Glitches stifle health law marketplace in Wyoming

2013-10-01T22:00:00Z 2013-11-13T13:58:05Z Glitches stifle health law marketplace in WyomingBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Technical problems marred Tuesday’s opening of the federal insurance exchange for Wyoming, as visitors flooded the online marketplace looking for health coverage.

Consumers encountered glitches and delays on the marketplace’s first day of operation. Even creating an account for the website where consumers can shop for insurance proved difficult.

“The system is just overloaded,” Wyoming Insurance Commissioner Tom Hirsig said. “Nobody can go in and see the plans.”

The exchange is a major piece of the Affordable Care Act, the health reform law passed three years ago by Congress. Experts predict millions of Americans will eventually use the marketplace, including many people who can’t afford insurance or have been denied coverage in the past because of pre-existing medical conditions.

Wyoming’s marketplace started with some of the highest premiums in the nation, according to a federal report released last week. However, many residents who qualify for income-based subsidies will pay similar premiums to those in other states. The price breaks won’t be available to the rich or the very poor.

Exchange designers intend it as a place where consumers and small businesses can easily compare health plans from private insurance companies. But

as enrollment opened, visitors experienced trouble simply accessing the website.

Officials expected difficulties, given the size and complexity of the new system, which must calculate whether consumers are eligible for tax credits or Medicaid coverage.

“You have to be sympathetic to the fact that it’s a huge deal and everybody is trying to get in there,” Hirsig said.

Wyoming and 35 other states declined to open their own marketplaces. The federal government is operating a marketplace on their behalf.

Most consumers will access the exchange via the federal website healthcare.gov. Roughly 16 hours after its opening, the site had already attracted 2.8 million visitors across the country, said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In a conference call with reporters, Tavenner confirmed people have begun enrolling in plans through the federal exchange. She declined to say how many people actually signed up for insurance.

Although Tuesday marked the start of enrollment for the marketplace, coverage won’t begin until Jan. 1. That gives consumers plenty of time to make a decision, said Tracy Brosius, one of the “navigators” tasked with informing the public about the new program.

“There is no rush, and they need to make a good, solid choice because it is a big decision,” she said.

Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is leading a statewide effort to inform people about the exchange. The hospital’s Wyoming Institute of Population Health is planning a series of events to help people enroll.

The navigators face a stiff challenge. A poll taken last month showed three quarters of uninsured Americans didn’t even know when the marketplace would open.

The public is more familiar with another part of the health law that will require most Americans to possess health insurance beginning Jan. 1. Those who don’t will face penalties that start small but quickly escalate.

Two companies — WINhealth and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming — are selling Wyoming plans through the marketplace. Speaking Tuesday afternoon, officials from both companies said they didn’t know yet how many people had bought plans through the exchange.

Blue Cross representative Wendy Curran said company officials aren’t sure how many customers will use the exchange, but she expects interest to increase as January approaches.

“How it unfolds, I wouldn’t even hazard a guess,” she said.

WINhealth President Stephen Goldstone said his business had received many phone calls from consumers interested in the marketplace. He’d heard people were having trouble accessing the marketplace, but said he was confident the issues will be resolved before January.

“It’s an incredibly complex system and it’s going to take a while to work through the glitches and stress test it,” he said.

The company expects it will eventually gain many customers through the exchange. An estimated 89,000 uninsured people live in Wyoming.

“Those people continue to get health care, whether they can pay for it or not, which means all of us are paying a hidden cost,” he said. “So the more people we get insured in the state, I think we all benefit.”

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(16) Comments

  1. rocl
    Report Abuse
    rocl - October 02, 2013 8:14 pm
    The Wyoming Repubs have screwed the pooch on this one. The Gov. and legislature deferred to the Feds to run Wyoming's health care exchange. Turns out that Wyoming has the highest health care costs of any State on the exchange. The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and it isn't going to change. Our glorious Repubs down there in Cheyenne can't do anything about it except sit on their fluffy pillows on their fat behinds, which they chose to do.
  2. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - October 02, 2013 6:18 pm
    The main reason is Karma,and we all know what Karma is.
  3. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - October 02, 2013 6:17 pm
    Yep,and that mealy mouth Michelle Bachmann was one bragging about a shutdown.Those people are crazy than a pet coon.
  4. Ghost
    Report Abuse
    Ghost - October 02, 2013 4:12 pm
    Republicans have been threatening to force a government shut down for years, and now they've done it - and even bragged about it right after doing it. They were seen to be "giddy" at what they were doing as they were doing it, and were even getting drunk while they did it. Now, they're pointing their fingers at the Democrats and saying, "why did you shut down the government?", and "they're the ones who wanted to shut down the government, not us."

