Website woes lead to sluggish start for state's health exchange

2013-10-01T23:30:00Z 2013-10-26T19:30:00Z Website woes lead to sluggish start for state's health exchangeBy Lyxan Toledanes / The Daily News Longview Daily News
October 01, 2013 11:30 pm  • 

Washington state’s online health insurance exchange had a rocky start Tuesday, shutting down within minutes of opening as users complained of slow loading times and trouble completing applications.

Tuesday was the first day of a six-month open enrollment period for people to apply for low-cost health insurance through the exchanges, established under the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare).

The Healthplanfinder website launched at 7:30 a.m. and shut down soon after. Users couldn’t access the Healthplanfinder website until 1:30 p.m.

Washington Healthplanfinder spokesperson Bethany Frey said more information about website problems will be available Wednesday, but the troubles were not due to an “overload” of users nor the federal government shutdown.

About 1 million Washington residents are uninsured, and some 130,000 people are expected to enroll for insurance by 2014, state officials estimate.

In Cowlitz County, about 40 in-person “navigators” were ready to help people through the application process at the five Cowlitz Family Health clinics and the center’s nine partner organizations. The clinic had scheduled a limited number of appointments this first week as a hedge against website trouble.

However, seven clients’ appointments were cancelled at the 14 local locations Tuesday due to the website problems, said Amber Rosewood, spokesperson for the Family Health Center. Those appointments were rescheduled for later this week.

“We were anticipating a few glitches, certainly. We didn’t expect (the exchange) to be down the whole day,” Rosewood said.

People can sign up for health insurance by telephone or in-person assistants, who filled out paper applications. Officials said it takes about an hour to go through the process for an individual or a little longer for a family. Thousands of people called the exchange’s call center early Tuesday, exchange spokesman Michael Marchand told the Associated Press.

Officials warned people to protect themselves from fraud and identity theft and report any websites set up to resemble wahealthplanfinder.org.

Several other state exchanges, both state- and federally-run, experienced glitches or lag times due to high user volume. Oregon’s state exchange, Cover Oregon, was also delayed — users can visit a browse-only version of the site but cannot apply for insurance online until at least the weekend, The Oregonian reported.

Joe Titus said he was disappointed he had to wait to enroll in a health insurance plan after the cancellation of his 9 a.m. appointment at the Kelso Family Health Clinic. Titus, 43, has been eager to get health coverage since April 2012, when he was laid off as a drug and alcohol counselor in Vancouver. Titus’ unemployment benefits expired last April, and he’s relied on his mother to pay for his asthma and diabetes medications that costs around $435 monthly.

“It’s frustrating having to come back home and be reliant on a parent to cover every expense,” he said. “I’m looking to just be able to help my mother, who is semi-retired and living on a fixed income.”

Titus said he’ll qualify for Medicaid, which doesn’t require monthly premium payments. He’s excited to get coverage in case he does have a medical emergency.

“I haven’t needed any hospital care, God forbid. If that happens, at least the medical bills will be covered,” Titus said. “That’s one less thing I have to worry about.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2016 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(8) Comments

  1. RustyGuns
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    RustyGuns - October 01, 2013 1:39 pm
    At the moment, it says to contact the webmaster@dummy-host.example.com

    How ironic. Not only is it a complete surprise to these people that they should actually test the system before going live, they can't even setup the server error page template with correct information.

    And this is the same crowd we're supposed to trust our health care buying decision to...

    This is gonna be so great!
  2. birdlady
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    birdlady - October 01, 2013 2:27 pm
    The site is now up and running just fine. Just checked it out. :)
  3. jumapili
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    jumapili - October 01, 2013 4:49 pm
    Instead of being so concerned about a few bumps in the road about a website for getting insurance. Why are we not more concerned with how one the the largest health care providers in Washington behaves. According to the Tacoma News Tribune, MultiCare has placed a series of liens against patients it treated as trauma victims – not because of a lack of insurance or payment by patients. Rather than bill medical insurance, the hospital system tried to collect higher payments from legal awards patients might receive as a result of their trauma. If true, this story is an audacious example of some of the most aggressive billing practices we’ve ever heard about — skipping insurance altogether, filing liens for personal property first, and creating fake addresses for out-of-state corporations to handle the paperwork. http://www.multicareabuses.com
  4. gillnetter mole
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    gillnetter mole - October 02, 2013 10:38 am
    bound to be a glich 7 million people in NEW YORK alone tried to get on the first day! !for those of you who are having trouble calm down, let the rush slow and you will get on !don't listen to anyone!! do it yourself then make up your mind ! no pre-existing health problem will keep you out! and I know one person got this coverage for 75 bucks a month ! dishonest money grubbing 1% own insurance companies so that is why you are all getting misinformation ,they own the media also
  5. lookabout
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    lookabout - October 02, 2013 11:14 am
    The insurance companies must be drooling, because of the affordable health care act, AKA obamacare, they just got millions of new customers. The best part is that you have to become a customer- IT's THE LAW. This is so sad. Anything and everything to profit big business and the rich. Our political system is so corrupt. Every other industrialized country in the world has socialized medicine and universal coverage. Not us! However, our Navy is larger than the worlds other 14 largest combined.
  6. gillnetter mole
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    gillnetter mole - October 03, 2013 2:54 am
    what do you think the affordable care act is ??
  7. Horatio Bunce
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    Horatio Bunce - October 03, 2013 11:44 am
    Joe Titus doesn't want to sponge off of his mother but is OK with sponging off the taxpayers. This is a joke, right?
  8. lookabout
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    lookabout - October 04, 2013 9:31 am
    Gillnetter... I think the Affordable care act--ObamaCare-- Is an attempt to provide adequate health care to the millions who have no medical care. However, nothing can pass through DC without someone making a profit off it. The best bet would have been single payer, universal coverage, like the rest of the industrialized world has. But our congress would only pass this if Corporate America could profit off of it in some fashion. It's a small step in the right direction.
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