CARTER: HHS advises Jurassic approach for health insurance sign-ups – use letter, phone or visit

October 21, 2013

Health, Health Care, Technology

President Obama’s admission Monday that something is really, really wrong with the federally built health insurance market websites left the impression that our commander in chief would call in drone strikes on all the sites if only they’d stay up long enough to be viable targets.

To sign up for health insurance on the Mississippi marketplace exchange, you may have to go back to the age of phone calls, letters and in-person visits.

To sign up for health insurance on the Mississippi marketplace exchange, you may have to go back to the age of phone calls, letters and in-person visits.

Though no heads have rolled at HHS that we know of over the exchange fiasco, Obama’s speech today made it seem he is starting to understand continued failure of this magnitude will put a big dent in his legacy.

Perhaps he did some backstage whip cracking after the speech. How else to explain the arrival of a first-ever email from Kathleen Sebelius, HHS secretary, coming clean on the likelihood that your grand babies will grow into adulthood waiting for the sites to become functional. Her suggestion: Call us or write us a letter. Or better still, find a marketplace sign-up person in your town, region or state.

Just getting the email was remarkable in itself. It’s the first the MBJ has received from HHS in many weeks. Our requests to interview a living, breathing person in the weeks before the launch were met with a boiler plate statement that assured one and all that the marketplace would be up and running  Oct. 1 for open enrollment on the health care exchanges.

But now here is some outreach from the secretive HHS, assuredly delivered from Dick Chaney’s old bunker in an undisclosed location.

Let’s let Secretary Sebelius take it from here:

It has been three weeks since the start of the new Health Insurance Marketplace, where Americans, regardless of income or health status, can find quality, affordable health coverage. The launch of the Marketplace website,, has been rocky but we are working tirelessly to make the online process better.

And we are taking other steps to meet the consumer demand for affordable health insurance. There are four basic ways to apply for health coverage through the Marketplace, and I want to tell you about them.

Apply online. Visit to get started.

Apply by phone. Call 1-800-318-2596 to apply for a health insurance plan and enroll over the phone. (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)

Apply in person. Visit a trained counselor in your community to get information and apply in person. Find help in your area at

Apply by mail. Complete a paper application and mail it in.  You can download the paper application form and instructions from

Before you choose a plan, you may want to explore your options.  You can use this calculator to see if you qualify for lower costs on coverage and preview Marketplace plans here.

More people are applying and getting covered every day.

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