17 Days Later, Health Insurance Delays Still Mounting

October 17, 2013

Courtesy of the Judge Family
Gene Judge, left, with her family. She's looking for health insurance through the federal exchange for her son Matt, sitting, who has spina bifida.

Arizona residents are still enduring delays and technical glitches 17 days after enrollment began in the federal online health care exchange.

“I’m in a holding motion,” said Mesa resident Gene Judge. “Like circling the airport and you can see the runway below.”

Judge has been trying to get her adult son, who has spina bifida, health insurance every day since Oct. 1 — the first day enrollment began in the much-anticipated federal health care program.

Traffic volume on the website has caused all sorts of delays and the pressure is mounting on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to fix the problem. Some critics have called for her resignation.

Judge’s son, Matt, has health insurance but pays almost $500 a month and it doesn’t cover the expensive catheters he needs. Judge said she spends up to 30 minutes a day, early in the morning and late at night, trying to complete the federal enrollment application. The website crashes every time. 

If Judge can sign up by Dec. 15, her son’s benefits will start in January.

“I guess if it gets close to the deadline and there’s two weeks to go and I haven’t been able to sign in, I want to march in the streets,” Judge said.

A spokesperson for the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers said her group has 50 navigators working statewide who are trained to help people enroll. Those navigators have only been successful completing the process “a handful of times,” said the spokesperson, Tara McCollum Plese.

“We’re telling people to take a breath and after first part of November to try again,” she explained, citing the federal government’s promise to have the web glitches ironed out by then.

Meanwhile, McCollum Plese suggests people do the research necessary to know exactly what plan they want when the problems are finally resolved.

“I can safely say there is that same level of frustration on our end,” McCollum Plese said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been modified to reflect the medical condition affecting Matt Judge is spina bifida.

Updated 10/19/2013 at 11:56 a.m.