Health care reform
In many ways, the success of the health care reform law depends on the success of the Health Insurance Marketplaces (formerly called “exchanges”). The marketplaces opened to the public on October 1. In this article, we check on how they’re doing so far.
The federal marketplace experienced heavy traffic — more than 2.8 million hits — before 4 p.m. on opening day. That’s seven times as many hits as healthcare.gov has ever handled at once. High demand and technical glitches led to long waits and error messages for many users1,2 — and the state marketplaces experienced similar problems. As of November 13, nearly a million people have been able to complete applications for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces. Only 106,185 individuals have selected a medical plan from the marketplaces.2
Consumers now have until December 23, recently extended by 8 days, to enroll if they want their insurance to take effect January 1. They have until March 31 to complete the enrollment process if they wish to avoid a penalty for 2014. This is a change from recent guidance, which said coverage had to take effect by that date.4
Access to some elements of the marketplaces has been delayed. Small businesses will not be able to finalize enrollments on the SHOP marketplace until November, although they can go online now to compare options and begin the application process.5 And the Spanish-language version of healthcare.gov was not ready to handle enrollment until October 21.6
On the Washington, D.C. marketplace, a computer problem delayed access to online Medicaid enrollment and information about tax credits available to consumers. However, workers were helping Medicaid applicants enroll manually, and health insurance buyers will be able to view the tax credit they’ll receive for the 2014 plan year in November.7,8
Employees of small businesses that plan to use the SHOP marketplace can compare plans, but will have to wait until November to enroll. Even so, this leaves plenty of time for their coverage to take effect on January 1, 2014. Individuals needing to use the Spanish-language version of the healthcare.gov website will have to wait a few weeks to enroll.
Employers need to be aware of these delays so they can communicate this information to their employees.