Amid much confusion, the glitch-filled health exchanges opened this month but technical problems have hampered enrollment in the online health insurance exchanges. The problems resulted from the failure of a major software component, designed by private contractors, that crashed under the weight of millions of users. The failure occurred in the part of the web site that lets people create user accounts at the beginning of the insurance sign-up process. The crash prevented many people from viewing any of their insurance options or gaining access to information on what federal subsidies might be available.
In some cases, the Web site does not recognize those who created accounts before Oct. 1, when the online marketplaces opened for consumers to shop for insurance. In other instances, users are prevented from establishing accounts. Some who successfully established a marketplace account received an e-mail asking them to verify their e-mail addresses, but the link provided doesn’t work.
As the private contractors struggle to recover from the Web site’s failures, the partial shutdown of the federal government is also impacting the debut of President Obama’s health care law and has slowed work on a federal insurance marketplace for residents of more than 30 states.
The partial government shutdown has also hindered the health exchange rollout in other ways. All insurers participating in the federal exchange are assigned an account manager, who serves as the primary point of contact with the exchange and assists insurers by clarifying their responsibilities, answering questions about web site, enrollment transactions and other operational matters. But many of the account managers have been furloughed in the shutdown-leaving insurers with little help during the confusion.
As if that weren’t enough to make the health exchange debut a rocky one, regulators warn that the exchanges debut opened the door for those who would seek to line their pockets by misleading consumers. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners advised consumers that bogus sites have been spotted and warned people to beware of unsolicited calls by people claiming they need personal information to help them enroll in the insurance exchange.
New Hampshire’s insurance commissioner sent a cease-and-desist letter to an Arizona company he accused of building a website to mislead health care shoppers into thinking it was the official marketplace. The site has since been taken down but more are popping up all over the web. Regulators in Washington state and Pennsylvania have also ordered that some websites be changed that seemed likely to mislead consumers.
It’s safe to say the health exchange’s long awaited debut has not gone as planned. Many feel that money would have been better spent ensuring the site could handle the high volume of traffic or prevention of misleading copycat sites rather than on celebrity endorsements. America will have to wait out these glitches to see if the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.