Obamacare: The Reboot


Hollywood, in all its timid lack of creativity, likes nothing better than a reboot. That is, taking some beloved old TV or movie, slapping a fresh coat of paint on it -- usually in the form of a big budget and some big names -- and calling it new.

Sometimes, you get epic popcorn fare like 2009's Star Trek. It might not have been the best Trek movie ever, but the new actors stayed true to old beloved characters, and brought youth back to a franchise that had long gone geriatric.

Other times, you get The Avengers. I don't mean the Best. Superhero. Movie. EVER., helmed by Joss Whedon and starring the best of Marvel's movie lineup, including Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders…

Mmm, Cobie Smulders.

Yeah, she does.

Sorry. I got distracted there.

What I do mean is the 1998 movie reboot of the classic '60s British television series, The Avengers. In that one, we had the horribly miscast Ralph Fiennes playing Patrick Macnee's dashing John Steed with all the charisma of a wet boot. It also starred the horribly miscast Uma Thurman as Diana Rigg's super-sexy Emma Peel with all the sex appeal of, well, a wet boot. Together, Fiennes and Thurman produced the same sparks as one brick laid down in the vicinity of another brick. Director Jeremiah S. Chechik went on to have a long career of directing handfuls of episodes of TV shows you probably don't remember all that well.

This weekend, Obamacare's troubled HealthCare.gov portal received its long-awaited reboot.

Are the results more Star Trek, or more The Avengers?

I'll walk you through what I went through on Sunday morning. I was fortunate to have picked Sunday for my little adventure, because HealthCare.gov was taken down for 11 hours during Saturday's reboot. I'm trying very hard not to let that failure color any of my perceptions. The site also didn't crash on me like it did for CNN on Sunday, so I had that going for me, which was nice.

The new (and improved?) site is bereft of Vaguely Ethnic Smiling Woman, replaced instead by four friendly looking icons which could have come right out of Apple's polarizing iOS7 mobile operating system. Whether that's beauty or not is in the eye of the beholder. My employer provides a plan I like, which I intend to keep so long as The Authorities will allow, so I clicked on "See Plans Now." Everybody window shops on the web, and HealthCare.gov should be no different.

The next page came up very quickly. In part that's because I spring for a top-of-the-line internet connection, but mostly it's because that page is just static text and the typical social media sharing buttons. In other words, my shopping experience begins with one of the oldest web features ever: The dreaded FAQ. Amazon.com, this ain't.

The headline question is, "How can I see Marketplace health plans and prices before I fill out an application?" The short version of the answer is: "You can't." The long version says that I can "preview Marketplace health plans and prices available in your area. But to find out the actual costs for your personal situation, you need to apply."