It’s no secret enrolling in health coverage through new online marketplaces has gotten off to a slow start. It’s become so much a part of the national conversation that singers Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood referenced the federal website woes during the Country Music Awards last week.
Federal officials are soon slated to release the first round of statistics on how many people have signed up for health insurance through the new online marketplaces. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius acknowledged during a Senate Finance Committee hearing that the numbers would be pretty low.
Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all have federal marketplaces of some sort, and stories coming out of each state seem to be mirroring the general problems. For instance, 62-year-old Suzanne Cloud of Collingswood, New Jersey, has been visiting the website every few days to try and sign up. So far, no luck. “I’m really anxious to see what benefits packages there are out there for what I need, for typical chronic conditions that a person my age would have,” said Cloud, who said she’s hopeful things will work out. Area groups tasked with helping people sign up for coverage also are reporting major holdups. Moshe Bitterman, one of eight application counselors with Public Health Management Corporation in Philadelphia, said the group has helped about 250 people set up accounts, either through online, paper or phone applications. That’s the first step. As far as who’s actually successfully finished the process? “For sure, one completed an enrollment online,” says Bitterman. “That’s all I can say with 100 percent certainty.” That happened last week. A recent news survey of assistance groups in Delaware identified four successful enrollments, with a few dozen more applications pending.
Federal officials say they’re working to have the website repaired by the end of the month. The soon-to-be released enrollment data will be for October.