Wyoming residents have begun buying health plans through the federal insurance marketplace despite technical problems that have dogged the site since it launched two weeks ago.

Federal officials have so far refused to disclose how many people have purchased plans through the exchange, which was established by the Affordable Care Act. But officials at two Wyoming insurance companies say they are now enrolling customers through the new marketplace.

It’s unclear exactly how many people in Wyoming have bought coverage through the exchange, which is a sort of virtual marketplace where individuals and small businesses can shop for insurance. WINhealth President Stephen Goldstone estimated a couple dozen customers have enrolled via the exchange.

Goldstone expects the numbers will rise as the deadline approaches to obtain insurance. The federal health law requires most Americans to possess coverage by Jan. 1 or face a penalty.

“My guess is this will really start to ramp up as we move into November,” he said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states can develop their own exchanges. Wyoming was one of 36 that opted to leave the task – or at least some of it – to the federal government.

The federal marketplace launched Oct. 1. Its website, healthcare.gov, experienced glitches and other problems that kept people from enrolling or even creating an account. Those issues appear to be easing, but haven’t disappeared entirely.

“I would say that anyone who signed up so far is a hardy soul,” Goldstone said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wyoming began receiving completed applications from the exchange last week, said company representative Wendy Curran. She didn’t know how many.

“It’s really slow and we don’t have any idea whether there are a lot waiting in the federal system, or whether people are still trying to get through,” she said.

Wyoming has some of the highest average premiums on the marketplace, federal figures show. However, the amount consumers actually pay is dependent on whether they qualify for federal subsides.

The subsidies, which are based on income, could save some people hundreds of dollars. Others might earn too much or too little to qualify for any discount.

Brett Glass owns an Internet service provider that serves Albany County. Since he’s self-employed, he must purchase his own health insurance. In the past, companies have balked at covering his wife, who had back problems but has since recovered.

It took about 10 days after the marketplace opened before Glass was able to shop for insurance. He hasn’t purchased a plan yet, but has found ones that would save him money while covering his wife.

“We are still finalizing things, but so far, all the news has been good,” he said

The website itself isn’t perfect, Glass said. The design could have been much simpler, and the government could have found better contractors for the work.

But it’s a step in the right direction.

“This is a tremendous benefit to us,” he said. “It’s very discouraging to see our legislators and Congress opposing such a thing strictly to gain points with their political party.”

To make the exchange work, federal officials can’t rely solely on those with health problems. They must also convince young, healthy people to enroll. Without enough of them in the system, premium will rise as the market is dominated by people who tend to be older and sicker.

Steve Klein could be considered part of the “young invincibles” demographic that’s so vital to the law’s success. The 29-year-old lawyer is single, healthy and without health insurance. Based on his experience with the marketplace, that’s not likely to change soon.

Klein is staff attorney at Wyoming Liberty Group, a free-market think tank that’s been critical of the federal health care law. He isn’t wealthy, but earns too much to qualify for a subsidy. When he visited the exchange, he discovered the cheapest catastrophic plan would cost him about $260 a month – or about $170 more than what he could purchase outside the marketplace, he said.

With those options, Klein plans to just pay the penalty next year for not having insurance. It starts at $95 a year, or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater. Even when the penalties rise, they’ll still be cheaper than insurance.

“As I get older, as I have a family, the variables will change,” he said. “Right now, as a so-called young invincible – no way.”

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.

(8) comments

SimplyAmerican

So then the 2012 Constitutional Amendment that WY Liberty Group spent so much $$ pushing on the public didn't do Klein a bit of a good.

Funny how no one mentions that Constitutional (A) Amendment these days - and it was passed just less than a year ago. http://soswy.state.wy.us/Elections/Docs/2012/2012BallotIssues.pdf

steveklein

Simply,

Even before Amendment A was passed it played a role in shutting down a forced immunizations bill in the 2012 session. Following the amendment's passage the bill was not even floated in the 2013 session. That said, unlike many Obamacare proponents, neither I or WyLiberty ever spoke of Amendment A as the end-all, be-all of health care freedom.

As for the amendment passing "just less than a year ago," that doesn't support your argument. The First Amendment was ratified 222 years ago and its protection of free speech, religion, etc. is still being tested. Amendment A is there, and there are already signs that upcoming proposals for the 2014 session will infringe its protection of direct payment between patients and providers.

Anyway, for anyone interested in reading more about my travails in the exchange: http://wyliberty.org/feature/reality-the-affordable-care-act-isnt/

wyopat

Interesting - it can be seen in Wales 2013 children who had not been immunized due the scare mongering by bogus research, hundreds of children came down with measles and several died. People sending their kids to public school have a right to the comfort that all the other kids have been immunized. Likewise the clamor over "illegal immigrants must not be plowed to get public funded healthcare". Well many work in the ag. industry and also in the kitchens of your favorite restaurants. So when a cook with TB causes an outbreak in your community you may reconsider. Far cheaper to treat them and ask no questions. TB is growing in the 3rd world countries where these immigrants com from. Likewise cholera. Immunizations save lives as does universal healthcare.

EditProf

So, perhaps only a handful of Wyoming residents decided to sign up with the federal government? That fact makes the headline misleading. The real story here is that most Wyoming residents are NOT signing up… and with good reasons.

While rarely clarified in media, we also do not have to purchase health insurance through the federal exchange, even to be compliant with the federal Obamacare law. And there are plenty of reasons not to. (http://www.cchfreedom.org/files/files/Exchange_Opt_Out.pdf )
(http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/exchanges-high-costs-obamacare-97363.html)
There are also 9 ways to be exempted from the whole thing.
(http://www.cchfreedom.org/cchf.php/817)

Academic

Please be careful, fellow readers. This story offers some cautions on the security of the Obamacare website from cybersecurity experts: http://www.csmonitor.com/...int/USA/Politics/2013/1014/Obamacare-website-security-called-outrageous-How-safe-is-it-video

WyoJeff
WyoJeff

Obamacare is just like the voter ID law that the libs claim are racist. Both law require you show a proper form of ID. Why is it that the libs cry about how racist one law is but promote the other when both have the same requirement?

Jackalope

The reason that the largest number of Wyominites are not going to get adequate health care is that the state opted out of the Medicade expansion. The reason that the second largest group of residents is not going to be covered by health insurance is all this crapola flying around about the individual mandate. When the law was signed into effect on April 23, 2010 there was a provision that no one had to pay a penalty if they chose not to purchase insurance through an exchange. The opposition that wanted a delay in the individual mandate never bothered to read the law. If they did, they went into the government shutdown as bald face liars because there never was a need to delay the individual mandate. If someone is so negligent that they forgo insurance, they are at more risk of suffering a financial loss as the result of sickness or accident than being penalized by some imagined "fine" which was specifically forbidden by provisions of the law. If you doubt my veracity, ask your Congressional delegation about this. They send me emails all the time that they know what is in the act, that it is bad. that it should not go into effect. For some reason, this week they are all heaped up because computer problems are preventing it from going into effect. Either you are getting conned, or you have not read that act of Congress that upsets you so much.

wyopat

It is interesting to hear these comments from people who say they do not want healthcare. I do not believe them. Everyone needs healthcare from birth to death - some more than others. Preventative care is now part of plans, pre-existing conditions covered etc. The strange thing is that I agree that this law is not good enough - if Politicians actually had our interests at heart rather than their own re-election? I think the Mexicans call it "Cojones".
The top 10 health systems in the world cover everyone from birth to death with better outcomes than the US and at less than half the cost per capita. The US figures at #37 in the world on the key criteria established by the OECD and the World Health Organization.

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