Frustrated consumers angry at their inability to successfully sign up online for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act have been advised by the President countless time to use their phone and call instead.
Now some dissatisfied customers have noted a rather unfortunate coincidence about the telephone number assigned to the Obamacare Help-line.
The number listed on the HealthCare.gov website is 1-800-318-2596, which means the mnemomic version of the number reads... 1-800-F1U-CKYO.
Far from being a mistype, that’s the official number that Health and Human Services wants Americans to dial when seeking health care.
The unfortunate choice of digits spells out a not-so-subtle message to the millions of Americans eager to sign up for affordable healthcare but who so far have been defeated by heavy web traffic and technical glitches.
In the first 24 hours of the act's enrollment, 4.7 million unique visitors visited the online healthcare marketplaces, 190,000 phoned call centers, and 104,000 requested to use the web chat function, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The administration went ahead with the launch despite a federal government shutdown precipitated by Republican efforts to delay the healthcare law's implementation.
The delays come three months after the congressional Government Accountability Office said a smooth and timely roll-out could not be guaranteed because the online system was not fully completed or tested.
The bumpy debut has the hallmarks of a technology project that may have rushed to meet the Oct. 1 deadline, said Bill Curtis, chief scientist at CAST, a software quality analysis firm, and director of the Consortium for IT Software Quality, which develops standards.
'It almost reminded me of going online and trying to buy Springsteen tickets,' said Sharon Schorr of suburban Cleveland, a self-employed accountant who finally gave up after eight hours of trying to use the exchange's website.
With websites crashing, those who have been trained to explain the benefits under the federal law were trying to reach out to those who could be helped by the exchanges, handing out information at public transit hubs and holding town hall meetings in smaller communities.
The Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people in the first year, and eventually cover at least half of the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans through government-subsidized plans and a Medicaid expansion.
Many states expect people to sign up closer to the Dec. 15 deadline to enroll for coverage starting Jan. 1. Customers have until the end of March to sign up to avoid tax penalties.