With the launch of ObamaCare on October 1st, the exchanges opened to a giant meltdown.  It appears that Health and Human Services wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of people attempting to get information from its website.  And many spent most of the day with the screen that said:

The System is down at the moment.

We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.  Please try again later.

Since this was the first day of the active launch of this massive new ObamaCare program, it’s not hard to understand that there were problems and glitches.  The bigger question is how will it work in the long run?

One thing is certain:  it’s not going to be as easy as buying an airline ticket.  Navigators, sisters and community outreach organizations were poorly trained with only a few hours of actual experience and no underwriting experience with health insurance products.

Additionally, it wasn’t until late August that Health and Human Services signed a contract with an outside agency to handle claims problems and appeals.  As The Wall Street Journal article, “ObamaCare’s Technology Mess,” notes, “If it was hard to appeal medical claims through your current insurance plan, wait until you have to call a remote federal contractor.”  Additionally, when consumers have attempted to call the 800 number , they’ve had a difficult time getting through and finding someone to help them since the call centers have been swamped.

That’s the bad news.  Now here’s the good news:

1. There’s a huge interest from Americans who want health insurance as demonstrated by the number of hits on the federal website in the first day (U.S. officials recorded 2.8 million visitors to the federal website, healthcare.gov ).

2. And, if you’re looking for accurate information about plan designs, costs,   networks,  co-pays, deductibles and what plan is going to fit your budget and your needs, there is one source you can rely on:  the independent health insurance broker and agent.

What most consumers don’t know is that whether you let a broker or agent assist you in buying a policy or whether you try to do it yourself online or through a navigator or sister, the cost is the same.  However, the experience will be vastly different.  A knowledgeable broker or agent with ten or fifteen years’ experience can explain your options and help you make an educated, good decision.  And oh, by the way, if you have that claims problem or provider problem, you have an advocate in the independent broker and agent who is there to help you.

So the choice is yours.  As the consumer, you can try to wrestle this 800-pound gorilla (called the exchange) to the ground or you can let a seasoned pro take the work, worry and hassle out of it by contacting your independent broker and agent.

(If you’d like to know how to contact a broker or agent in your area, go to www.nahu.org and select the Find An Agent link which appears in the middle of the site’s home page.)

Cary Hall

America’s Healthcare Advocate