    But, if that were so, how come there are so many video clips of Republicans demanding and supporting a shut down on YouTube? How come the Twitter accounts and Facebook pages of prominent conservatives and Republican lawmakers are awash with them saying they wanted to shut down the government, going back years?

    And how come the same can't be said of Democrats?

    Republicans, you can play the blame game all you want - but you've already lost.
  5. IdrahaJe
    Report Abuse
    IdrahaJe - October 02, 2013 4:06 pm
    I don't agree with Tea at all. However, I must ask, if someone is against Obama, why do you automatically assume that they were in love with Cheney and Bush?? You limit your ability to look at what is being said if you just throw out the "bush/chaney card".
  6. glendorealist
    Report Abuse
    glendorealist - October 02, 2013 3:54 pm
    I was just able to create an account. Got thru all the security questions. When I went to log back in.
    the site was busy. I guess this just shows more people want affordable health insurance then the polls
    show. After all wasn't Romney leading in the polls?
  7. Jackalope
    Report Abuse
    Jackalope - October 02, 2013 2:26 pm
    Maybe we need practice on automated telephone systems to develop patience. Three minutes are better than average for the firms and agencies that I routinely contact.
  8. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - October 02, 2013 1:34 pm
    You think Obummer is dishonest? Guess that makes the Bush/Cheney ding dongs angels.
  9. side oiler
    Report Abuse
    side oiler - October 02, 2013 1:33 pm
    "Just wait and see... it's going to be "P n P" in 2016.....Perry n Palin...just what America is waiting for!" What cow water trough you been drinking from? Palin the quitter is about as much a candidate for DC as you are for the space station,tea billy.Get a life.
  10. 1963woman
    Report Abuse
    1963woman - October 02, 2013 10:12 am
    So has anyone in Wyoming actually been able to create an account? It's frustrating that you have to go through all the data input to get to the faulty last page with places for security answers and no questions and then get to hit create only for it to take 3 or so minutes to tell you unable to create at this time....
  11. jc45
    Report Abuse
    jc45 - October 02, 2013 9:26 am
    2.8m signed up in the first 16hrs. That is 175,000/hr. Someone must have gotten through.
  12. Jackalope
    Report Abuse
    Jackalope - October 02, 2013 8:29 am
    This voting bloc will be long dead by the time a "Confederate Revival" takes over the process of governing. First of all, they are not interested in governing; second, they are living in a protected sanctuary created with voter suppression.
  13. Jackalope
    Report Abuse
    Jackalope - October 02, 2013 8:24 am
    Don, is this situation not a result of congressional action? I thought there was a difference between annual appropriations and fixed spending established by law.
  14. billy
    Report Abuse
    billy - October 02, 2013 7:48 am
    "Officials expected difficulties" Really. And they let it happen anyway, knowingly.
    And they had how long to prepare for it? Shameful...
    For it or against it, this type of shoddy work should not be allowed.
  15. Don Wills
    Report Abuse
    Don Wills - October 02, 2013 6:43 am
    The dishonesty of The Obama administration to close National Parks and many government web sites and to stop doing NICS checks for gun purchases while AT THE SAME TIME turning ON the defective insurance exchange web sites is appalling.
  16. TeaPublican
    Report Abuse
    TeaPublican - October 02, 2013 5:51 am
    Let's talk the truth here folks! We TeaPublicans, in looking out for YOU, tried everything possible to vote obamacare down in Congress...and we couldn't get the job done! But now we have a whole lot of State governments stepping up and are going to make sure they do everything possible to make sure obamacare is NOT a success in their State! Our State Republican governments will NOT help in getting basic information out...in fact we will do everything we can to stand in the way! Come on man! All of us know darn well that those millions of people that don't get Obama's insurance is a small price to pay for taking back OUR America! And everyone of you know the majority of those kind of people would NEVER vote Republican anyway...even the few that actually vote! We TeaPublicans ARE now one step closer to fully taking back our America in 2014 n 2016 . Just wait and see... it's going to be "P n P" in 2016.....Perry n Palin...just what America is waiting for!
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