A few persistent Iowans manage to buy health insurance on crash-plagued Obamacare exchange
There were at least five strangely determined Iowans have dealt with signing up for health insurance on the government’s balky new online marketplace.
They were the Hardy Handful. It seems that they were eager to wait through endless holdups and to try, try again after constantly being booted off the system. They had enrolled in insurance plans sold on the public marketplace by CoOportunity Health.
“They threaded the needle and got in,” said Cliff Gold, the insurance carrier’s chief operating officer. “It’s like when a radio station says, ‘If you’re the 20th caller, you’ll win something.’ These people were the 20th caller.”
Two of the unidentified purchasers are from Iowa City, two are from Glidden and one is from Clive, Gold said.
Also called exchanges, the health-insurance marketplaces are a key part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Since they opened Oct. 1, they have been plagued with technical problems. Iowa’s exchange is using a federal website, healthcare.gov, which has been beset with delays and crashes. Federal officials have blamed the glitches on an unexpected surge of millions of consumers trying to use the system at once. But some computer experts have said the problems are at least partly due to technical flaws in the site. Federal officials are pledging to fix the issues as quickly as possible.
Gold said he is encouraged by the fact that a few people are getting through. He likened the situation to trying to start a care on a frigid winter morning. “At first, it just turns over. Then it kicks in,” he said. “Well, it’s kicked in, but it’s still cold inside the car.”
CoOportunity Health is one of two carriers selling individual policies throughout Iowa on the new exchange. Gold said the company confirmed today that at least five Iowans and nine Nebraskans had selected its policies via the new system. The other statewide Iowa carrier, Coventry, declined to say whether it had sold any Iowa policies on the new system.
Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart said CoOportunity’s news was encouraging. “Hopefully the system issues will begin to subside as more Iowans go online to enroll in the coming weeks,” he said.
They are the only place to buy insurance policies that qualify for new federal subsidies; this is one of the main attractions of the exchanges. The subsidies will aid Americans with moderate incomes pay premiums. A lot of officials have been advising consumers to hang around another week or two before trying to get on the systems, so the bugs can be worked out. Consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for policies that will take effect Jan. 1, and they will have until March 31 to buy policies that will count toward the new requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance for 2014.