Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Adventures in Health Insurance, Part 2: CoveredCA Here I Come

So let's see if I got this right. The original contractor blows a high profile rollout, everyone - and I mean everyone - is screaming mad about the lousy software, management panics, and an elite tiger team swoops in to save the day. In the world of health IT, we call that Tuesday.

As I mentioned before, I am actually shopping for insurance right now. I'm in good health and could probably buy insurance on the private market for a bit less than what I've been paying COBRA for the past several months, but I thought I'd wait to see what the exchanges had to offer. This is the story of my adventure on CoveredCA.

I signed up early, was able to compare prices somewhat and already had a login before the October 1st rollout. I finally found the time and motivation to do some for real shopping. It's 7:17pm and I'm logging in.

It's showing the strain of prime time load, the poor thing.

Waiting ten seconds and clicking didn't seem to help, but the APPLY button did take me somewhere useful. The login worked. I was in.
 My first impression is that of a nice, clean layout. I can see right away I've already filled in all the forms (there aren't that many), but then none of the things I want to click are hyperlinked. I'm a very nonlinear user and I like to click on everything. I suspect there's a NEXT button hiding in the corner somewhere, and there is.

It turns out to be a very linear navigation, and by "very" I mean "exclusively." It's next-next-next until you see at least three text regions overlapping each other, like an HTML panel editor threw up in the corner. 
It looks terrible but I just need to click Select Health / Dental Plan so I move on.

I get to my selection of 26 plans, of which I can view exactly three at a time. There's too much real estate at the top being used by navigation links I don't care about right now, leaving precious little room at the bottom for a ridiculously constrained scrolling region containing all the information I really want. In this picture you can see two rows of that.

And here's a collapsed list of all the information you can scroll through down there. If you count you'll see there's a lot. It's all useful and I wish I could view it more easily.

Here's a tip for all you twelve year old kids who want to build web applications like this one: The ideal number of scroll bars on a given page is zero. One is marginally acceptable but if you have two or more they interfere with each other and that's bad. Very bad.

Let's get to the part where I search for my doctor. He's not there. I hope he hasn't left town but when I search by name this is what I get.
And this is what I get when I search for "S"
I point this out not because it's broken, in fact it works perfectly fine. However, that NextLast bugs me. It makes me want to open a text editor and fix it, but I can't, so it's just annoying.

Let me show you a brilliant health care web site.
This is Palo Alto Medical Foundation. They've been pioneers in health web applications from the very beginning so when I say it's a brilliant site I mean it. It's been polished by years of heavy use, tweaks, and overhauls. Notice the clean layout containing lots of information. Everything you think you should click on, you can. From here you can do any number of things, whether logging in or checking urgent care wait times. And what's that at the top of Special Notices? A list of ACA plans. Just what I need!

However, on the CoveredCA site, I can't search by plan name, or much of anything really. I can browse and find the plans easily enough. It browses side to side with lots of stuff to read, here's an example of some of the mouse overs.

Oops, that's no mouse-over. I'm guessing some of the javascript events aren't being picked up by the timeout mechanism. In any case, I have most of what I need so I can call it a day. I know what plan I want and it's a bit cheaper than what I'm paying now. I would like to make double sure all my providers are in network along with a few other minor questions, as is true with any health insurance plan. However it didn't crash, annoyances were constant but didn't stop me, and I'll probably have to talk to someone in person before making a purchase anyway.

In other words, it's working just as well as your average brand new health IT system.

The automatic timeout works, and it is nothing if not secure.


John Barness said...

Thank you for clear information.
I would agree with you. Indeed, there are numerous of offers and all of them ensure that their product would be nice for health care sector. But if come to think, only a few top virtual data room providers can guarantee good quality.

Unknown said...

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