The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

AP story section

October 24, 2013

Health care sign-up snags, fix-it efforts detailed

(Continued)

For example, technical problems have surfaced that are making it hard for people to complete the application and plan-shopping functions. That’s a big concern because those stages are further along in the signup process than the initial registration, where many consumers have been getting tripped up. The problems are being analyzed and fixes are planned, the department said.

The explanation, posted online in a department blog and accompanying graphic, identified other broad areas of problems and outlined fixes underway but in most cases incomplete:

— Unexpectedly high consumer interest that overwhelmed the system in its initial days. Equipment has been added to handle the load and system design has been improved. More fixes are in progress.

— Lack of a way for consumers to browse their health plan options without first having to set up a user account. A partial fix is in place.

— Incorrect or duplicate information in enrollments is being delivered to insurance companies. Some software fixes that should help address the issue have been completed, others are underway.

— Difficulties for consumers trying to create user accounts, including drop-down menus that didn’t work. Design changes and software fixes should address the situation.

The new markets are supposed to be the portal to coverage for people who don’t get health insurance on the job. Middle-class people are to pick from subsidized private insurance plans, while low-income people are steered to Medicaid in states that agreed to expand that safety-net program.

The federal government is running the online markets in 36 states, and its website has had more than its share of problems. As a result, even Obama has urged consumers to revert to low-tech approaches, by applying through the mail, telephoning federal call centers, or seeking in-person assistance.

On Thursday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will line up contractors, including CGI Federal, the lead developer of the website, and QSSI, which designed a back-room operation known as the federal data services hub. The hub is integral to verifying applicants’ personal information and income details, and the administration says it is working as designed.

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