Christian alternative to ObamaCare growing fast as deadline nears

HEALTH CARE

Christian alternative to ObamaCare growing fast as deadline nears

By 

Published March 03, 2014

FoxNews.com

With just weeks left to sign up for insurance on HealthCare.gov, a growing number of people are opting to enroll in a Christian alternative to traditional health insurance.

Nationwide networks of fellow believers help share each other’s major medical bills through what’s known as health care sharing ministries.

“It works just like insurance. I have an insurance card. I show it just like anyone else would. I have a deductible. I have a monthly premium that I pay,” explained Eileen Wade, who joined the health care sharing ministry, Medi-Share, in 2011.

The nation’s three largest ministries boast more than 242,000 members, spanning all 50 states, who agree to live so-called biblical lifestyles — meaning regular church attendance; no drugs, tobacco, or sex outside of marriage; and limited alcohol consumption.

This kind of healthier lifestyle helps keep monthly premiums lower than that of other health insurers for most members.

“There’s definitely an economic benefit, a windfall if you would, by living healthier lives,” said Medi-Share’s CEO, Tony Meggs.

Each of the ministries varies a bit in what they will and won’t cover, but all are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s fines on those without health insurance.

Under the plans, families or individuals generally are responsible for regular medical costs — like annual check-ups. And bills for unexpected illnesses or accidents are eligible for “sharing” by the group.

Critics, though, say because the ministries aren’t technically insurance providers, they’re not legally obligated to pay any of the medical bills that are submitted.

They also don’t come with the same kind of protections and promises that come with traditional health insurance, according to Ron Pollack, who is the executive director of Families USA, a health care consumer advocacy group.

“If you know you’re not going to get sick, if you know you’re not going to have an accident, this could work out very well. The problem is none of us can guarantee that, and we want insurance that really insures,” Pollack said.

Each of the ministries is very upfront that there are no guarantees of payment for medical bills, but Meggs said those concerns are exaggerated, and that in 21 years Medi-Share has only had a handful of complaints related to coverage.

The programs are only getting more popular.

Since the launch of HealthCare.gov on Oct. 1, membership at each of the ministries has exploded, with nearly 30,000 new enrollees — more than the number of people who selected a plan through ObamaCare in 24 states.

In addition to the exemption from ObamaCare, Meggs said a big draw for members is the ministries’ health plans don’t cover many of the more controversial procedures that are covered under the Affordable Care Act, such as abortion.

“Some of the qualifying plans in the Affordable Care Act are going to violate their conscience with some of the services that are mandated that the insurance plans cover. I think they’re going to be looking at health care sharing ministries as an alternative,” Meggs told FoxNews.com.

Garrett Tenney is a correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in April 2013 and is based in the Chicago bureau.

Doctor’s Office Spends 2 Hours On Hold With Health Insurer For Patient’s Surgery Authorization.

Doctor’s Office Spends 2 Hours On Hold With Health Insurer For Patient’s Surgery Authorization

January 3, 2014 8:19 AM

 

Certified Enrollment Specialist, Marlene Nesmith, waits on the HealthCare. gov website that reads, "HealthCare.gov has a lot of visitors right now!" as she waits for it to allow her entry into the Affordable Care Act website at a Miami Enrollment Assistance Center on Dec. 20, 2013 in Miami, Fla. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Certified Enrollment Specialist, Marlene Nesmith, waits on the HealthCare. gov website that reads, “HealthCare.gov has a lot of visitors right now!” as she waits for it to allow her entry into the Affordable Care Act website at a Miami Enrollment Assistance Center on Dec. 20, 2013 in Miami, Fla. (credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CHICAGO (AP) — The new year brought relief to some Illinois patients newly insured under the nation’s health care law. Others still weren’t sure whether they were covered, despite their best efforts to navigate the often-balky new system.

The major benefits of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul took effect Wednesday, the first day of 2014. By Thursday, the first business day of the new insurance system, it became clear that snags in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act still remained.

