Run into an Obamacare exchange glitch already? Don't worry.
Reports surfaced within minutes of the launch on Tuesday of the health insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Individuals in 25 states that are using the federally run exchanges saw error messages early in the morning. Other issues have also been reported in state-operated exchanges.
If you encounter a glitch, there are several options that you can take. Here are five possibilities.
1. Call for assistance
There's a toll-free phone number that you can call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, if you have any issues with the Obamacare exchanges. It's 1-800-318-2596. The friendly Obamacare gurus on the other end of the line might be able to talk you through how to resolve the problem you're experiencing. Even if not, you can brighten his or her day with a kind word . I'm sure they'll appreciate it.
2. Go for a drive
No, don't drive if you're angry as a hornet. However, there's a good chance that there are people near you who can help. Insurance agents and Obamacare "navigators" could assist you with enrolling in health insurance, although they might have to use our third alternative below.
3. Take the old-fashioned approach
You can still use an incredibly versatile technology to apply for health insurance that meets all the necessary Obamacare criteria. It's called paper. Application forms can be downloaded or found at libraries, community centers, and other locations. You can also phone in your application using the same number to call for problems -- 1-800-318-2596.
4. Wait until later
There's no reason to be in a huge hurry at this point. Open enrollment with the Obamacare exchanges lasts until March 31. Even if you applied today, the earliest effective date for health insurance you can get is Jan. 1. You can wait a few days, weeks, or even a couple of months and still be in good shape.
5. Give up
Admittedly, this probably isn't your best option, but you could always throw in the towel. You won't get health insurance. And you'll likely have to pay a penalty when you file your federal taxes for 2014, so definitely do the math before taking this route. It's a free country, though. The federal government can tax you for not complying, but that's about it.
Why just survive Obamacare, though? Thriving beats merely surviving any day of the week. And there are ways to thrive with the launch of the exchanges -- especially by buying stocks of companies poised to profit.
One idea is to jump aboard hospital stocks. Day One of the Obamacare exchanges saw shares of HCA Holdings (NYSE:HCA), the nation's largest hospital chain, jump 3%. HCA stands to benefit as millions of uninsured Americans gain health insurance. This wave of enrollees could increase demand while also also reducing the amounts of write-offs for providing care to uninsured patients.
As more individuals obtain health coverage, they're likely to need a few prescription drugs along the way. CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS), the second-largest pharmacy retailer in the U.S., should receive its fair share of these new medication customers. CVS' pharmacy benefits management business could also win as more organizations seek to hold down on prescription drug spending.
You could also go with one of the potentially largest direct beneficiaries of the Obamacare exchanges -- WellPoint (NYSE:ANTM). The insurer is participating in the exchanges of every state where it operates. WellPoint also should pick up additional Medicaid volumes as states expand their Medicaid programs under Obamacare.
Don't let the glitches get you down. And don't just survive. Thrive.