Donna Anderson
July 1, 2013

obamacareAnyone who was around at five minutes after midnight on January 1, 2000 was pleasantly surprised to see the world didn’t come to an end as predicted and all the hoopla was for naught. But Y2K was a walk in the park compared to all the set up required for state insurance exchanges. Bar the door, Katie, October is almost here.

If you think you’re going to be able to sit down in front of your computer on October 1 and calmly order up some insurance coverage, you’re in for a rude awakening. For one thing, most states are only now beginning work on their websites and there’s no way they’re going to be functional in just three short months. If you’re smart you won’t even attempt it for at least a month. Let some other poor sap be the guinea pig.

But you’re not just ordering movie tickets here, you’re going to be dealing with insurance providers and the federal government, and they both want to learn everything about you they can possibly find out, including your credit rating, the make, model and color of your car, and maybe even the color of your socks.

Here’s a look at all of the internal connections these sites are going to have to make on your behalf while you sit there, pulling your hair out in frustration and disbelief:

First comes identification verification. To accomplish this, the site will access Experian, a credit bureau, so they can check all of your answers against your utility companies, your banks, and your spending history. From these checks the site will then generate questions you’ll have to answer.

You’ll be shown several addresses and asked which you’ve lived at. You’ll be asked to confirm your driver’s license number and the make, model, year and color of your car. These are questions we’ve all seen if we’ve previously had to verify our identity and social security number online and generally they’re not too time-consuming. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Once you’ve verified your identity you’re taken to the hub of your state’s insurance exchange. Here you’ll be assured that you’re on a secure site and none of your personal information is being stored. It is, however, going to be routed to servers at the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security, where your income and citizenship status will be verified.

Keep in mind that everything you do is going to be in real-time and must be completed in one sitting. If there are problems with your credit report or any of the verification steps don’t match up, you’ll be required to submit pay stubs or other forms of physical verification and then you’re really in trouble.

Next, all of the information you’ve provided so far will have to be collated to determine if you’re eligible for any of the Obamacare subsidies. The program will look at your income, the affordability of your employer’s insurance program and whether he qualifies for Obamacare subsidies, and it checks to see if you’re in prison or otherwise ineligible to participate.

And finally, you’ll be shown plan after plan after plan. Under Obamacare stipulations, every state exchange must be set up to capture a purchase while the user is still on the site. In other words, they can’t tell you to watch your email for an answer within the next 24 hours, and no matter how many times you say “No” you’ll always be led to another screen with even more options for your consideration.

As you can see, there’s going to be a lot more to those online state exchanges than meets the eye. According to an article at Reuters, one of the main concerns is hardware. “State officials told the Government Accounting Office that verifying eligibility, enrolling buyers and interfacing with legacy systems are the most ‘onerous’ aspects of developing their exchanges, ‘given the age and limited functionality of current state systems.'”

Another key concern will be server capacity. Who knows what might happen if millions of people in New York State or California all log onto their state exchanges at 9 a.m. on October 1?

States are expected to test their exchanges before the October 1 launch date, but be prepared. Reuters said, “What everyone hopes to avoid is a repeat of the early days of the Medicare prescription-drug program in 2006. Some seniors who tried to sign up for a plan were mistakenly enrolled in several, while others had the wrong premium amounts deducted from their Social Security checks.”

Before you sit down in front of your computer, make sure you have a comfy chair, plenty of coffee, and put all sharp objects out of reach. You’re going to be sitting there for quite some time.

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