On the plus side, the law’s protections mean consumers can no longer be denied coverage if they’re in poor health. New limits on how much insured patients must pay for care will mean fewer bankruptcies after catastrophic illnesses. Insurance plans must offer a minimum level of essential benefits, and care such as flu shots and mammograms will be fully covered without cost to patients.

But early problems with the federal HealthCare.gov website led many people to wait until last week to sign up, and insurers are still processing enrollment forms.

Paperwork problems almost delayed suburban Chicago resident Sheri Zajcew’s scheduled surgery Thursday, but Dr. John Venetos decided to operate without a routine go-ahead from the insurance company. That was after Venetos’ office manager spent two hours on hold with the insurer Thursday, trying to get an answer about whether the patient needed prior authorization for the surgery. The office manager finally gave up.

“I’m not a happy camper,” said Nate Zajcew, the patient’s husband. The couple signed up for a Blue Cross Blue Shield bronze plan through the federal HealthCare.gov site on Dec. 16. “I understand it’s just a matter of paperwork and yesterday was a holiday. I can be an SOB, too, at times, but since they’re going on with the procedure, it’s OK.”

Venetos, a Chicago digestive system specialist, described “tremendous uncertainty and anxiety” among patients calling his office recently. Some thought they’d signed up for coverage but hadn’t received insurance cards yet. Others had insurance policies that were canceled and weren’t sure if their coverage had been reinstated after Gov. Pat Quinn decided to allow one-year extensions of canceled plans.

Venetos said he has decided to take a risk and provide care for these patients, at least until there’s less confusion about coverage.

“We feel it’s the right thing to do,” Venetos said. “We may end up stuck holding the bag and not getting paid on these claims.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, which has the most customers in the state’s individual market, has been adding staff and extending call center hours to keep up with demand. “Every week we’re adding staff to our call centers and we’re also enhancing our call routing features to better serve our customers,” said spokesman Greg Thompson.

In the southern Illinois city of Benton, 61-year-old Nancy Pace spent part of New Year’s Day calling Blue Cross Blue Shield to make certain she and her husband were covered by the silver plan they chose on the troubled federal insurance website. “When you get to where it says ‘Pay for your policy,’ well, that button doesn’t work,” Pace said.

Calling the insurance company worked: Pace paid and got her member number over the phone.

“I made a phone call. I pushed the right button and got a live person,” she said.

Pace, a stroke survivor, said she hasn’t had good insurance since her husband lost his job when the mining machinery plant where he worked closed in 2005. The Affordable Care Act means better health care for her and her husband, she said, but she has doubts.

“My biggest concern is, how long is this going to last? How long can our country bear this expense?” Pace said. “It’s a benefit for us right now. But I don’t see how it can possibly be sustainable. … Am I going to use it? You bet I am. For one thing, it’s a law. I don’t have a choice.”

‘They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!’: Obamacare confusion reigns as frustrated patients walk out of hospitals without treatment

  • MailOnline spoke with patients who were told they would have to pay their bills in full if they couldn’t prove they had insurance
  • One was faced with a $3,000 hospital room charge and opted to leave the hospital after experiencing chest pains
  • ‘Should I be in the hospital? Probably,’ she said
  • Another, coughing in the cold, walked out without receiving a needed chest x-ray
  • Consumers face sticker-shock from medical costs under the new Obamacare system, made worse if they can’t prove they’re insured
  • As many as one-third of new enrollees’ applications have seen problems when the government transmits them to insurance companies

 

No Hope Left for Obamacare’s Website, Techies Say.

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No Hope Left for Obamacare’s Website, Techies Say

Flickr/DolanH/The Fiscal Times

 

The Fiscal Times

November 13, 2013

Nearly a month and a half into the dismal Obamacare rollout, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services communications director Julie Bataille told reporters on Tuesday that CMS has begun emailing at least 275,000 people who had gotten “stuck” attempting to create accounts on the glitch-ridden HealthCare.gov, asking them to come back to the site and “try again.”

