KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Says Marketplaces Overwhelmed By Demand

In remarks in the Rose Garden to mark the opening of these centerpieces of the health law, the president says federal officials are will overcome the technical problems.

USA Today: Traffic Surges, Glitches Mark Exchanges' Debut
The opening of state- and federal-run insurance marketplaces Tuesday saw a combination of huge interest and balky technology that led to a series of glitches, delays and even crashes that marred the first hours of the centerpiece of President Obama's health law (O'Donnell and Kennedy, 10/1).

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Marketplaces Open, Despite Glitches And Shutdown
Online marketplaces at the heart of the health law opened for business Tuesday, often haltingly, as Web-based insurance portals were swamped with consumers who were frequently unable to sign up. The Obama administration declared the launch a success even as it declined to furnish short-term enrollment numbers in the federally run marketplace for 36 states or a timetable for producing them. A snag blocking Web users from signing up was fixed by Tuesday afternoon, said Marilyn Tavenner, head of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Hancock and Rao, 10/1).

Politico: Obamacare's Split-Screen Debut
By mid-afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that 2.8 million unique visitors had been to the Website, though there were no statistics available for how many were actually able to enroll. Some users experienced long waiting periods, and others ran into impediments that likely had little to do with the volume of traffic. ... But HHS, which cited figures of 81,000 consumers calling the department’s toll-free number to sign up and another 60,000 requesting help through online chats, celebrated the fact that the health insurance marketplaces at the heart of Obamacare were in fact open for business Tuesday (Allen, 10/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Exchanges Open For Business
While insurers and exchange officials said interest has been intense and traffic to the sites high, a number of consumers shopping for coverage have been unable to complete the enrollment process, according to insurers and others involved in the rollout. The problem involves a federally run database that determines whether shoppers are eligible for a federal subsidy and verifies their identities, according to a number of insurers and insurance brokers, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Florida Blue and Web-based brokers GetInsured, eHealth Inc. and GoHealth LLC (Weaver, Martin and Radnofsky, 10/1).

The New York Times: High Demand And Technical Snags Slow Debut Of Insurance Marketplaces
Heavy volume contributed to technical problems and delays that plagued the rollout Tuesday of the online insurance markets at the heart of President Obama’s health care law, according to state and federal governments, with officials watching closely for clues to how well the system will work and how many people will take advantage of it. ... New York State’s exchange began operating at 8 a.m. and received 2 million visits in the first hour and a half, “which far exceeds what we were expecting,” said James O’Hare, a spokesman for the state Department of Health. Though some consumers encountered error messages or delays, the site was functioning and processing applications, though how many was not known, he said (Perez-Pena and Pear, 10/1).

The Associated Press: Insurance Markets Open To Surge Of New Customers
The online insurance marketplaces that are at the heart of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul struggled to handle the wave of new consumers Tuesday, the first day of a six-month open-enrollment period. ... Kimberly Shockley — logging in from Houston, Texas — and Mike Weaver, who lives in rural southern Illinois, ran into similar glitches: They could not get past the security questions while trying to set up their personal accounts through "I'm frustrated, very frustrated," said Shockley, a self-employed CPA. She spent more than an hour trying to get the security questions to work Tuesday morning without success. When she clicked on a drop-down menu of suggested security questions, none appeared. She then tried to create her own questions, but that didn't work either (Johnson, 10/1).

The Washington Post: Obamacare Site Goes Live, With Some Glitches
Uninsured Americans around the country showed up at health centers and logged onto government Web sites Tuesday morning in hopes of being among the first to sign up for coverage under the president’s health-care law, but many ran into technical glitches that prevented them from enrolling. Among them was Paula Thornhill, 31, who turned up at the Greater Prince William Community Health Center in Virginia, a couple of her children in tow. Center staff told her the Web site was down, so they could not yet enroll her or tell her how much it would cost. But Thornhill, who is without health insurance, remained hopeful that she would be able to find affordable coverage (Somashekhar and Svrluga, 10/1).

Los Angeles Times: Officials, Unfazed By Shutdown, Launch California Insurance Exchange
Officials at the kickoff of Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, celebrated the "historic" launch of the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act and said they were undaunted by the federal government shutdown. ... The first insurance application was completed in the state at 8:04 a.m., according to Carene Carolan, deputy director of operations for the service center. The Sacramento-area center has around 400 employees, 300 of which will be manning the phones and computers to interact with consumers. Some consumers have reported long wait times on the phone and difficulties accessing the Covered California website. Carolan said there has been a "huge, huge volume of calls," and that the staff was working to adjust to demand (Mason, 10/1).

Kaiser Health News: Language, Knowledge Are Barriers For Immigrants Seeking Insurance In California
As enrollment began around the nation, the scene at this Wesley Health Center underscored one of the major challenges facing officials – overcoming the lack of awareness. Nearly all of the patients in the crowded waiting room were Latino, including several first-generation immigrants. Some had never heard of the new law and few knew that Oct. 1 was the first day of enrollment (Gorman, 10/1).

The Los Angeles Times: Obamacare: Slow Start To First Day Of Signups At County-USC Hospital
It was a quiet morning at L.A. County-USC Medical Center on Tuesday, as signups for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- got underway. Hospital staff were mobilizing to sign up patients for expanded Medi-Cal coverage, but at 9:20 a.m., none had yet arrived at the entrance to the ER, where two men chatted at a bench outside and a few patients sat quietly awaiting care inside. Whether uninsured patients of the county's largest public hospital sign up for coverage under the provisions of the healthcare law -- or not -- could have a major impact on L.A. County's health services system, which currently pays for medical care for uninsured patients who cycle through its three public hospitals and network of public clinics (Brown, 10/1).

NPR: First Step In Health Exchange Enrollment: Train The Helpers
For the past several weeks, all around the nation, a small army has been preparing to help consumers sort through their insurance options, choose a plan and sign up. Last week in Washington, about 100 of those people gathered in a hotel ballroom for a five-day training session to become so-called assisters for DC Healthlink, the health exchange that will serve the District of Columbia. ... These aren't just people hired off the street. They all work for local nonprofit organizations that were chosen by the exchange both for their roots in the community, and for their ability to serve varied populations throughout the city. The district assisters are paid by the organizations they already work for, as are navigators, as they're called in the states (Rovner, 10/1).

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