Below is the Secretary’s op/ed
Wherever I go, I meet Americans who tell me how long they’ve been waiting for the security of affordable health coverage.
The new Marketplace is an opportunity for individuals without employer insurance to obtain coverage — with choice and competition that was previously unavailable. Many Americans and their families are eligible for financial assistance to make insurance even more affordable.
Yet, far too many of those who have visitedHealthCare.gov have experienced problems. These problems are unacceptable.
So we’ve been working 24/7 to make improvements, and more consumers are successfully shopping online and enrolling in a health plan each week.
As a result, today’s user experience on HealthCare.gov is a dramatic improvement over where it was on Oct. 1. The site is running faster, it’s responding quicker and it can handle larger amounts of traffic.
Now, there will be exceptions, and (as with any website) we will continue to make improvements. But the system is now working smoothly for the vast majority of users.
There are many ways to sign up for coverage: online, by phone, in person and by mail. In many cases, you can also directly enroll through an insurance company.
To those Americans who have experienced difficulties online: Please do not give up. There is help available. You can call our 24/7 call center at 1-800-318-2596 for assistance in 150 languages. You can also find in-person support in your area(LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov).
For those who prefer to shop online, you may want to visit HealthCare.gov in off-peak hours when there is less traffic — mornings, evenings, or on weekends. Have your information ready when you log on, and comparison shop to get the best deal.
And remember, you have until Dec. 23 to sign up for coverage that will start Jan. 1, and until March 31 to get coverage in 2014.
If you are just learning about your new options, there is consumer friendly information about plans and prices before you apply.
For times when there is high demand, there is a new online queuing system that allows users to opt to receive an e-mail when it’s a better time to come back.
At the end of the day, our goal remains the same: to give every American who wants it the opportunity to obtain quality affordable health coverage.
Kathleen Sebelius is secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.