Bataille refused to say whether all 275,000 people would be able to use the exchange at the same time without crashing the system. Instead, she dodged specifics about the progress programmers have been making on the website’s repair efforts and how CMS would be able to meet its Nov. 30 deadline — the day the Obama administration has promised to have the site up and running “smoothly for the vast majority of users.”

“The system is getting better each week,” Bataille said. She didn’t specify whether the website would be completely fixed and glitch-free, though. Instead, she pointed to other ways consumers could sign up for insurance through the exchanges “whether that is via direct enrollment with insurance companies to meet the pent up consumer demand or … calling the call centers or enrolling in person.”

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The Obama administration’s repeated refusal to provide specifics on when the site would actually be functioning after the end-of-November deadline is not surprising given the wide-ranging technological and operational problems with the site.


It’s even more discouraging since less than 50,000 people have signed up for health insurance through the federal exchange, according to unofficial estimates reported by the Wall Street Journal.

And it doesn’t appear to be getting better.

According to tech experts, the sorry state of the current website does little to inspire confidence that it can be fixed and functional in less than three weeks.

“When I visited HealthCare.gov on October 1, that was the worst piece of software I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said Luke Chung, founder and CEO of the software company FMS. “It had nothing to do with too many users. It couldn’t serve one user.”

obama epic incompetence

According to Sumit Nijhawan, CEO of Infogix, a data security firm working with private insurers, even if the White House can fix the problems associated with the site, they’re going to find new ones immediately. Nijhawan also warned that the systems that allow CMS and health insurance companies to exchange information are nowhere close to being ready, meaning tech problems could last years.

 

“What we’ve seen so far is the first set of problems that come up,” he said. “Then you have the next set of problems. It’s one set of issues leading into another.”

Nijhawan, whose firm is working to verify information submitted by users, said that they’re receiving volumes of bad information, to which he attributed one of three factors:

  • Human error, meaning the user entered incorrect information or made a mistake using the web interface. However, Nijhawan didn’t blame the user for these mistakes. “It’s not that someone mistakenly puts in wrong information. These guys haven’t bought insurance before and they don’t understand what the terminology is,” he said. “It’s quite possible they enter wrong info because they don’t understand.”
  • Data access errors related to the federal hub. In these cases, the hub provides incorrect information from one of the host of federal agencies it’s pulling from. “There’s a lot of data for the first time flying around across different firewalls. The potential for doing something wrong is really high,” he said.
  • Technical issues related to the construction of the website.

Chung, who is testifying in front of the House Oversight committee today, said these technical issues are the most frustrating.

 

“I have contended all along that this is not that difficult of a project,” he said. “It doesn’t provide health care, it doesn’t even provide insurance. It’s just a form to apply for a subsidy to get health insurance. It’s automating a paper form. It shouldn’t be that hard.”

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“Technically, this is not that difficult,” Chung added. “It shouldn’t cost more than $10 million. And it should be something that can be done in a couple of months.”

According to both Chung and Nijhawan, even if the White House can build a functional website by the end of the month, new problems would appear almost immediately.

“The idea that it would be perfect is never. All systems are never perfect. It’s never perfectly secure or functioning,” Chung said. “If you discovered hundreds of bugs on the initial launch, there are hundreds more or multiples of that that haven’t been discovered yet.”

Nijhawan also touched on a problem that has yet to be widely addressed. He said the exchanges that are expected to allow insurance companies to share information with the federal government are not close to being ready. Without this information, CMS would not know who enrolled in the plans.

“As soon as these enrollment issues get ironed out either by December or March, you have other issues relating to the back end, where there’s a lot of reconciliation that needs to be done between health care and CMS,” Nijhawan said.

When asked why these exchanges weren’t completed before the rollout, he said, “They were trying to desperately get ready for the rollout.”

IN OTHER NEWS:

RIOT blog copy

Every one of us knows America needs revival.  But what would that look like?  America has changed so much that it is no longer possible to give the usual answers to that question.  Here is a conference that combines 4 voices that will give a face, a definition and substance to revival in our nation.

