“It’s testing my faith right now,” Hewitt said. “But when you need something, you do what you have to do.”
Luckily for them and others who began the process Monday, the federal government will allow them to complete the process after Monday if it was done before midnight.
Asked how it was going, navigator Terri Gant, of Medical Associates Plus at Belle Terrace, picked up sheaths of sign-in sheets scrawled full of names.
“That’s how it is going,” she said, laughing. People crowded the room at Goodwill Job Connection when she began that morning and continued to trickle in through the afternoon.
With perhaps millions trying to beat the deadline Monday to fill in an application, the main web site – healthcare.gov – practically shut down.
“It’s very, very slow,” Gant said. Most people could access the site and create an account, but could go no farther. When Deann Quick got to a screen that allowed her to click on a button to “Learn More,” she hesitated.
“I’ve done this several times so I hope it’s not going to start me over,” she said. A quick click, and she was back at the beginning.
“It is,” Quick groaned. “It is starting me over.”
Both Hewitt and the Quicks turned to the toll-free number for help and were more than 30 minutes in when suddenly Tiffany Quick heard a male voice on the other end of the line. Then nothing.
“He was on and then he just ended the call,” she said.
Hewitt is a little more lucky. After more than 45 minutes, a lady came on and helped her and told her to try logging back in.
“She was very pleasant,” Hewitt said. She called out to Gant, “I actually spoke to someone.”
“Fantastic!” Gant called back from across the room.
But when Hewitt tried to log in, she got the same error message again. But she took it all in stride.
“I know about waiting,” said Hewitt, who is originally from Barbados. “Anything to do with the government, you have to wait.”
Gant was planning to be back today to try to enroll those who couldn’t get beyond creating an account, and Hewitt said she will come back.
“See you in the morning,” Gant said. “Thanks for your patience.”
In Clearwater, at the Margaret J. Weston Medical Center, they had already logged 200 calls by 4:30 p.m., said Director of Outreach Gail Diggs.
“A lot of people want to enroll today,” she said. “And they want appointments today.” But the enrollment specialists there were booked, actually double-booked, and all they could do for those people was get them to sign a paper application form that would allow them to continue the process after Monday. The slow, intractable web site and the calls were not a surprise, Diggs said.
“What do you expect at the last minute when millions of people are tying to do what you are trying to do,” she said.
Actually, computer glitches began Saturday night, cleared up briefly Monday morning and then returned with a vengeance later, said Anne Fulcher, a certified application counselor.
She began trying to create an account for Jose Avila, a janitor who said he was told by a friend at work to enroll because he is not offered health insurance through his job. He and Fulcher spoke through a translator as he handed her an ID and a Social Security card.
“Tell him the Web site is down, but I am going to try to get him an account,” Fulcher said, before staring at the ever-present error message, “Healthcare.gov has a lot of visitors right now!”
“Tell him he needs to come back because there are so many trying to get on,” Fulcher said.