I have spent the past few days struggling to apply for insurance on California’s HIX, CoveredCA. Early on in the application process I tried to withhold judgment, but have since learned that coveredca.com has a price tag of $360M, awarded to Accenture. And so I am feeling decidedly less generous and have penned this short note. I hope that details of my experience can be of benefit to CoveredCA, Accenture, and anyone in the state considering applying for insurance.
System Slows to a Halt (Oct 9th)
I started out by checking a few news and twitter sources, which reported that the initial kinks with CoveredCA had been worked out. However when I began the application process the system was unbearably slow. I waited easily 30 seconds for every form submit. Eventually, I was presented with a cryptic error message when the system finally crashed: “Oracle Access Manager Operation Error”.
The (very nice) woman I spoke with at the CoveredCA call center confirmed that the site was down. However, this news was absolutely under-reported. There were a few tweets that noted the system failure, but that was it. Notably, @CoveredCA remained silent on the issue.
I gave up staring at the Oracle error message, and the next morning (Oct 10), logged back in at 5am thinking I would beat peak web traffic. At 5am the site was still down, this time for “scheduled maintenance”.
I eventually completed my application later in the day… overcoming several usability hurdles and bugs along the way… as detailed below:
Major Usability Issues Encountered
- Lack of login link. Why is their no login link on the landing page? It is completely non-intuitive to click “start” when I really want to just login and continue my application.
- Security questions gone wild. These were so bizarre. There were 5 different security questions with 5+ question dropdowns each. One example: “What is your funniest friend’s last name?”
- Children…are not adults. If a person has been identified as a child why am I still bombarded with adult-centric questions about that child, e.g. “has this person submitted a tax return.” Why should I ever be given the option to assign a child to be the parent of another child?
- Family relationships. There has to be a better way to identify family relationships than the all-permutations-approach used. I’m sure this problem has been long solved — what does TurboTax do here? CoveredCA and its partner Accenture seems to have completely ignored industry best practices.
- Going back and forward through application. It is absolutely unclear how to go “back and forth” in the application workflow easily.
- Family member health status. Absolutely weird UI for specifying how many family members have high healthcare/high medication needs — need to click plus (+) and minus (–) boxes.
- How do I verify my income? At one point in the application workflow, it was specified that I had to verify my income before I could fully qualify for health insurance. I still do not how I am supposed to do this — no instructions given and no email follow up.
Major Bugs Encountered
- Bug #1: editing previously entered data. After I was nearly done with the application process, I tried to edit some of my husband’s citizenship details. When I clicked the ‘edit’ button next to his name I was taken back to the wrong family member’s form. I could find no other way to edit my husband’s contact information.
- Bug #2: going “back” in application. After I was unsuccessful at editing my husband’s information, I was taken back several screens in the application and had to click “continue, continue, continue,… ” many times to get back to where I was. At this point I became resolute to never try to “go back” in the application process ever again.
- Bug #3: health plans search. When shopping for health plans I tried to search for health plans by both physician and hospital. I typed in “Kaiser”… and… no results found! Pretty shocking considering that Kaiser-Permanente is the largest, fully integrated insurer-provider in the country with headquarters in California. How could they miss this is beyond my imagination.
I am not one who wants to see CoveredCA fail, and I appreciated @CoveredCA responding to my tweets — albeit giving general assurances that the web team is “working on” the problems. I hope these problems can be resolved quickly (but doubt it).
Unfortunately, by spending $360 million of taxpayer dollars for Accenture consulting services and producing this kind of product, CoveredCA is giving plenty fodder to those that want HIX, and general healthcare reform, to fail. One really has to wonder, were those dollars well spent, and if there is any clause in the contract to hold Accenture’s feet to the fire until they get this fixed. Lastly, If anyone can tell me how I am supposed to verify my income then I would be much obliged.