Those trying to meet Sunday night’s deadline to sign up for health insurance on the state exchange found the system down most of Saturday. The site was finally back in action at 7:30 p.m.
Trying to meet the Sunday-night deadline to sign up for health insurance on Washington’s state exchange?
Oops! System down, system down.
Those trying to apply for a new health plan on its website were greeted Saturday, beginning around 5:30 a.m., with this message:
How to sign up
On the phone: 1-855-923-4633, 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday. Also, TTY/TDD: 1-855-627-9604.
By email: email@example.com
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/WAHealthplanfinder
Call an insurance broker or agent or an in-person navigator: A list of people can be found by ZIP code using the customer support link on wahealthplanfinder.org
“Thanks for your patience. Washington Healthplanfinder is currently unavailable due to an unplanned outage with DSHS Eligibility Services. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please check back later.”
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The problem occurred as people face both a deadline to get insurance and to avoid steep fines if they don’t sign up. This year the penalty for skipping the Affordable Care Act mandate to have insurance is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under age 18 — or 2.5 percent of annual income, whichever is higher.
The system problem kept Washington Healthplanfinder from figuring out whether someone coming to the site would qualify for tax credits or Washington Apple Health (Medicaid).
The exchange was posting updates on the outage, and by 7:40 p.m. Saturday the website was back up.
Michael Marchand, a spokesman for the exchange, said planned maintenance would bring Washington Healthplanfinder offline overnight from 11:59 p.m. to 3 a.m., but after that it was to be available Sunday until midnight.
The exchange website has experienced problems before, especially during startup.
Marchand had a bit of hopeful news for frustrated customers: If people cannot select a health plan because of an “operational issue with our system,” there could be an extension. That will be determined, though, by health-benefit-exchange staff after reviewing specific applications.
Over-the-phone help also will be available Sunday through the Customer Support Center at 1-855-923-4633. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
As of midweek, more than 190,000 people had signed up for health insurance on the exchange.
Meanwhile, well, there is this advice from HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey:”
“Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill and think things over.”