HEALTH insurance Pressure mounts to fix exchanges
The pressure is on for the federal government and states running their own health-insurance exchanges to get the systems up and running after overloaded websites and jammed phone lines frustrated consumers for a second day as they tried to sign up for coverage using the new marketplaces.
In some ways, the delays that persisted Wednesday were good news for President Barack Obama and supporters of his signature domestic-policy achievement because the holdups showed what appeared to be exceptionally high interest in the overhauled insurance system. But if the glitches aren’t fixed quickly, they could dampen enthusiasm for the law at the same time Republicans are using it as a rallying cry to keep most of the federal government closed.
“It was worse today than it was yesterday,” Denise Rathman of Des Moines said after she tried for a second day to log onto the Iowa site.
Rathman has insurance through Dec. 31 but said she is eager to sign up for a policy because of her psoriatic arthritis, which has caused her to be denied insurance in the past.
David Berge, a pastor with two young children in Shoreview, Minn., tried unsuccessfully at least 10 times to create an online account on the state-run site MNsure. His high- deductible plan expires at the end of the year.
“I’m anxious to see what the insurance is going to look like for my family at the beginning of the year,” Berge said. “That’s a big unknown right now. I want to figure that out as soon as possible so we can begin planning.”
In California, home to 15 percent of the nation’s uninsured, officials pulled the enrollment portion of the Covered California site down overnight for emergency upgrades. It was restored midmorning Wednesday, and 7,770 people had started applications by then, spokesman Roy Kennedy said.
California is one of a handful of mostly Democratic states that opted to set up their own exchanges rather than let the federal government do it for them. In the 36 states being operated by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, consumer patience was still being tested.
Agency spokeswoman Joanne Peters said many Americans successfully enrolled on the first day, but she declined to put a number on it. She said the delays were due to “overwhelming interest” and high volume.