Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obamacare Sign-Up Old-School

Remember way back in the day when there were only three major networks on TV (four if you count PBS)?  Remember Saturday morning cartoons (do they even exist anymore)?  Remember when news programs devoted the majority of their time to reporting actual NEWS?  Remember late night movies, before cable when the only time you could catch a movie on TV was on the local channels after the 11:00pm news?  I remember all those TV ads where you could order stuff like the Mr. Microphone (Hey, good lookin'!  I'll be back to pick you up later.), the Super Slicer (It slices!  It dices!  It juliennes fries!), or the "Hey Love" compilation of R&B music that you could get in vinyl, cassette, or 8-track tape (Naw, naw, my brotha.  You got to get your own.).  This was all before the internet was a reality in most homes and you had to either send a check or money order to the address shown on the TV, or pick up the phone and call the 1-800 number they give you.  Sure it took 6 to 8 weeks to get your order, but once you got it, boy were you proud of yourself.  You saw something on TV you wanted, took the initiative and ordered it, and once you got it you immediately threw it in a corner where it's been collecting dust ever since.  Back when I was living at home I remember my mom ordered one of those "Bloomin' Onion Makers" in my house.  You know, the thing where you can make those Bloomin' Onions like they sell at Outback Steak House?  To date not only does this device have yet to produce so much as one bloomin' onion, I defy anyone in the family to tell me where it is.  But I digress.

Let's be real, here.  The rollout of the healthcare.gov website where people were supposed to go to sign up for health insurance coverage via Obamacare (say it proud, folks) was a hot mess to say the least.  The site has been glitch-prone from the beginning, giving plentiful ammo to haters who just can't face the fact that Obamacare is settled law.  Republicans, as they always do when they can't get their way, are holding hearings on why the site isn't working, which is somewhat ironic given they never wanted Obamacare to work in the first place.  They're also calling for HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign.  The sad thing is that this is all that Republicans have now.  None of their phony outrage has anything to do with the actual merits of Obamacare.  All of the yelling and screaming is over a website.  And the worse part is that there is an alternative.  Just pick up a freaking phone and call someone.

Now given that we're raising a whole generation of people who can only communicate via 140 character "tweets", I understand that vocal communication can be a bit daunting for some.  But again, we used to do it before the age of Twitter and Facebook and smartphones.  So for those of you who still want to sign up for Obamacare, but are a bit intimidated with having to go old-school by dialing a number and actually talking to someone, let this step-by-step guide show you how easy and painless it is to order something over the phone.


  1. Find your phone.  Chances are you're probably reading this blog post on it, but for those of you who don't have smartphones and/or are still using land-lines (so 20th century) it may look something like one of the pictures seen above.
  2. Pick up the receiver.  This is the part that detaches from the rest of the phone (called the base).  The top part of the receiver is called the speaker.  This is the part that you put to your ear.  The bottom part is called the microphone.  This is the part that you talk into so that the person on the other end can hear you.  If you're using a smartphone, the entire phone is the receiver so you're good.
  3. (Land-line users) Place the speaker of your receiver to your ear.  You should hear a low pitched hum.  This is called a dial-tone.  If you don't hear it, you're probably holding the receiver upside down.  Turn it around.  If you still don't hear a dial-tone, then you're probably trying to talk into your shoe and you should go back to step 1.  If you're a smartphone user, just punch up the phone function on your screen.
  4. Using the keypad on the base of your phone (or on the screen of your smart phone) press the following numbers in the order seen here: 1,8,0,0,3,1,8,2,5,9,0.  (Note: If your phone has a rotary dial instead of a keypad, then to dial a number just place your index finger in the corresponding numbered slot, spin the dial as far as it will go, then release it.  Do this for each number in the above series.)
  5. With the speaker part of the receiver to your ear, you should now hear an intermittent buzzing.  This indicates the phone at the HealthCare.Gov headquarters is ringing.  After a couple of rings, you'll hear the sound of someone picking up that phone and a voice will say something like "HealthCare.gov.  How may I help you?"  This strange and interesting sound is an actual human being talking to you through the telephone at their end.
  6. To communicate back to the person talking to you, you will need to actually open your mouth and talk back to them.  Typing on a keyboard, or attempting to text them will not work.  You will need to hold an actual verbal conversation with them.  This is what we used to call a dialogue back in the day when people actually spoke to each other on the phone instead of just texting.  This particular dialogue, depending on the information needed could take from 30 minutes to a hour or so.  Once the dialogue is finished, you will be officially signed up for the health care exchanges via Obamacare.
This is how we used to do things before the internet, before the world-wide-web, before Twitter and Facebook and Instagram seemingly robbed us of the ability to hold a business conversation to acquire goods and services.  Listening to congress lose it's shit over a website failure, especially when there's an alternative, you just have to ask.  When did we get to this point.  When did we get to a place where people just can not function without a website telling them what to do?  When did it become the "in-thing" to isolate ourselves to the point where we can only view the world through a screen?  I don't know about you, but given a choice when shopping for health insurance, I'd much rather talk to a human being anyway rather than a website.  But then again, I'm old school that way.

Again, the 800 number for HealthCare.gov - 1-800-318-2590.