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DC Health Link Glitch Causes Headaches at House Health Fair

On Thursday, with about five days left until the end of open enrollment, House staffers trickled out of the health benefits fair with packets of new insurance information and knowledge of a new roadblock.

Apparently the site is down, so I cant register, said a man who identified himself as a Republican staffer as he waited to catch the elevator on the third floor of the Cannon House Office Building, clutching a packet from Kaiser.

DC Health Link experienced technical difficulties with their website, according to a mass email sent to all Senate staff at 11:32 a.m. The glitch meant employees could learn more about the plans being offered by insurance carriers on the site but not enroll.

Inside the fair, a team of representatives from the Districts insurance exchange market sat behind a folding table with three laptops. One of the computers on the table was open for staffers to use, with at least three DC Health Link employees present to offer direct guidance for confronting error messages and glitches.

Around 1:30 p.m., there were about 15 people in line for the single computer. The queue snaked around the center of the room.

One woman who identified herself as a House Republican staffer said she had been instructed to go back to her office rather than stand in the line and wait for a phone call from DC Health Link to tell her when the glitches were clear.

She told CQ Roll Call that she had tried for two consecutive nights to register but couldnt figure out if her enrollment actually went through.

They werent able to confirm, she said, but she believed she would hear back supposedly today.

Not even Rep. Harold Rogers, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, had been able to sign up as of early Thursday afternoon.

Im trying to get onto the exchange. Im unable to, and weve stood in line down there. Weve been on the telephone, the Kentucky Republican said. Weve got all the lines on hold waiting for them to answer. Its incredible.

One man walked out of the fair in a huff around 3:45 p.m., muttering, Theyre never going to fix this.

The man, who said he worked for a GOP member, had been trying to buy insurance for his family since Wednesday but kept getting error messages.

According to our IT guy, its asking me to download the software they used to build the site, he said, gesturing to a black-and-white screenshot hed printed out to bring to the fair.

By 4 p.m., when the health benefits fair was set to close, people were still waiting in line for the DC Health Link booth.

While representatives from Aetna, Kaiser, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield and United Healthcare packed up their folders and freebies including pens and sticky notes the team from DC Health Link stayed at its table.

As of 5 p.m., an hour after closing time, DC Health Link remained on site.

Asked if the site was working, a woman leaving the fair shrugged and said, sometimes ... its a cluster.

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