The Conference is called R.I.O.T. an acronym for REVIVAL IN OUR TIME.  It begins this Thursday night November 14th at 7 PM appropriately at the American Revival Center in Martinez,  California.

Who is this conference for?  It is for every any pastor, evangelist, leader or concerned believer who is contending for a moral awakening in the United States.

Why should I attend? You should attend because you will not find a more deliberate attempt to understand and release revival anywhere.  You should attend because the very atmosphere of the RIOT itself will burn out doubt fear and confusion about revival.  You should attend because of the voices that are coming together to speak at the RIOT.

JUST LOOK AT THE SPEAKERS:

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Evangelist Mario Murillo: will host the conference and minister in every session.  Mario has seen true revivals in the most unlikely places in America.  His book Reaching Critical Mass  has been required reading in over 50 schools, colleges and universities including the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.

Richard Summerlin Thursday night November 14th at 7PM and Friday November 15th at Noon.

Not far from the scene where Trayvon Martin was killed God is growing a multiracial miracle in an airplane hangar. Richard Summerlin is building the next generation of revival congregations in America.  Thousands have been swept up into the Kingdom of Christ

Richard was a bounty hunter who went after dangerous felons and then became an expert alligator wrestler until he decided to blend his skills and become a pastor.  God has graced Richard with a wisdom and leadership mantle way beyond his young age.  There is no doubt that his preaching and miracle ministry will be an explosive encounter for leaders and all believers.

Sean Smith Friday Night November 15th 7PM

Sean Smith was just a boy when his father was murdered in inner city Oakland California.  Out of the ashes of unimaginable despair and pain God raised up a unique voice to this generation. It began when heaven deposited fire in his soul while he was a student at the University of the Pacific.  This fire turned his pain into the fuel for excellence. Just two years after his total transformation through Christ at the University of the Pacific he led a student movement.

Then the Holy Spirit promoted Sean Smith to full time crusade ministry. He became a global voice and a supernatural gift that devastates the powers of darkness.  He has written several books including the groundbreaking volume I Am Your Sign.

On Friday night at R.I.O.T Sean Smith will bring a word from the Lord that is best described by his mission statement: CARE: Captivate for Christ the hearts of a generation; Activate the army of God to fulfill its destiny; Reach out to and reap lost souls; and Equip the body of Christ to meet the challenge of the Great Commission.

Winkie Pratney Saturday November 16th at Noon and again at 6PM.

After more than three million miles of global travel and sometimes speaking to more than half-a-million annually, Winkie has wide experience in motivating leaders, ministers, educators and young people. Winkie is a mavin, a researcher and public communicator with ability to take existing ideas, break them down to simpler forms and make them practical and freely available to others.

Winkie is considered the greatest living authority on revival. A featured speaker at major conferences, conventions, festivals and other gatherings, his “scholarship on fire” approach has impacted multitudes around the globe, and resulted in the creation or formation of new works to effectively reach, encourage and train young people.

There is no charge for the conference.  Childcare is provided in each session.  There is no doubt that this conference will take revival from the theoretical and the mystical and make it more real than you ever imagined.  See you at the RIOT!

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Obamacare: Destined to fall under its own weight.

obamacare-train-wreck

Vulnerable Democrats casting wary eyes at Obamacare and 2014 election

BY NOEMIE EMERY | NOVEMBER 5, 2013 AT 4:53 PM

Some on the Left have been noting with pleasure that advocates on the Right have now dropped calls to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whose affordable nature is called into question and whose protection most patients attempt to avoid.

They’re right. But why shouldn’t they, when the act, with its built-in store of perverse incentives, has done so well at repealing itself?

The act is being repealed, piece by piece and in increments, by courts, by circumstance and by its own incoherence.

Last week, the website shut down for still more repair work, a court threw out the mandate that forced business owners to pay for employees’ access to abortion facilities, and the 16 or so million people who buy their own health plans, who found their coverage ended or the prices increased, found their voice as a mad-as-hell pressure group.

President Obama thought he’d be home free when new enrollees began receiving government benefits; he forgot he created a huge pool of losers — prosperous, articulate and including some journalists — who know how to pressure the government.

