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Federally run health-care marketplace faces technical difficulties

By Cheryl Powell
Beacon Journal medical writer

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The federally run Health ­Insurance Marketplace debuted Tuesday with some ­apparent technical difficulties.

The marketplace, also known as an exchange, was created through the Affordable Care Act, the federal health-care reform law commonly called Obamacare.

The website — www.healthcare.gov — allows consumers and small businesses to compare plans and determine whether they qualify for financial help getting coverage.

However, attempts to log on to the computerized system throughout Tuesday were repeatedly met with errors or messages urging users to be patient.

“We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and we’re working to make your experience here better,” one message read.

“The system is down at the moment,” another message stated. “We’re working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Please try again later.”

Ohio opted against running its own exchange, so residents who want to shop for coverage and apply for subsidies must use the federal website or call 800-318-2596 to get information.

More than 2.8 million users visited the federal website by Tuesday afternoon, according to Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Tavenner said consumers had successfully used the website to enroll in plans on its first day of operation but declined to release enrollment figures.

She acknowledged glitches and high volumes created some problems that were addressed throughout the day.

“We expect that we’re going to be able to speed it up and we have sped it up already,” she said. “With any new product launch, there are going to be glitches as things unfold.”

Federal officials have said the Health Insurance Marketplace is not affected by the partial shutdown of the federal government that resulted from a political battle over whether to delay a requirement under the health-care law that most Americans buy insurance or face a penalty.

Open enrollment continues through March 31. Consumers who want coverage that’s effective Jan. 1 need to enroll before Dec. 15.

“We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience,” a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. “This new system will allow millions of Americans to access quality, affordable health-care coverage — without underwriting. Consumers who need help can also contact the call center, use the live chat function, or go to localhelp.healthcare.gov to find an in-person assistor in their community.”

Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or cpowell@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.


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