The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Business

October 7, 2013

The Color of Money: At exchanges, expect glitches

One of the most challenged features of President Obama's health care reform -- the insurance exchanges -- is now taking enrollees.

     Perhaps it was fate that opening day came the same day the federal government shut down. It was a fight in Congress over opening the marketplaces to millions of uninsured Americans that brought us to this point. As it turns out, a rush to the marketplaces resulted in glitches that were bound to occur with a complex new program, let alone one so controversial.

     If you've ever been involved in a major rollout of anything, you know things don't always go as planned. In a speech last week in Maryland, Obama tried to manage people's expectations ahead of opening day.

     "Like any law, like any big product launch, there are going to be some glitches as this thing unfolds," the president said. "Folks in different parts of the country will have different experiences. ... Somewhere around the country, there's going to be a computer glitch and the website's not working quite the way it's supposed to, or something happens where there's some error made somewhere -- that will happen."

     And it did happen.

     The federal government is running the marketplaces in states that elected not to set up an exchange. By 7 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 1, more than 1 million people had visited healthcare.gov, Obama said. As a result, consumers got error messages telling them to wait for a login page.

     Consumers trying to access the online exchanges set up by the states also found delays due to heavy volume. Richard Onizuka, chief executive for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, issued a statement apologizing to shoppers experiencing slow loading times or difficulty completing their applications. The site had to be placed into maintenance mode to correct the issues. Even before Minnesota's exchange opened,  American Indians, who would enroll on the state's marketplace, were told they would have to wait a week to submit an application because the system wasn't calculating their eligibility for subsidies accurately.

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