In one week, this “settled law” got a lot more unsettled. Obama, wrote Jules Witcover in the Baltimore Sun, “faces the prospect of spending the rest of his second term distracted by the imperative of defending the law all over again, amid evidence that Republican warnings of its impracticability were not all partisan ranting. … Just as the Nixon tapes … kept alive the Watergate calamity … Obamacare seems destined to haunt its parent throughout his White House tenure and beyond.”

Being haunted by health care all over again after being put through a wringer in the 2009-2010 cycle is a bridge too far for a number of Democrats, some of whom are starting a call for, if not quite “delay, repeal and replace,” at least “delay, change, but for God’s sake do something.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who must face re-election in 2014, says she’s drafting a bill allowing the self-insured to keep their old policies.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and nine other senators asked Obama to delay the enrollment period deadline beyond March 31.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is joining Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in writing a bill to delay the imposition of penalties until 2015, and suggests other changes are needed:

“They’d better be worried about having a product,” he said in a New York Times interview. “Affordable health care means trying to get more people insurance. … Making people who had insurance buy a different product that costs more for less coverage? You can’t … defend that.”

To many Democrats, this sounds like 2010 redux, except for two ominous things: The employer mandate, set for next year, may cancel existing plans for as many as 93 million Americans just in time for 2014 midterms, and Obama is no longer the force that he was.

In 2009-2010, he was still the boy wonder, so crippling him at the start of his term was considered unthinkable and opposing his signature act was a sin.

In 2014, he’ll be battered and dinged, a lame duck on his way out, his personal approval ratings down around 40 percent for the first time ever. And this is before he was known to have lied about Americans being able to keep their coverage.

By 2014, opposing him may be tempting even for Democrats. “What we’re seeing,” a New Hampshire political scientist told Richard Cowen of Reuters, is Shaheen “trying to limit her personal downside.” If going out on a limb for Obama starts getting risky, she’ll go back to the trunk of the tree.

So may large numbers of dubious squirrels. For the future of health care, cast your eyes leftward. For the time being, cherchez les Dems.

Exclusive: HealthCare.gov Users Warn of Security Risk, Breach of Privacy

Exclusive: HealthCare.gov Users Warn of Security Risk, Breach of Privacy

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November 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm

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Justin Hadley logged on to HealthCare.gov to evaluate his insurance options after his health plan was canceled. What he discovered was an apparent security flaw that disclosed eligibility letters addressed to individuals from another state.

“I was in complete shock,” said Hadley, who contacted Heritage after becoming alarmed at the breach of privacy.

Hadley, a North Carolina father, buys his insurance on the individual market. His insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, directed him to HealthCare.gov in a cancellation letter he received in September.

After multiple attempts to access the problem-plagued website, Hadley finally made it past the registration page Thursday. That’s when he was greeted with downloadable letters about eligibility — for two people in South Carolina. (Screenshot below.)

Capture 1

The letters, dated October 8, acknowledge receipt of an application to the Health Insurance Marketplace and the eligibility of family members to purchase health coverage. One of the letters was addressed to Thomas Dougall, a lawyer from Elgin, SC.

Hadley shared a screenshot and copy of the letter with redacted personal information.

Capture 2

Hadley wrote to Heritage on Thursday night and also contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which administers HealthCare.gov, as well as elected officials in his state. He has yet to hear back from HHS, even though HealthCare.gov still displays the personal information of the South Carolina residents on his account.

Hadley reached out to Dougall on Friday to notify him of the breach. Dougall, who spoke to Heritage this evening, said he was evaluating health care options in early October. Dougall said he was able to register on HealthCare.gov, but decided not to sign up for insurance.

“The plans they offered were grossly expensive and didn’t provide the level of care I have now,” he said.

Dougall said he never saw the October 8 letter until Hadley sent it to him Friday.

After learning of the privacy breach, Dougall spent Friday evening trying to contact representatives from HealthCare.gov to no avail; he spent an hour waiting on the telephone and an online chat session was unhelpful. He also wrote to Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC), along with Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC).

