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A Tale of Two ny.gov Websites - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
A Tale of Two ny.gov Websites

In the past 48 hours, I've had two interactions with New York State-operated websites. As with most experiences in life, one of them was significantly better than the other.

I filed my first electronic commercial case in the New York State courts today. It was a breeze. The system had provided some brief training, and that was enough to get me logged in, the basic case information docketed with simple cut-and-pastes from the Word document, and then a .pdf of that document accepted and deemed filed. Payment was quick and painless and I had my filing confirmation within minutes and the official court filing number within a couple of hours.

The Marketplace exchange run by the same state for a different purpose? More a hurricane than a breeze:(

I now have three separate logins, the first two failing due to late-night deficiencies that were apparently uncorrectable despite there being "edit information" fields. Once the third actually "took," I tried to verify whether we were eligible for any kind of subsidies (suspecting full well we were not, but as another ny.gov website says, Hey, ya never know...."

This led into a full-on attempt to get me to replicate our entire tax return (and Emily's, as well). Our 2014 tax return. Questions abounded along the lines of What was your income for the last three months of 2014?  Sadly, Carnac was not available with his mayonnaise jar to provide the answer in advance.

There were also plenty of these as I tried backing up to get out of the process and into the actual available plans:

Error 500: java.lang.ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException: Array index out of range: 1

In the end, I just made stuff up to move the process along. Then it asked for information about our current plans. Figured I'd start with mine, Independent Health. That'd be under "I," right?

Maybe; here's how the site presents the dropdown list to find your existing plan:

That's right, kids. A randomly ordered list of dozens of existing plans, with no functionality to scroll by letter to find yours.  Is this one even mine? "WI" could stand for "Wisconsin," or "Wishful Thinking," for all I know.

This is where I hit "logout" and realized it was time to surrender. Because I do have existing coverage through a chamber-based group, likely to go up in cost but in what recent year didn't it?  Plus, I'm also eligible for coverage through my part-time office- I'd pay $250 a month for basic coverage versus the roughly $533 I pay now, but it's a high-deductible/HSA deal with a $5,500 deductible for things other than preventive care ; I'd guess I've burned through less than half that amount through almost 10 months of 2013, so I might actually come out ahead by socking away the deductible amount and keeping it if I don't use it. Even if I burn the entire deductible, my out-of-pocket for 2014 will be no more than $708 a month- about $175 a month more than I now spend not counting prescription co-pays. That's comparable to percentage increases in recent years.  If it helps get more people insured, I'm okay with it.

Know what I'm not okay with? Continued whining and moaning about how it's all so terrible-horrible just because its rollout date was tied to a 17-day government shutdown. As one website cleverly noted, such complaints are nothing new:

Within a week of the new health care law coming into effect, the St. Petersburg Times was reporting that "After hearing about the elaborate network of options...Hugh Mabe had a simple response. 'I don't get it.' For the past week, many Citrus County residents have echoed Mabe's sentiment. Though enrollment began Tuesday, few potential beneficiaries have settled on a plan." Yes, it was confusing because it was so very new and different.

Of course, the computer glitches didn't help: "During the first few days of enrollment, people had trouble logging onto [the] website because of heavy traffic." Because of all the problems, less than a month after its rollout, at least one senator from the president's own party wrote to officials in charge of the website, saying, "I am writing to express my concern with serious problems brought to my attention relating website. [People] have reported that the pricing information of plans listed on the website is inaccurate and misleading...A discrepancy of thousands of dollars is more than just a 'glitch'...This sort of problem could greatly hinder successful implementation of the [new health care law] by undermining consumer confidence in the program."

A Democratic Congressman wrote to the president after a month into the sign-up to complain that "only 500,000 of 40 million eligible [people] have signed up so far. This low participation number is not surprising. After all, the fledgling program has been plagued by mishaps and misinformation." He was also frustrated that Congress was doing nothing to help fix the problems.

Things got so bad that even a governor who supported the law was frustrated that only "700 of the 100,000 applications [from his state] that have been submitted" had even been processed. He also noted that the Department of Health and Human Services promised that the "glitches" were fixed, even if users still had difficulties with the website. Among those glitches were "computer file transfers" that caused people to have to resubmit applications that were processed incorrectly.

Medical professionals were also upset with the program. "It's a nightmare," said one. "It will be a disaster" if the problems are not fixed, said another.

Let's just show the cards here. If you haven't figured it out, this is all about the sign-up period for what was the then-new Medicare prescription drug program, Part D. The "people" up there are actually senior citizens. The senator was Olympia Snowe of Maine, a Republican. The congressman was Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, who is now a senator. The governor was Richard Codey of New Jersey. The president was George W. Bush. The time period was from mid-October of 2005, which was the start of enrollment before the plan went into effect on January 1, 2006.

And on it went. "The system was certainly overwhelmed," said a spokesman for Walgreens on January 4, 2006 about the national computer network that his company's stores was using. Others reported ongoing glitches, using phrases like "mild chaos" and "a confusing nightmare." Computer issues caused thousands to lose whatever drug coverage they had. It got so bad that governors had to step in to make sure that seniors got their medications. To state it plainly, after the program started, the entire thing was seen as one giant glitch.  It wasn't until months later that the law was seen as starting to work as it was intended, except for the pesky doughnut hole in drug costs (which Obamacare fills).

Democrats didn't try to shut the government or default the debt over these problems; rather, they moved to try fixing things like the donut hole and the prohibition on mass-purchase negotiation between Medicare and Big Pharma (fixes that the Republicans rejected). Now, over seven years later, Part D's problems have been significantly reduced; I suspect the ACA's, and even the stupid state website's, will, as well. 

If not- hey. I can always bring an Article 78 against them using this really cool state e-filing site they have....

This entry was originally posted at http://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/165786.html. Please comment here, or there using OpenID.
3 comments or Leave a comment
platypus From: platypus Date: October 24th, 2013 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)
I expected the rollout to be buggy and difficult and confusing, but I figure they'll work their shit out eventually. I'm just baffled at the number of people who seem to think that some starting glitches, even bad ones, are worse than, I dunno, dying or being bankrupted for lack of health insurance. That the existing system was totally working, never mind that I would always have been completely uninsurable on the open market due to various pre-existing conditions.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: October 24th, 2013 12:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm finding it magically delicious that Obama is bringing in a Bain Capital executive to help fix the thing. Why not- it was Mittens's people who designed the original Massachusetts plan, so keep it in the family:)
symian From: symian Date: October 24th, 2013 08:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Geez! Really? I sort of give up. *sighs*
3 comments or Leave a comment