Open enrollment on the federal HealthCare.gov site kicked off relatively smoothly in many parts of the nation Saturday, although there were reports in some areas that consumers and brokers had problems logging into accounts.
Healthcare.gov launched amid much anticipation after last year’s botched rollout.. Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 23,000 people had submitted applications in the first eight hours.
Just as the federal log in issues appeared resolved Saturday afternoon, issues on state-run sites cropped up.
Across the U.S. state-run exchanges were having mixed success enrolling people. Washington state had to take its exchange offline to resolve a problem in which 2015 tax credit amounts were being incorrectly calculated for customers. In Colorado, plans that include cost-sharing subsidies weren’t showing up for broker Louise Norris, who also got frequent error messages as she navigated the site.
At least she was able to enroll customers. Brokers at the Health Insurance Store of Louisiana in Baton Rouge weren’t able to do that until early afternoon. Owner Will Chapman says none of the 10 agents or their clients could log into accounts until about 1 p.m. CT Saturday.
“We’d go in with an e-mail account, set up an account, verify it and create a password, but when go back to actually log in with that information, it says your password is invalid,” says Chapman.
After a lengthy wait on hold for the call center around midday, Chapman says, they were told the problem was systemwide.
“The vast majority of users are having a smooth experience during the first day of Open Enrollment on HealthCare.gov as they fill out applications, browse and enroll in plans,” HHS spokesman Aaron Albright said in an e-mailed statement. “We expect to experience the normal issues that any other complicated technology project does upon launch and have seen a small number so far.”
Albright said the department “will continue to work every day to make the consumer experience simpler and easier.”
Three USA TODAY staff members created accounts in Virginia on Saturday morning. One of the three was blocked from logging in, just as the agents in Louisiana experienced, After a five-minute wait on hold, a call center employee unlocked the account but warned it couldn’t be logged into for another two hours.
After 2½ hours, attempts to log into the account again failed, so the password was reset again — to no avail.
After a USA TODAY reporter’s third call to the call center after password changes failed to make log in possible, the woman answering the phone said she needed to send the case to “an advanced resolution specialist” who would call back “within five to seven business days.”
• In Des Moines, it took Vicki Wood, 44, about two hours to buy insurance through the federal insurance exchange Saturday at a community center in Des Moines. Wood encountered one glitch with HealthCare.gov. When she tried to create an account, the website logged her out, but after about 10 minutes on the phone with a call center operator, her information was recovered and she logged back in. “That was kind of shocking,” Wood said. “I figured I’d be there all day.” Wood said she meant to buy insurance through the exchange last year but found HealthCare.gov daunting.”When I did get to the website, there was just so much there,” she said. “I knew I needed to get signed up, but I was overwhelmed.”
• In Illinois, Jason Montrie, president of Land of Lincoln Health, a CO-OP in Illinois, said Saturday morning that “the web traffic we’re seeing is significant,” and his CO-OP’s call center has been busy. Illinois uses healthcare.gov, but also has a partner site called Get Covered Illinois. He said the Healthcare.gov “experience has significantly improved.” However, an agent in Allen Wishner’s Chicago-area insurance office dealing with healthcare.gov spent 1½ hours on the national call center with a client, trying to get his identity verified.
• Ohio also uses the federal HealthCare.gov. Kevin Schlotman of CAI Insurance Agency in Cincinnati didn’t have many problems — or business. He got some calls from people who wanted to learn more about ACA plans, he said. Schlotman was on the HealthCare.gov site Saturday and said “it was a little slow, but not over-the-top. I got on there at 9 a.m., and I didn’t have any trouble moving around on the site.”
• In North Carolina, enrollment in HealthCare.gov seemed to be working fine, said Kellan Moore, executive director of Care Share Health Alliance, who was among the advocates helping people enroll at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville.
• The state-run Minnesota exchange, MNsure, appeared to be working more smoothly than a year ago, when many enrollees encountered delays and technical problems. The site had about 6,000 unique visitors in the first two hours after the enrollment period started, said Joe Campbell, MNsure spokesman. The call center, which was operating with extra staff, had wait times of a minute or less. MNsure staff were able to fix some remaining technical obstacles with the exchange in the past week, Campbell said. “It looks like the majority of those have been resolved and nothing is keeping people from getting through.”
• In Kentucky, Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, reported traffic was a little slower than last year, but that consumers were stopping by a new kynect retail store in Lexington since its opening on Thursday and using a new mobile app, which allows people to browse but not actually enroll in plans. There were no complaints about glitches or problems with the website. About 5,000 people conducted preliminary screenings and 368 were newly enrolled in a qualified health planby 4 p.m.. According to state officials, there were 6,200 unique visitors to the state’s kynect website viewing 158,000 pages. “Kentucky is the hand-down national leader in helping people access affordable health care. Our exchange… is the gold standard for ease of use and convenience,” Gov. Steve Beshear said in a press release.
• In Colorado, broker Norris is recommending that people with incomes under 250% of the federal poverty limit hold off on enrolling because the plans with cost-sharing subsidies are likely their best bet. For others, things were working, but slowly. “We had one enrollment that didn’t seem like it was submitting properly, but when we logged out and then logged back it, the finished enrollment was showing up in the system,” says Norris, who is also a writer. “Patience goes a long way.”
In was far worse in Washington state. An exchange review discovered that the state’s eligibility system and its Washington Healthplanfinder were providing inaccurate tax credit amounts.
“…The Exchange and Department of Social & Health Services staff will be working closely together to identify the solution and hope to have the site back up as soon as possible,” Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said in a statement.