Ogden man bypasses Affordable Care Act website bug

Published: Monday, Oct. 21 2013 7:45 p.m. MDT

Randall Bennett talks about how he was able to get signed up for health care Monday, Oct. 21, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

OGDEN — A Utah man said he accidentally stumbled upon a way to bypass a bug that's been plaguing the Affordable Care Act website since it launched Oct. 1.

“I actually found this bug in the software where if you log in using a special kind of Web browser in a special mode, you can actually log in anytime,” Randall Bennett said. “This little bug that the government doesn’t really know about, it’s preventing millions of people from being able to log in.”

Bennett, an Ogden resident and founder of VideoPress, said during his attempts to log in he was directed to a white screen and couldn't go forward in the enrollment process.

“Because I’m a nerd, I was able to look into that a little bit," he said. "I figured out this white screen was happening because the Web browser was sending the server some bad information.”

President Barack Obama addressed issues with the site Monday, assuring Americans that specialists are working day and night to allow people to sign up for health insurance.

In his speech, Obama said nobody is more frustrated than he is with the website, which he said has had nearly 20 million visits.

“There's no sugarcoating it,” the president said. “The website has been too slow.”

Bennett's solution was to open a Google Chrome browser in incognito mode, which allows users to browse the Internet without recording the website and download history. It also deletes cookies, or information storage, after a window is closed.

“I was using it for debugging in my software to try something out, as if I were a fresh user," he said.

Bennett said he happened to go back to HealthCare.gov and logged in. The white screen then redirected him to the main page.

Now he, his wife and 2-year-old son are ready for Jan. 1, when their new insurance will go into effect.

Bennett said before signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, he was paying a $420 monthly premium with a $2,000 annual deductible. Now he’ll be paying a $720 premium and a $500 deductible, but his family also will be getting maternity and dental coverage — something the Bennetts couldn't get before.

“The process to even get insurance before was so difficult that surprisingly, even with all the bugs, I still find HealthCare.gov more simple,” Bennett said. “So for us this is a huge win, because we’re paying what we think is fair. And yes it’s more than before, but we actually have coverage that we like now.”

The consumer health assistance program Take Care Utah helps people apply for insurance and understand new options with the help of licensed navigators and certified application counselors, said Randal Serr, program director.

Serr said there's no excuse for the Affordable Care Act website's problems, adding that people shouldn't have to find other methods of accessing the site. But he said those who have persevered and gotten through the application process have found the benefits are worth the wait.

Despite the problems, President Obama reminded the country the website is three weeks into a six-month enrollment period.

“Even with all the problems at HealthCare.gov, the website is still working for a lot of people, just not as quick or efficient or consistent as we want,” he said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, addressed the website's glitches in statement Monday, questioning why the Obama administration hasn't been using the “best and brightest” to work on the new website.

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