New and returning customers to Healthcare.gov this year will have one less option if they run into difficulties. In the run-up to the initial launch in 2013, the Obamacare website promoted a "live chat" feature in addition to the toll-free phone number to be available 24/7 to answer questions:
This year, however, the "contact us" page on the site includes only a phone number, and the "blue box" mentioned in the excerpt above is nowhere to be seen.
The online chat feature actually disappeared without fanfare back in the spring of 2014 before the first open enrollment period even ended. In February, the change was alluded to in a blog post by Julie Bataille, director of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), noting that "we will transition 1500 service representatives from web chat to direct telephone assistance." There was no mention that the chat feature was being discontinued altogether, and CMS did not respond to a request for comment.
In spite of the fact that the online help feature was dropped more than eight months ago and the site has undergone extensive revamping and reprogramming in the meantime, one artifact of the chat service remains on the site even today (archived here):
While the notice is technically correct that the "Live Chat feature is unavailable right now," a more accurate message would inform customers that Healthcare.gov Live Chat is in fact dead.