October 2, 2013

Pressure mounts to fix health insurance exchanges

The high interest from Americans wanting to buy health insurance is seen as a postive, but website glitches could dampen enthusiasm for the law.

The Associated Press

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An information table is seen at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles as people seek information on state-provided health insurance, while a celebration is underway to inaugurate the first day people can enroll Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Californians who buy their own health insurance and those who have been hoping for coverage began using the state’s online marketplace Tuesday after it opened for business on the first day of enrollment.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

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Debora Costa right, tries to sign up for insurance coverage for her two children, including 2-year-old Victoria, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, with help from Champaign Urbana Public Health District employee Alice Cronenberg in Champaign, Ill. Costa, who recently moved to Illinois from Brazil with her graduate-student husband and children, found after about 10 minutes that she didn’t have all the information she would need to sign up.

AP Photo/David Mercer

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“It almost reminded me of going online and trying to buy Springsteen tickets,” said Schorr, a self-employed accountant who works for her husband’s recruiting firm in Orange, Ohio.

Others simply resorted to old-fashioned pen and paper.

Luis Veloz, a college student in Dallas, was so eager to have insurance that he had already mailed in a paper application by Tuesday night. He is hoping to avoid racking up major bills like his parents, who incurred $250,000 in debt when his father had a heart attack.

“It’s an exciting moment because my family has never had preventative care,” Veloz said.

Workers at the Florida Association of Community Health Centers printed out applications ahead of time.

“We don’t care about the politics. This is about people so we were trying to make it easy for the patients,” President and CEO Andy Behrman said.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, said the law also known as Obamacare was working well because his state embraced the health reform law early on instead of fighting it. The state received 373 applications for coverage by the end of Tuesday.

“Because we took the time and effort to be ready, to handle the calls, to have our ducks in a row if you will, we are in far better shape than those states and governors that have turned their back on this historic program and historic offering,” Malloy said.

The Obama administration hopes to sign up 7 million people during the first year. Using an expansion of Medicaid or government-subsidized plans, the White House would eventually like to cover at least half of the nearly 50 million Americans who are uninsured.

Many states expect people to sign up closer to the Dec. 15 deadline to enroll for coverage starting Jan. 1. Most customers will need to pay the first month’s premium when they do, which could lead them to put off choosing, said Bob Dickes, director of sales and marketing for the nonprofit insurer Oregon’s Health CO-OP.

“I expect people to shop and see what’s out there,” Dickes said

Customers have until the end of March to sign up to avoid tax penalties.

Under the law, health insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to someone with a pre-existing medical condition and cannot impose lifetime caps on coverage. They also must cover a list of essential services, ranging from mental health treatment to maternity care.

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Additional Photos

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Alberto Pizon, right, a representative of Anthem BlueCross BlueShield Latino Health Access group provides free information to Paulino Zarate, 65, left, on the new health options available during a health fair promoted at the Binational Health Week event held at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Thousands of Californians seeking to buy their own health insurance flooded call centers with questions and overloaded the state’s online marketplace Tuesday on the first day of a new federal health care law that will dramatically change the way Americans buy health insurance.

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

click image to enlarge

A counselor uses a tablet to show various health plans available at an information table at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles as people seek information on state-provided health insurance, while a celebration is underway to inaugurate the first day people can enroll Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Californians who buy their own health insurance and those who have been hoping for coverage began using the state’s online marketplace Tuesday after it opened for business on the first day of enrollment.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

 


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