October 21, 2013

Experts called in to try to fix health care website

President Obama will address the site’s technical problems today.

By Amy Goldstein
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Self-employed photographer Michael Weaver works the sidelines of a high school football game in Jerseyville, Ill., on Friday night. It took him about a week and a half, but Weaver kept going back to the HealthCare.gov website until he opened an account and applied for a tax credit that will reduce his health care premiums. For the first time Sunday, the White House appealed for people to report their interactions with the exchange.

The Associated Press

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That raises concerns that the frustrations may discourage healthy people, who may be less motivated to sign up in the first place. Because they need relatively little medical treatment, these healthy enrollees are crucial to ensuring the financial stability of the insurance marketplace.

There is political pressure, as well. On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to conduct a hearing on the exchange’s rocky debut. Republicans are calling for the ouster of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has indicated that she has a schedule conflict that prevents her from appearing at the hearing. HHS officials say they are trying to cooperate with the committee in other, unspecified ways.

The Republican naysaying has taken on new significance now that the exchange has been launched. The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to carry health insurance, starting in January. And the new insurance marketplaces – the one run by the federal government and the 14 others operated by states – are intended as the primary way to make coverage more available and affordable for many of the nation’s uninsured.

Federal estimates have suggested that 7 million Americans may sign up in the first year of open enrollment, which extends until March 31.

The administration has not released data on how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange; officials say they will disclose initial figures in November.

The administration has said that nearly a half-million Americans have filed applications for insurance through the federal and state exchanges. Applying is an early step in the process, in which people submit, for instance, information needed to determine whether they qualify for federal subsidies. Only after their application is accepted can they shop for health plans in their areas and go on to enroll in plans.

The HHS spokesman said that, as of Saturday, 19 million people had looked at the exchange since it opened on Oct. 1. That compares with 8.6 million who visited the site in its first 31/2 days.

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