Health Exchanges Open for Business

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from The Wall Street Journal,

After Scramble to Fix Technical Wrinkles, Online Marketplaces to Offer First Clear Look at Pricing.

Americans got their first taste Tuesday of new online insurance marketplaces shaped by President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, but people exploring insurance options on the new websites often were met with delays or other technical barriers.

While insurers and exchange officials said interest has been intense and traffic to the sites high, a number of consumers shopping for coverage have been unable to complete the enrollment process, according to insurers and others involved in the rollout.

The problem involves a federally run database that determines whether shoppers are eligible for a federal subsidy and verifies their identities, according to a number of insurers and insurance brokers, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, Florida Blue and Web-based brokers GetInsured, eHealth Inc. EHTH +2.29% and GoHealth LLC.

“Applications and enrollment in the state-based and federally facilitated marketplaces have been completed,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS officials didn’t immediately answer questions about whether all attempted applications had been completed.

There was no indication that the federal government’s partial shutdown over the congressional budget impasse affected the exchanges’ rollout.

One reason for the delays and technical problems was a flood of interest, officials said. As of Tuesday afternoon, administration officials said some 2.8 million people had visited, the federal website for health-insurance information, since midnight, an unexpectedly large number.

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