If Franz Kafka were writing in 21st-century Massachusetts, he might have penned a tale like this:
J., an educated and technologically capable man, went online to the state’s “health information portal” hoping to create an electronic account for Commonwealth Care, a subsidized insurance plan. He entered his name, social security number and date of birth. But the site spat back at him, “ReferenceError: Can’t find variable: ActiveXObject.” He tried again, and yet again. Finally, he called the functionaries responsible for the site, and after many minutes untangling the bureaucracy, received this answer: You cannot create an account on a Mac. You cannot use Firefox or Safari or Google Chrome. You can only use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. This is a problem we hope to fix soon.
Sadly, Kafka is not here to do it justice, but this tale is true. When Jeff, a Hyde Park resident, first shared it, I confess that I doubted him. Can’t be! When was the last time I heard of an official Website that could only work with certain browsers? A decade or so ago??
So I tried it, on a Mac. I got the same error message. Try it yourself using Safari, Firefox or Chrome. Here’s the link. Hit the “Log In” button for Commonwealth Care, then try to Create a Login.
I called the Connector, the agency that helps Massachusetts residents shop for and obtain our (mandatory) insurance, and that manages the site that contains the health information portal. To be clear: You can use any browser to shop for and compare insurance on the Connector’s user-friendly site. And you cannot sign up with any browser for the Commonwealth Care program; you have to do it by mail. But if you’re already signed up and want to manage your account, you need Explorer.
Spokesman Richard Powers confirmed that the portal, which launched in June 2010, can only work with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The vendor that created it was Dell, he said. In his words:
“Our vendor’s product was initially written exclusively for Microsoft products and, in that sense, was somewhat outdated. It has always been their intention to upgrade the system to be compatible with other browsers such as Firefox 3.6, Apple Safari 5.0 and Google Chrome 9.0. We’re hoping to have that work completed by the end of the summer.”
Um — “somewhat outdated”??! Flamers, where are you? What do you have to say about a state that creates a Website in A.D. 2010 that cannot interact with any browser but Explorer? Please comment below. I can tell you that in an informal poll of the tech types I know, the word I heard most often was “Ridiculous!” The close runner up was “You’ve got to be kidding!” Though, they say, it’s not at all unheard-of, it’s just outdated.
Again, any browser can be used to explore and shop for insurance on the Connector’s broader site, Richard Powers emphasized. It’s just the “health information portal” — which about 36,000 Commonwealth Care members use to register, pay a premium or change a health plan during open enrollment — that has the browser limitations.
Sounds like a nice, convenient online interface — if you have a PC, that is. Jeff messaged CommonHealth: Continue reading