KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Seek Ways To Address Marketplace Trouble Spots; Also Report Progress

News outlets report on the fits and starts of state online health insurance marketplaces in Maryland, New York, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, California and Colorado -- just to name a few.

Kaiser Health News: Across The Country, Consumers Carefully Weigh Rollout Of Marketplaces
Across the country, consumers, advocates and officials are carefully watching the rollout of the health law’s insurance marketplaces as they try to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Many people have encountered technical glitches, especially in the first hours after the marketplaces opened Tuesday. But for some of those who rushed to see what plans would be available, those snags didn’t dampen their initial enthusiasm (10/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Explores Alternative Ways To Create Accounts To Use Online Health Insurance Marketplace
As Maryland’s new online marketplace for health insurance continues to have trouble handling a deluge of requests to set up accounts, state health officials are exploring alternative ways to create those accounts, the state’s health secretary said Wednesday. Dr. Joshua Sharfstein said tens of thousands have visited the site but fewer than 100 people so far have actually enrolled in a health plan through Maryland Health Connection. Sharfstein estimated that hundreds have been able to create accounts online (10/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: NY Health Care Website Slammed By 30 Million Hits; State Monitoring For Any Attack, Protest
State Department of Health Executive Director Donna Frescatore said the agency doubled the website’s capacity after users experienced delays and other difficulties entering. New York is constantly monitoring the website for “robots” which could inundate the system as a protest or as a way to disrupt the health care program. But no evidence has been found. The department said evidence of an attack or protest could be seen immediately (10/2).

The Wall Street Journal: New York Health Insurance Exchange Launches
Thousands of New Yorkers struggled Tuesday as they sought to use a balky new website that hosts the state's new health-insurance exchange, but officials pledged to fix the bugs and took heart that the site received unexpectedly high traffic on its first day. … The state's online marketplace, which opened for business as enrollment for insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act began around the U.S., was receiving upgrades to handle more traffic late Tuesday, Ms. Frescatore said. The website recorded more than 10 million hits, while about 9,000 people were able to shop. The site counts every hit, regardless of whether someone was able to get onto the site, a spokesman said (Dawsey, 10/2).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Why Kentucky’s Health Exchange Worked Better Than Many Others
While Kentucky’s health-insurance exchange experienced some glitches when it launched Tuesday, it seemed to perform better than many of its peers. State officials and outside experts attribute the smoother rollout to a variety of factors, including intensive testing of the system, a less-flashy but more-efficient website and strong coordination among state agencies involved in the effort. As a result, Kentucky’s exchange, dubbed Kynect, logged solid results in the first day and a half of operation. As of 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, 10,766 applications for health coverage had been initiated, 6,909 had been completed and 2,989 individuals or families had enrolled in new coverage (Campo-Flores, 10/2).

Pioneer Press: MNsure Shoppers Find New Website’s Waters Still Choppy
People in Minnesota and around the country seeking health insurance online reported some trying times Wednesday. Several Internet users of MNsure, the new state-run health exchange, said they couldn't create the accounts needed to see premium discounts that might come with federal tax credits and later to buy coverage (Snowbeck, 10/2).

Minnesota Public Radio: Some MNsure Glitches Persist
The glitch started with a MNsure server problem that was corrected yesterday. But agency officials now say the problem is largely out of MNsure's hands. It stems from a security policy that bars users who make three failed attempts at creating accounts from trying again for seven days. The site also is hampered by heavy use of the federal hub, a massive database that contains personal information required to verify someone's identity. While state officials urge patience, insurance companies that participate in the exchange already are complaining about the problems. Locally and nationally, the "overall [exchange] experience is pretty clunky," said Scott Keefer, vice president of Policy and Legislative Affairs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. "I think with that clunky experience comes concerns as to whether enrollment is going to go as smoothly" as possible (Richert and Stawicki, 10/2).

Minnesota Public Radio: Problems Using MNsure? Officials Urge Patience
MNsure officials say that consumers have created more than 2,500 accounts, but won't say how many of those users actually enrolled in a health plan. Frustration about the enrollment glitches is spreading to the health insurance industry and social service providers, where officials are raising concerns that prolonged problems may reduce overall enrollment (Stawicki, 10/3).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Health Insurance Exchange Busy, But Still Bumpy
Frustrations with identity verification were among the complaints that emerged as Minnesotans started logging on to the MNsure health insurance exchange, a new online marketplace that launched Tuesday as part of the federal health care law. But volume remained high. By early Wednesday afternoon, more than 2,500 accounts had been created, though no data was given for how many people bought insurance. The call center had received 425 calls by 2 p.m., and the website was seeing 2,000 to 3,000 users at a time. MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov has acknowledged “a few bumps in the road,” including a server crash shortly after the site went live, but said MNsure’s IT crew was tracking issues and “fixing them as they come up” (Olson and Crosby, 10/3).

The Associated Press: Texans Getting Health Care In Person; Web Glitches Not A Deterrent
Luis Veloz wasn’t going to wait for the federal government to work out the kinks in its website before enrolling in the nation’s new health insurance system. Instead, he rushed to fill out a paper application and mailed it in, eager to have a plan that would prevent him from racking up major medical bills like his parents. As Texas residents encountered difficulties with the website for a second day, those trained to assist with the process said callers are simply asking for a nearby location where they can complete the process the old-fashioned way: in person and on paper (Plushnick-Masti, 10/2).

Miami Herald: Insurance Exchange Woes Continue In Florida
South Florida consumers reported a second consecutive day of technical problems on Wednesday that locked them out of the online health insurance exchange on that is key to the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday marked day two of a six-month open enrollment period, during which eligible low- and middle-income consumers can sign up for subsidized health insurance through the federally run website (Benn, Borns and Chang, 10/2).

California Healthline: Exchange Opens For Business, Officials Call It A Bridge To Health Care For Millions
Yesterday, as people were still absorbing the news from Washington about the largely Republican move to shut down the government if they can't shut down health care reform, Lee said that the public response in California to health care reform was a little different. The three call centers in the state are fully staffed and answering phones nonstop, and the Covered California website activity is off the charts, [California Exchange Executive Director Peter] Lee said (Gorn, 10/2).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Clogged Websites, Swamped Phone Lines Mark Obamacare Opening Day
In Colorado, exchange managers gathered at their Denver headquarters just before 8 a.m. to switch the system on. They said about 79,000 individuals had visited the Connect for Health Colorado website and the website had gotten over 12 million hits by 8 p.m. on the first day. In the first hours, many customers could not create new accounts, and technology managers had to re-boot the system to try to handle traffic jams (Kerwin McCrimmon, 10/2).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.