Healthcare.gov Quietly Drops Online Chat Customer Service
7:05 AM, Mar 18, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Healthcare.gov has eliminated the web chat customer service option. Sometime around the beginning of March, the online chat feature that has been present since Healthcare.gov was launched disappeared. Although previous posts on the Healthcare.gov blog still refer to the "live chat" feature, the ubiquitous blue box in the lower right corner of most pages on the site is gone.
Here is an example of how the "Live Chat" button previously appeared:
There is even a cached page at Archive.org that shows the now obsolete chat window. But the address for the chat window, https://www.healthcare.gov/chat, is now automatically redirected to the Contact Us page.
That same Contact Us page provides the most obvious evidence of the removal of the chat feature. A cached version of the page from February 28 appears this way. The lower left box says that "Online Chat" is a "great way to get quick questions answered. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." Note the "live chat" button in the lower right corner as well:
On the next available cached version of the page, March 5, four boxes have become three. Online Chat is gone:
While the dropping of the live chat feature passed without mention, Julie Bataille, director of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), alluded to a change in a February 27 post at the Health and Human Services (HHS) Digital Strategy blog, saying that "we will transition 1500 service representatives from web chat to direct telephone assistance where they can help consumers with enrollment 24/7." Bataille did not indicate that web chat was being abandoned altogether.
HHS further noted in a blog post on March 11 that with 20 days to go in open enrollment, the agency was making "consumer improvements" and "staffing up." The improvements included streamlining the account creation process, adding new "help text" for common questions, and adding system capacity to handle the expected increase in volume as the deadline nears. "Staffing up" consisted of adding 2,000 phone representatives to answer calls at the 24/7 customer service number, and increased training for all representatives. It is unclear if that 2,000 includes the 1,500 transfers from the now defunct live chat service.
The removal of live chat is not the first time Healthcare.gov has made undocumented changes to the site:
HHS has not responded to an email inquiry about the removal of the live chat feature from Healthcare.gov.
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