New advertisements promoting Obamacare by Health and Human Services (HHS) claim Healthcare.gov is "very easy to use" despite a flood of reports about glitches and a dearth of users being able to actually access the site and purchase insurance.
President Barack Obama held a press conference on Monday in defense of his health care law, saying it is "not just a website," which has been under scrutiny for its disastrous rollout since Oct. 1.
Coverage of the site has been largely negative, with pundits and reporters alike at news outlets from the Washington Post to the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times noting the problems with the website.
However, HHS is out with new ads touting its success, which feature two individuals who have received media attention for beating the odds to sign up in their states.
"I couldn’t wait for the Health Insurance Marketplace to open," said Deborah, from Portsmouth, N.H.
"The site was very easy to use, and the customer service representatives were patient and helpful," she said.
The woman was identified online as Deborah Lielasus, 54, a self-employed grant writer, who has written grants for HHS and other government agencies. Her process for enrolling was not as smooth as the ad suggests.
According to the Associated Press, Lielasus was only able to create an account before the website crashed on Oct. 2.
"As a grant writer who does a lot of research on federal Web sites, Deborah Lielasus was impressed by how easy it was to use the new online insurance market that launched Tuesday—until it stopped working," the report said.
"They're telling me the system is down at the moment," Lielasus said.
Lielasus told the Washington Free Beacon that enrolling took several days.
"On the first day, I was only able to register for an account but two or three days later, I was able to submit an application and enroll," she said in an email.
Lielasus said her experience with Healthcare.gov was "primarily positive."
"I expected some technology glitches in a rollout of this magnitude, particularly on the first day when the site was flooded with reporters as well as individuals trying to enroll," she said.
Lielasus appears to be one of the few who have successfully enrolled in New Hampshire. An Obamacare Navigator tried to sign up 45 people during the first week, "but she wasn’t able to enroll anyone online because of the glitches," according to the Concord Monitor.
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) said her constituents are frustrated with the website, and is asking HHS to disclose the number of people who have actually signed up.
"Having received significant negative feedback about Obamacare from New Hampshire citizens, who in many cases have been unable to access the exchanges and report being unable to keep their doctors, there is an urgent need for answers," Ayotte said in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Lielasus said that she does not recall who contacted her to be in the video for HHS, only that, "I believe I was approached for the video to share my personal story."
A second HHS video features Daniel McNaughton, who was the only person able to sign up for health insurance during Obamacare’s first week, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
McNaughton said in his ad that with Healthcare.gov it was "pretty easy" to shop for insurance.
"I already had health insurance, but I just wanted to see if I could do a little bit better on the health insurance marketplace, and I did," he said. "Once I was on the site, it was pretty easy for me to compare plans. I was able to pick a much higher quality plan, and because of my income as a student, I only pay about 70 bucks a month for it."
"Getting coverage this good, at this price, I’m thrilled," McNaughton said. "And hey, I’m covered. "
On Facebook, McNaughton posted a link to the plan he signed up for, which includes a $3,000 deductible, which doubles to $6,000 out-of-network. McNaughton, a 22-year-old male, will have maternity care covered, an "essential benefit" mandated by the health care law.
According to his Facebook page, McNaughton is a member of "Lee County Florida for Obama," and he "likes" the Department of Health and Human Services, and Healthcare.gov. He also worked as a Legislative Intern to Democratic State Senator Dave Aronberg in Florida, according to his Linkedin page.
Because he only makes $15,000 a year, McNaughton is eligible for a subsidy and will pay about $70 per month, according to the Sentinel.
McNaughton is one of the few Floridians who have successfully signed up for Obamacare. The Miami Herald calls enrollees "urban legends."
McNaughton was one of only two people found by the Herald, which solicited readers for stories of enrollees in the first weeks after the launch.
"Nearly two weeks after the federal government launched the online Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov, individuals who have successfully used the choked-up website to enroll for a subsidized health insurance plan have reached a status akin to urban legend: Everyone has heard of them, but very few people have actually met one," they said.