With All the Speed and Efficiency of the DMV
The problems of HealthCare.gov are the material for future legends. Three years ago when Obamacare was passed, many of us predicted future health care would be run with all the speed and efficiency of the DMV. Today, sadly, I can report this is true.
The Beginning: Renew a Drivers License Online
Before starting work today (Saturday, November 30, 2013), I decided to renew my lovely wife’s drivers license. California DMV gave her the option to renew online, most likely because she’s a terrific driver. “How hard could that be?” I thought. Big mistake.
I have renewed our car registrations online for years. The process is fairly straightforward, albeit oriented toward those who renew multiple vehicles in one session. For example, you have to add your renewal to a shopping cart, then pay at checkout. Personally, I never have more than one item in the cart, so this part of the process just adds a few steps I don’t need. But I usually manage to complete the process in less than 10 minutes, far easier than actually visiting the DMV and cheaper than mailing a check.
But renewing a drivers license is a different. You must first register on the DMV website. This actually makes sense because, after all, a drivers license is an official piece of government-issued identification. But the woes that ensued are incredible.
First the registration form:
On Safari, that black text on the darn blue background is nearly unreadable — especially the parts of the text covered by the banner in the right sidebar. But if you look closely you’ll see this:
Wow. Your password must contain FOUR letters of the alphabet? And you have to guess that because the end of the first line in the second paragraph is blocked by the banner. (Data blurred to protect me.) Reminds me of this:
At least the security questions have a few that I could actually answer:
Once (if) you finish the registration process you are informed that a confirmation e-mail is en route:
The e-mail arrived promptly and I clicked the link. Done, right? Ready to login? Not so fast.
I foolishly tried to log in after confirming my e-mail. That’s because the DMV screen said my account was “awaiting activation.”
And I saw this:
I tried typing in the login details a couple of times, then gave up and went through the entire registration process again. But there was something different. When I retrieved the second confirmation e-mail I noticed an earlier unread message from DMV.
That’s right — activating your account requires clicking a link in the second e-mail, which is never mentioned on the “awaiting activation” screen earlier.
I finally managed to log in and renew my lovely wife’s drivers license. Then I decided to write this blog entry. I decided to just set up an account for myself. “Should be simple now that I know where the hoops are located,” I thought. Silly me.
I went through the entire process, including trying to enter a user name that was already taken. Of course you don’t find that out until you click the “Register” button:
At which point you get to fill in a new user name, your password, and the answers to both security questions. I have no idea why the security question answers are blanked out when you make a mistake (like selecting a user name that’s already taken).
But I persisted, waiting for the second confirmation e-mail, clicking all the confirmation links and doing the whole process. But guess what? When I tried to log in I was informed that my information was wrong. I tried a couple of times. There was no warning about the number of attempts remaining. But I suddenly saw this:
But don’t worry. Healthcare.gov will work just fine. Someday. Maybe.
 Department of Motor Vehicles, specifically the California version at http://www.dmv.ca.gov.