Kevin Burke tries twice a day to purchase health insurance. He’s tried during the morning, he has tried during the evening. Time and again healthcare.gov, the gateway to the online insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act, has stymied Burke’s efforts.
Since its launch on Oct. 1, the federal government’s website has been inaccessible to millions. Federal officials have blamed overwhelming demand and technical errors for the glitches that have kept people from creating accounts, logging on or shopping on the exchange.
Burke, 44, of Upper Freehold, is looking for a health insurance plan for his wife and two children. He and his wife have each started their own business and are living off savings. They are paying $1,322 per month for health insurance but the Burkes hope they will qualify for federal subsidies that will reduce their monthly premiums.
“That would give me a longer leash on my business,” Burke said.
The staff members at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick are meeting with a lot of potential consumers. The hospital offers information about the new law and tries to help people enroll, but, so far, their efforts have been hampered by the website’s inconsistent performance.
“The vast majority of people said they would return when the government website was up and running,” said Phil Hartman, spokesman for the hospital. “We helped a handful who wanted immediate assistance to complete their hard-copy applications.
Throughout New Jersey and across the country, the story has been the same. People are showing great interest but not making great headway.
An AP-GfK survey found that just 7 percent of Americans say the rollout of the health exchanges has gone extremely well or very well.
The reaction was somewhat better among supporters of the new health care law: 19 percent said the rollout went extremely well or very well.
Despite the dissatisfaction, the survey revealed a deep curiosity about the exchange. Seven percent of Americans reported that somebody in their household has tried to sign up for insurance through the health care exchanges, according to the poll. While that’s a small percentage, it could represent more than 20 million people.
Leah Dade, executive director of the Paterson Alliance, said there is certainly a lot of interest in her community but also a lot of frustration that the website won’t allow people to take the next step.
“People say, ‘I’m ready to get insurance, I thought it opened Oct. 1,’ ” Dade said. “We say ‘so did we’ and tell them to stay connected.”