The no-penalty cutoff to sign up for insurance coverage through the the health care exchange websites has come and gone, but the glitches users experienced on Healthcare.gov and individual state marketplaces kept many Americans from meeting President Barack Obama‘s deadline.
Addressing the complaints of Affordable Care Act critics, the White House released an official statement Tuesday morning revealing Obama’s plan to improve the marketplaces: a huge windfall to the bank account of whoever can redo the layout of Healthcare.gov for a better marketplace experience.
The grand prize for the winner: $1 million out of Obama’s own pocket.
Move over, Warren Buffett — there’s another influential figure with a multi-million dollar net worth offering Americans a shot at riches.
Health Care Exchange Website Headaches
News of Obama’s $1 million marketplace challenge has given uninsured health care exchange users like Daniel Schwuert of Los Angeles a glimmer of hope. In the week leading up to the deadline, Schwuert said he spent a total 15 hours dealing with his state’s marketplace, Covered California.
A long string of website support issues made it a nightmare to even browse the available health plans on the site. His first ordeal occurred when the Covered California system wouldn’t recognize his password.
“I tried to reach an online support representative to reset my password, but I was put in queue for two hours,” Schwuert said. “When it was finally my turn, they disconnected the conversation before I even got to ask for help!”
Schwuert said he then called the website’s support hotline, and was put on hold for another 45 minutes only to be advised that resetting his online account password would take as long as three to four weeks.
“It was all a joke. I was told I’d be better off creating a new account without entering my social security number to fool the system into thinking I never had an account,” Schwuert recalled.
President Obama’s Million-Dollar Design Challenge
In an effort to correct faulty health care exchanges and encourage Americans to get coverage through an intuitive, stress-free online experience, Obama has personally sponsored a contest. The goal is to completely redesign Healthcare.gov with an intuitive, seamless user interface and engaging web aesthetic that rivals existing state marketplaces.
Submissions, which can be sent through Healthcare.gov, will be accepted from independent and industry-bred web developers and designers beginning Monday, April 7.
The White House released a statement on Obama’s latest initiative:
“Today President Obama met with key executives in the tech and finance sectors, health care advocates, and the presidential review group on communications technologies. In the meeting, the president had the chance to receive feedback on users’ experiences and discuss recommendations to improve compliance. … Ultimately, the administration and those in attendance agreed that the best course of action is giving the public a chance to put its own solutions on the table.”
Included in the statement is a link that shares various requirements that participants must comply with to submit their designs. A comprehensive background check is one of the many conditions of entering the contest, which the statement said is “a matter of cyber security.”
Much of the agitation users have voiced stems from site glitches of the sort Schwuert encountered, running the gamut from incessant error pages to slow load times and lax support, resulting in a massive shortage in the number of expected signups.
If you’d like to participate in the Obama $1 million marketplace challenge, chances are you’ll have little luck in actually padding your bank account with the prize cash, because well — the contest doesn’t exist.
Happy April Fool’s Day!
Did we fool you?
Photo credit: Daniel Borman