Ramona Boehler was primed for Obamacare. The 62-year-old retiree from Sunrise is too young for Medicare, and she's been on a bare-bones catastrophic Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan since she and her husband (now deceased) lost insurance when his employer went out of business.
After a long, frustrating week on her computer and telephone, she's mainly steamed.
"What a disaster," Boehler said about her attempts to sign up for insurance through the federally run exchange that opened Oct. 1. "They're calling the problems 'glitches.' But these aren't glitches, these are major malfunctions. It makes me wonder what's going on."
Hearing stories like Boehler's makes me wonder why Republicans went to the trouble of forcing a partial government shutdown over Obamacare.
It might have been shrewder if they just watched and gloated as Democrats hung themselves with such a rocky start to President Obama's supposed signature achievement.
Frozen screens. A laborious process that repeatedly rejected account set-ups and applications. Mysteries about the nitty-gritty of insurance plans, including deductibles, co-pays and whether specific doctors will be in certain networks.
Boehler had so much trouble with the healthcare.gov website, she eventually turned to a call center to get her application processed. "What gives me pause is when you speak to people, nobody can give you answers," Boehler said. She was told she'd get a "letter of eligibility" to log onto the system and sort through scores of plans. Nobody could tell her when that might happen.
The clock is ticking: those who want insurance on Jan. 1 must be enrolled by Dec. 15.
"Some of them said they weren't expecting this big of a turnout," Boehler said. "But with millions and millions of uninsured, I don't know why not. … I don't understand why they couldn't start this process earlier."
Bill Porter of Fort Lauderdale said he couldn't log on the first day, and he's going to wait a few weeks to let things settle down before trying again. "I'm not panicking yet," said Porter, now insured through a federal program for those with pre-existing conditions that ends Jan. 1.
Boehler's Blue Cross plan also ends Jan. 1, because it doesn't comply with all the Obamacare guidelines. Her monthly premium is now $385. She said she received a letter from Blue Cross saying she could be rolled into a replacement plan. The new cost: $722 a month. With a $6,250 deductible. "I can't afford that," she said.
She wonders if some people will take the higher rates to avoid the hassles of the government site, but said, "I'd rather go through 100 plans than just settle on one and feel cheated."
A lifelong Democrat from Coconut Creek named Marty (he didn't want his full name used) already feels cheated. He also got a letter saying his $360-a-month Blue Cross plan was being discontinued and the replacement would cost more than $600 monthly.
"The president said a million times: 'If you're happy with the plan you have, you can keep it.' But that's just not true," said the 53-year-old.
Said Boehler: "I really support Obama and trying to get this done, but I'm at the point of saying, 'Was this a good idea or not?'"
If these kinks don't get worked out quickly, and if the Affordable Care Act doesn't turn out to be so affordable, Obama's legacy will be headed to intensive care.