- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2013

For weeks, Capitol Hill lawmakers have heard stories of both frustration and success from folks back home trying to sign up for Obamacare. Now, lawmakers have their own tales to share.

Sen. Tom Coburn, a medical doctor, said he is at wit’s end after his attempts to sign up, as the law requires him and every other member of Congress to do.

“It’s a complete failure for me,” said the Oklahoma Republican, noting that he has tried for days. “It won’t let you progress. It freezes up.”

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He said he knows how to work a computer just fine, but he’s got staff looking into it now.

“Eighteen times for me, and that’s enough,” he said.

Others, though, have had better luck, with Democrats who pushed the law to passage in 2010 seemingly more likely to report success than Republicans.

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“It’s gone pretty good,” Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, said. “Everything’s fine.”

Then there are the procrastinators, who say they’ll get to it this week, or at least before the Dec. 9 deadline.

The Affordable Care Act requires Capitol Hill lawmakers and staffers in their official congressional offices to forfeit their government-sponsored health care plans and enroll in state-based insurance exchanges. The goal was to make lawmakers experience what many Americans face in the individual marketplace.

They are supposed to shop on the District of Columbia’s small-business exchange, choosing from among 112 options in the gold-tier level of health care plans, according to guidance from the Obama administration. Unlike most other exchange users, the lawmakers will continue to have their employers — in this case, taxpayers — pay for most of their premiums.

Sen. Mark Begich, Alaska Democrat who faces re-election next year, announced last week that he had enrolled in Alaska’s federally run exchange. By opting for his home state’s exchange, he will not be eligible for any federal subsidy.

By many accounts, the D.C.-run exchange is working much better than its federal counterpart. Employees working with the House and Senate have reported “very positive feedback in terms of the number of choices, the range of prices, and the relative ease of using the system,” D.C. Health Link spokesman Richard Sorian said.

Nonetheless, Republican disgust with President Obama’s reforms and the rampant glitches that have wreaked havoc with the federal website, HealthCare.gov, loom over the task.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, joked he might outsource the job “to the Chinese, who hack into everything else — see if they can get me in.”

Sen. Bob Corker Tennessee Republican, reported that he was able to set up a profile during his last attempt, but couldn’t get much further into the process.

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