Obamacare 101: Seven ways you can sign up, despite Web woes

On Oct. 21, President Obama acknowledged the technical problems with the Obamacare website, which launched on Oct. 1 to enable people who don’t already have health insurance to shop for it. Although he talked about the importance of fixing HealthCare.gov, he also emphasized that Americans have other ways of signing up for insurance.

“[On Oct. 20], we updated the website’s home page to offer more information about the other avenues to enroll in affordable health care until the online option works for everybody,” he said.

So what are those avenues? Here are seven options you may want to know about.

A computer frame grab shows the HealthCare.gov website displayed Oct. 11, 2013.

1. Pick up the phone

The government says it’s been staffing up call centers in a bid to keep wait times short. "You can get your questions answered by real people, 24 hours a day, in 150 different languages. The phone number for these call centers is 1-800-318-2596," Mr. Obama said.

Be ready to provide things such as your Social Security number, income level (it can help to have a W-2 form or wage stub in hand), and information about any current health insurance that anyone in your household has through an employer.

You’ll still want to do some homework – including perhaps browsing informational portions of HealthCare.gov – to help with decisions. You may have important choices among insurers or about the trade-offs in the pricing of plans based on premiums and deductibles.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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