WASHINGTON (CNN) — Congress itself is now having so much trouble signing up for the Obamacare exchanges that late Friday the top administrator in the House of Representatives laid out a backup plan in case lawmakers and staff can’t get through the process by the time their enrollment ends Monday.
The red flags started reaching critical mass Thursday and Friday, when some staff and members of Congress tried to enroll through the Washington health exchange, known as DC Health Link, but were unable. The D.C. exchange is the official signup portal for Congress, where members must go to get health care through their job.
“I tried to get on the exchange, so did my staff, but none of us could,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, told CNN. “It’s incredible.”
“I tried to get on the website for over an hour,” echoed Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas.
As a result, Dan Strodel, chief administrative officer for the House of Representatives sent an e-mail Friday night to all members and staff planning to go onto the exchanges. The e-mail, obtained by CNN, stipulates that anyone who tries to get through the D.C. exchange but can’t enroll by the end of the day Monday will have an additional week to contact his office and sign up.
In addition, Strodel took the unusual step of opening up House payroll and benefits offices this weekend so that staffers and members could come in person to see if their enrollment has been confirmed by the DC Health Link.
The Friday notice followed up an internal e-mail, also obtained by CNN, Strodel sent Thursday which laid out the problem bluntly.
“We have made the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and DC Health Link aware of the significant problems preventing Members and staff … from enrolling in a healthcare plan via the DC Health Link website,” the chief administrative officer wrote.
While many offices expressed frustration with signup at the end of the week, a large number of staffers also insisted that the process worked smoothly for them.
Sabrina Singh, an aide to Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, told CNN that she enrolled in the D.C. exchange in 15 minutes Thursday. As has been the case across the Obamacare exchanges, it could have been a problem of peak usage overwhelming the system.
“I know some people were frustrated, but I went later in the day and enrolled with no problem,” Singh said.
Singh admitted that other staffers had trouble getting on the site.
The mixed experience will end Monday one way or the other. The DC Health Link will only allow congressional staffers to sign up until then. After that, anyone who couldn’t enroll in a plan will have to go to the backup plan.