2013-10-10 / Local & State

Breakthrough Reported In New Pa. Insurance System

By Marc Levy

ASSOCIATED PRESS

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Philadelphia-based health insurer Independence Blue Cross said Thursday it began enrolling people into its health insurance plans through the federal government’s online portal, a breakthrough after two days of widespread system glitches.

Independence Blue Cross spokeswoman Kathleen Conlon said she did not know the exact number of people who had enrolled into the company’s plans through the healthcare. gov website.

Potential customers have reported being unable to start choosing from among the 56 health insurance plans available to state residents on the federal government’s online portal, healthcare.gov, called an insurance exchange or marketplace.

For some, the glitches extended into a third day Thursday.

Scharrie Chambers, an employee at insurer Highmark’s Allentown retail store, said customers had reported that new glitches continued to emerge and that she was unaware of anyone who had successfully enrolled after seeking help from store employees.

Coverage begins Jan. 1, and the initial enrollment period continues until March 31.

Pennsylvania is one of 36 states whose online exchanges are being run by the federal government after Gov. Tom Corbett, an opponent of the health care law, declined to take on the job.

Healthcare.gov is supposed to act as a clearinghouse for information on the 56 approved plans, such as how much they will cost and which doctors and hospitals each one covers. It also is the place where users can qualify for various federal subsidies that lower the cost of health insurance plans.

Federal officials maintain they were pleased with the strong consumer interest – 7 million people had visited the federal government’s online site through mid-day Thursday after it opened for business Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said. But they have yet to reveal how many people actually succeeded in signing up for coverage.

They insist the glitches are due to high demand and that they are making improvements to the system to cut wait times for people trying to apply.

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