Forget the latest iPhone — the servers that crumbled under demand last week are those run by the U.S. federal and state governments. The new Health Insurance Marketplace, a key component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as Obamacare), opened up 1 October 2013, and has so far struggled to keep up with the traffic. Even days later, the site(s) are having trouble, leading to stern criticism from the Washington Post. It’s exciting to see Americans lining up around the virtual block not for an electronic luxury good, but for a core service.
Regardless of your opinions of the law, it’s here, and if you are among the tens of millions of Americans who currently lack health insurance, we encourage you to visit healthcare.gov and see what’s on offer. Overall, the site seems well-designed and stocked with a wide variety of explanatory information. (For the record, we have no interest in debating the 906-page law itself — or its potential ramifications — since it’s sufficiently massive and far-reaching that any non-expert debate is likely to render the Onion’s parody coverage closer to truth than fiction.)
On healthcare.gov, after answering a question about your state of residency, you’ll either be directed to your state’s marketplace, or, if your state hasn’t established one, the federal marketplace. And if you can’t get through right away, try again in a day or two. Enrollment is open until 31 March 2014 and coverage will begin 1 January 2014. An individual mandate to obtain health insurance is set to go into place in 2014, with penalties of up to $95 per adult who declines coverage. The penalty is scheduled to rise to $695 per adult in 2016.