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Error Messages Greet Staffers Entering Health Exchanges

One week into the open-enrollment period, Senate staffers are grappling with glitches on the DC Health Link website.

“I have one of 54 staffers who’ve actually even been able to get to the point of setting up an account. They keep getting error messages,” one woman said, when handed the microphone during the question-and-answer portion of a briefing aimed at helping staffers navigate enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. “So what’s going to happen if that continues through Dec. 9?”

By 11:59 that night, members of Congress and designated staff members must be enrolled in the District’s health insurance market to continue receiving employer contributions to cover the cost of their benefits.

The question was aimed at a panel of officials from DC Health Link, the Office of Personnel Management and the four insurance carriers offering health insurance through the District’s exchange. They appeared in the Hart Senate Office Building on Tuesday for a 90-minute briefing to Senate staffers. It was closed to the press but broadcast live online.

DC Health Link’s Hannah Turner recommended contacting the exchange call center, emailing questions to the staff and walking into one of the three-hour support sessions being offered around the Capitol campus, if possible.

The young woman’s complaint was not the first DC Health Link heard about error messages on its site. To help staffers overcome the glitches, representatives of the site are regularly visiting Capitol Hill for walk-in support sessions. The first one took place Nov. 12.

One man reported that some Senate employees were unable to log back into DC Health Link after creating an account, so they had created multiple accounts. He’d heard a rumor that “if you sign up a third time, they’ll kick you off the system” — a myth that is absolutely untrue, according to Turner.

“We do have IT support that has been helping us get through any types of bigger errors that have happened, but most of the folks, it’s been things that we’ve been able to work through [by] working directly with you,” she said.

Despite assurances that private information is protected, some staffers worried about where the data they share to create an account on the exchange is being sent. Officials assured them all security and privacy protocol are followed and that Congress’ data is not being sent out to a federal data hub.

The House brought its staffers up to speed during a similar meeting on Nov. 7, but questions were less technical, since the open-enrollment period had not yet launched.

Senate staffers have three more opportunities for onsite enrollment assistance, including Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center.

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