Enrollment on federal health insurance marketplace suffers under prolonged technical issues
Consumers who do not qualify for subsidies are turning to insurers to enroll in off-exchange health coverage
On Thursday October 31, the U.S House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released details about enrollment on the federal HIX gathered from meeting notes from the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), part of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). However, the figures are not official enrollment statistics.
Notes from a CCIIO meeting the morning of October second, show that only six people were able to sign up for health insurance from 5 issuers through the online marketplace. Those insurers are BCBS NC, BCBS KC, CareSource, and Healthcare Service Corporation (which had two enrollments). By the afternoon of October second, that number was up to 100; and at the morning meeting on October third, it was noted that by the end of day two 248 enrollments were reported. The Obama administration has stated that the federal marketplace will be running smoothly by November 30.
The federal HIX isn’t alone in its technical glitches, states that elected to operate state-based exchanges are also experiencing complications with online enrollment.
Oregon is urging consumers to fill out paper applications. The state-based exchange, which has drawn thousands of visitors, has not been able to enroll a single person online. In response to a question regarding when online signup would be working, @CoverOrgeon tweeted, “No exact date, but ASAP! We are not going to rush out a system that doesn’t meet our standards. We want to get it right!” On the Cover Oregon website, consumers are greeted with a message stating, “Online enrollment is coming soon! Sign-up to receive an email notification when it’s available.”
On October 31, the DC Health Link tweeted, “If you’ve had trouble enrolling, please tell us what the problem was so we can look into the issue.” The exchange has reported some enrollment figures; on October 21, DC Health Link reported that 321 individuals and families had selected a health plan and 164 people had requested an invoice for their first month’s premium.
As consumers repeatedly face difficulties accessing online health insurance exchanges, many are turning to insurer’s websites; contacting carriers directly to enroll in coverage. Those who don’t qualify for subsidies are often enrolling in off exchange plans according to Reuters and when insurers “hear from potential customers who appear to qualify for government subsidized plans, they take phone numbers, create shopping baskets for the plans they like and send them to Healthcare.gov to verify eligibility.”
Despite only selling a few exchange-based health plans through the federal marketplace, Health First Health Plans in Florida says that phones have been ringing “off the hook” since October 1. Jason Alford, director of individual and marketplace sales said that the company “[has] begun taking a number of off-exchange applications,” many of which extend coverage from 2013 into 2014.
A month has passed since the opening of the ACA’s online health insurance marketplaces, and it is still unclear if and when these sites will be able to provide consumers a quick and easy shopping experience.
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Jillian Carlile Research Analyst & Health Exchange know-it-all Strenuus email@example.com
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