Online Health Insurance Marketplaces Face Tech Hurdles

The rollout of online health marketplaces was marked with technological difficulties at various stages of the process.

Users attempting to access the federal marketplace via healthcare.gov experienced glitches when signing up for an account, which the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services attributes to overwhelming visitor traffic during the first several hours the exchange was live. While the CMS claims they addressed initial issues right away, the marketplace was still fraught with issues well into the afternoon and eventually shut down.

State-run marketplaces in 17 different states also reported high traffic and sporadic glitches. Users may seek assistance via the live chat function or call centers, or they may contact a local healthcare representative. Unfortunately, these avenues will not allow customers to compare plans or view more detailed information regarding each plan’s deductibles and coverage. Some states are still experiencing issues today.

While not unexpected, these issues have frustrated and dismayed many consumers who are eager to realize the promise of affordable healthcare. Still, a number of people have successfully used the marketplace to purchase insurance, and consumers still have plenty of time to sign up for insurance – the deadline for coverage beginning January 1 is December 15, and the open enrollment period will continue until March 31, 2014. Officials maintain that glitches are normal for any large-scale tech rollout (see: Apple); for the moment, consumers may be better off just waiting it out.

Currently, approximately 15 percent of the population is expected to use the marketplace to purchase insurance in the absence of employer-provided health plans or benefits from the VA, Medicare, and Medicaid.

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