Obamacare Enrollment Is Beating Expectations

Article by Tara Culp-Ressler. Reposted from ThinkProgress

On Tuesday, Obamacare’s state-level insurance marketplaces opened to the public, marking the start of a six-month enrollment period that will stretch into March. Although there’s been some confusion around the health law’s new marketplaces — also known as “exchanges” — initial reports suggest that a significant number of people are seeking out information about reform. States across the country are overwhelmed with huge amounts of traffic to their new exchange websites.

Here are some of the early details about Obama enrollment emerging on a state and national level (this post will be updated as the day continues):

National websites: A senior Obama administration official reported that just three hours after Obamacare’s open enrollment period launched, the national Healthcare.gov site had gotten one million visitors. During the same period, there were five times more users than ever before on Medicare.gov.

California: The Golden State celebrated its first Obamacare enrollee at 8:45 am Pacific Standard Time. Since then, state residents have tweeted that they’re “impressed” with how easy it is to use the exchange’s app, and the site is “working like a charm for Californians.”

Connecticut: Despite a few initial glitches with its website, Connecticut signed up its first Obamacare enrollee by 9:30 am. And at that point, 764 other people had active applications for the state’s exchange. “For a site that’s been up for 25 minutes, it’s not bad,” the CEO of Connecticut’s new insurance marketplace, Kevin Counihan, noted. By about 11:30 am, the state had logged 10,000 visitors and enrolled an additional 21 people for health coverage.

District of Columbia: DC’s exchange opened for business at 8:00 am. By noon, about 1,500 DC residents had created accounts, according to a spokesperson for the exchange. Creating an account is the first step for people who want to shop for coverage and eventually buy a new plan under Obamacare. The District hasn’t yet experienced any issues with its website.

Florida: MSNBC reports that community health care clinics in Orlando are experiencing long lines as low-income people are visiting to learn more about their options under Obamacare. The CEO of a community clinic in Miami that primarily services uninsured Floridians told MSNBC that Tuesday represents a “new day” for low-income patients who can now gain affordable coverage.

Kentucky: Kentucky is the only Southern state that’s chosen to participate fully in health care reform by both expanding Medicaid and operating a state-level exchange. So far, it’s paying off. Between midnight and 10:30 am on Tuesday, Kentucky’s website had more than 24,000 visitors. The employees working to manage the exchange processed more than 1,000 applicationsfor health insurance by 9:30 am.

New York: In the first two hours that New York’s exchange website was open to the public, 2 million people visited the site. That’s a huge chunk of the population that stands to benefit from Obamacare. Approximately 2.6 million New York residents are currently uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Rhode Island: After Kaiser Health News solicited feedback from people trying to sign up for Obamacare, a Rhode Island resident responded with a positive experience. “Rhode Island site working fine. So many choices at so many price points! Something 4 everyone. I’m ecstatic,” Annabelle Leigh tweeted.

Virginia: Paula Thornhill, a 31-year-old mother of seven, was the first person to apply for a new plan in Prince George’s County. Her husband has health insurance through his job, but they couldn’t afford to pay the extra premium costs to cover her as well. “I’m relieved that they did come out with this affordable health care,” she told the Washington Post. “I’m relieved.”

Some people trying to log onto their state’s website are experiencing glitches and delays. Some of that is a result of the high traffic that the sites are currently getting; other instances represent technical issues that will have to be resolved moving forward. “We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience,” a spokeswoman from the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.

The Obama administration is advising Americans who are experiencing issues to contact the federal call center or use the help section of the federalHealthcare.gov site to find someone who can assist them. Americans can also still sign up by using a paper application.