“I want my personal information off of that website,” Dougall said.

Security Risk

Last week, the Associated Press disclosed a government memo revealing the “high” security risk for HealthCare.gov. Those concerns surfaced at Wednesday’s hearing with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who claimed the system was secure.

HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters told the AP, “When consumers fill out their online … applications, they can trust that the information they’re providing is protected by stringent security standards and that the technology underlying the application process has been tested and is secure.”

However, that didn’t stop members of Congress from voicing alarm.

“You accepted a risk on behalf of every user … that put their personal financial information at risk,” Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) told Sebelius. “Amazon would never do this. ProFlowers would never do this. Kayak would never do this. This is completely an unacceptable level of security.”

Heritage cyber-security expert Steven Bucci, director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, said users of HealthCare.gov are leaving their personal information unsecured.

“Once it goes out over the system, it is vulnerable,” Bucci said. “There appears to have been a singular lack of concern for security. The site needs to receive and transmit sensitive personal information, yet it has less than state of the art security.”

Bucci said if a doctor’s receptionist speaks too loudly about personal information so that others could hear it, that’s a violation of the law.

“Functionality and security have to be the hallmark of programs like this one,” Bucci said. “The site has failed on both counts and has further weakened the confidence of the American people.”

Unanswered Questions

Hadley’s experience has left him unsure about what to do next. He said he was frustrated by the difficulty contacting the Department of Health and Human Services and lack of response from his elected representatives.

Dougall said grateful that Hadley made the call to him Friday, but voiced similar frustration with HHS. But while Dougall will continue with his current health plan, Hadley isn’t so fortunate.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina informed Hadley that his current plan is no longer available and offered to auto-enroll him in a new health insurance plan. But that option would increase his monthly premiums by 92 percent and double his deductible. Hadley said he doesn’t qualify for any subsidies and won’t continue the process on HealthCare.gov because of the privacy breach.

“If I have their information, then who else has my information now?” Hadley worried.

After examining the letter Hadley downloaded, Heritage health policy analyst Chris Jacobs noted the irony of HHS’ promise: “The Health Insurance Marketplace protects the privacy and security of personally identifiable information.”

“Justin’s story demonstrates how Obamacare’s flaws go well beyond a bungled website,” Jacobs said. “From canceled coverage to skyrocketing premiums to the federal government’s failing to protect Americans’ personal data, the damage Obamacare has inflicted is becoming more and more clear each day.”

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Consumer Reports: ‘Stay Away From HealthCare.gov’.

Consumer Reports: ‘Stay Away From HealthCare.gov’

By Alec Torres   October 21, 2013 9:56 AM

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Consumer Reports, which publishes reviews of consumer products and services,advised its readers to avoid the federal health-care exchange “for at least another month if you can.” “Hopefully that will be long enough for its software vendors to clean up the mess they’ve made,” the magazine said, having tested the site themselves over the course of the past three weeks.

Noting that only 271,000 of the 9.47 million people who tried signing up in the first week managed to create an account, Consumer Reports then provided a few tips to those attempting to slog through the application process. From attempting successive logins because “error messages . . . may not always match reality” to checking one’s inbox frequently because missing an e-mail a user will be timed out of the site and forced to start from square one, none of the suggestions guaranteed success.

The magazine has also released a string of scathing reviews. On October 1, the day the Obamacare exchanges went online, the magazine told people to be patient: “Don’t worry if you can’t sign up today or even within the next couple of weeks.” A week into enrollment, they urged again to “wait a couple weeks and hope that the site irons out its many problems” because the HealthCare.gov is “barely operational.”

As the editors continued to review the website over the next few days, they only had one positive statement: “On the plus side,” they noted, “consumers coming to HealthCare.gov are no longer stopped cold by an error message or a screen saying they’ve been put in a waiting line.”

Now three weeks into the exchanges, having offered reviews and advice, Consumer Reports said that “if all [these suggestions] are too much to absorb, follow our previous advice: Stay away from Healthcare.gov,” at least for the time being.