enroll.” Because much as Beamer, God rest his soul, took on the terrorists who tried to take down America, we are now in a similar cataclysmic fight: the fight to guarantee that every American has the right to buy overpriced health insurance on a glitchy website, under threat of punitive tax penalties.
To give the CliffsNotes version of the three-hour session, it went a little like this: The woman beside me, named Jenny, a naturalized citizen from Ecuador, spent two and a half hours trying to crunch through the system before it finally returned her to the first page, then locked her out. She never even saw the prices. When Blade had her call the phone support hotline, they told her she’d need to wait three weeks to find out the status of her application. The same happened to her colleague, Sue, sitting next to her. They both need insurance now, because the endocrinologist they work for had to cancel theirs because it didn’t meet Obamacare requirements. They’re hoping not only that they can get insurance, but also that they can keep their jobs, since Jenny, who does billing for the doctor, says Obamacare is completely convoluting how, if at all, they’ll be able to collect money from patients.
Two men sitting behind me get to a price list, though one wigs out because of the high premiums and leaves. The other finds a relatively cheap plan, but the deductible is so high, for his family of four, that he says, “I can’t touch this.” And he leaves, too. The two people on the other side of Jenny and Sue, whom I never even meet, leave after about 30 minutes. Blade suggests it’s probably because of “sticker shock,” if they even got that far. A recurring problem, he says, in his line of work.
All told, even with all the hand-holding Navigators, I’m assured by members of the two Navigator groups who worked the session that of the 100 or so prospects in attendance, exactly none walked out with a completed enrollment. As the room thins out after three hours of frustration, Blade takes a chair next to me, not so much sitting as sagging into it. He looks like someone let the air out of his balloon.