More Than 100K Submit Exchange Applications on First Day, HHS Says
About 100,000 U.S. residents submitted applications for coverage through HealthCare.gov on the first day of the Affordable Care Act's second open enrollment period, according to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the Washington Post's "Post Politics" reports (Zezima, "Post Politics," Washington Post, 11/16).
The second open enrollment period began Saturday and ends on Feb. 15 (California Healthline, 11/13). Residents from 37 states use HealthCare.gov to enroll in coverage, while 13 states and Washington, D.C., operate their own exchanges (Armour/Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal, 11/14).
According to The Hill's "Briefing Room," the federal exchange site's performance during the launch of the second open enrollment period was significantly improved from the site's glitch-filled rollout during the initial open enrollment period last year, when only six U.S. residents were able to enroll in coverage (Sullivan, "Briefing Room," The Hill, 11/16).
Details of Second Open Enrollment Launch
Burwell on Saturday said that about 1.2 million U.S. residents had used the federal insurance exchange site's "window shopping" feature to view their plan options since the launch of the tool (McCabe, The Hill, 11/15).
Meanwhile, Burwell told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that on the first day of the second open enrollment period:
- More than 500,000 U.S. residents logged onto HealthCare.gov; and
- More than 100,000 calls were placed to the federal call center to assist individuals with enrollment ("Briefing Room," The Hill, 11/16).
Burwell said, "I think the vast majority of people coming to [HealthCare.gov] were able to get on and do what they had to do" ("Post Politics," Washington Post, 11/16).
In addition, enrollment officials in several states that use HealthCare.gov for enrollment, including Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas, also reported "mostly smooth experiences" with the open enrollment launch, according to the New York Times.
Some Experience HealthCare.gov Issues
Meanwhile, despite a smoother overall enrollment process, some HealthCare.gov users did report minor snags, the Times reports.
For example, some consumers experienced issues:
- Logging into their accounts;
- Remembering their usernames;
- Retrieving or resetting their passwords; and
- Verifying their identity via the identity proofing process (Pear/Goodnough, New York Times, 11/15).
According to HHS, "Many returning consumers had not reset their passwords from earlier this year when all consumers needed to reset" and that "[a] common mistake people are making is using their email address as their login when they may have started their account with a username instead."
HHS added, "There have also been some cases in which consumers did not have their passwords restored because of simple miscommunication," such as call enter employees inaccurately transcribing the email addresses of consumers seeking to retrieve or reset their passwords (New York Times, 11/16).
According to the Times, some consumers at enrollment events held across the U.S. were able to complete their coverage applications in about 30 minutes. However, the snags caused some applications to take around 90 minutes or led individuals to leave the events with plans to complete their in-person enrollment attempts at a later date (New York Times, 11/15).
Meanwhile, some stakeholders noted that the federal exchange could face future challenges, including spikes in traffic near the Dec. 15 deadline for existing exchange plan enrollees to make changes to their coverage prior to 2015 and the Feb. 15 end of open enrollment.
In addition, insurers have expressed concerns about not being notified when consumers switch to other insurance plans, which might result in some individuals being billed for two health plans in 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Some State-Run Exchanges Experience IT Issues
Further, some state-run exchanges reported several technological problems that occasionally stalled enrollment, the Journal reports (Armour et al., Wall Street Journal, 11/16).
Washington state officials on Saturday took down the state-run exchange website shortly after its launch after finding that the site was incorrectly calculating consumers' insurance subsidies (New York Times, 11/15).
Officials restored the site by Sunday morning and planned to reach out to the hundreds of state residents who received incorrect calculations to provide them with accurate subsidy information, according to the Journal.
Meanwhile, Lawrence Miller, director of Vermont's health reform implementation efforts, said while the state's exchange site had some initial technical problems, they were fixed on Saturday.
In addition, California's state-run exchange, called Covered California, experienced issues that prevented consumers using the site from shopping for new plans or choosing coverage options for more than an hour prior to being fixed.
Covered California spokesperson Amy Palmer said, "We have no reason to believe website problems were interfering with enrollment for the vast majority of our consumers. There were some bumps and we worked to repair those" (Wall Street Journal, 11/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.