But the definitions of “enrolled” vary from one state to another, with some classifying enrollees as individuals who have selected a plan and others limiting that group to people who have actually paid. California officials, for instance, say it's too early to release enrollment figures because most people won't pay their first month's premium until closer to the date when coverage begins.
A number of insurers contacted for this article, including Humana in Kentucky, Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in New York, and Minnesota-based UCare, declined to discuss the number of people who have enrolled in their plans. Some insurers said they were still calculating those figures.
Minnesota officials are touting the latest numbers from MNSure, their state-run exchange, as proof that the open-enrollment period is off to a strong start. They say as of Oct. 16, 12,011 people created accounts, 5,569 completed the application process, and 3,769 chose a health plan. John Reich, a spokesman for the exchange, pointed out that among those who have already selected a plan, some have made payment, while others have chosen to be invoiced. Only 406 Minnesotans signed up for private coverage. The remaining 3,363 selected coverage from the state's public insurance programs, Medicaid and MinnesotaCare, according to the data.
Those numbers seem paltry when compared with the nearly 500,000 uninsured residents MNSure is targeting. But Reich said there's plenty of time left and that most people tend to buy insurance closer to the date when coverage will begin. MNSure has yet to transfer any consumer information to insurers. It's currently in testing with the carriers, and it hopes to transfer data over the next couple of weeks.
UCare, one of five companies offering a total of 141 plans for individuals on Minnesota's exchange, MNSure, said it's working with the exchange on test files and expects to begin receiving actual enrollment data by the end of the month, according to spokeswoman Wendy Wicks. “We expected there to be some kinks being that it is an entirely new and untested system,” she added.
But some states' struggles have mirrored those of the federal government's marketplace. Oregon's exchange, Cover Oregon, has experienced serious issues with online enrollment, making it a browse-only website. Users looking to enroll have been directed to the more than 3,000 community partners and agents assigned to assist with the process. “We have had some glitches we're working through and we're hoping to have it fully up online by the end of October,” said Ariane Holm, a Cover Oregon spokeswoman.
Holm said enrollment numbers were not available at this time. But she noted that the website has received more than 330,000 visits since its launch, while the exchange's phone hot line has gotten 12,000 calls. Oregon's efforts to enroll people eligible for Medicaid coverage have gone better, with as many as 56,000 people signed up thus far. That will reduce the state's uninsured rate by 10%.
Hawaii's state-run exchange, Hawaii Health Connector, also faced a bad start. After a week of technical issues during which no users were able to browse plans or create accounts on the site, officials pulled it offline. The exchange reopened Oct. 15.
Kentucky's exchange, Kynect, has been considered one of the top performers among state-run marketplaces. Jill Midkiff, spokeswoman for Kentucky's state's health benefit exchange, said early glitches were due to the large number of website visitors on the first day, and that issues were resolved within a couple hours after technicians added more servers. Since then, more than 12,000 people have enrolled, she said.
Susan Dunlap, spokeswoman for Kentucky Health Cooperative, a new member-governed co-operative health plan based in Louisville, said she was happy with the initial enrollment figures, although she could not provide data on how many people have signed up with her plan. “We are very, very pleased with the preliminary indicators,” she said.
The exchange has helped smaller insurers like hers to compete with much larger, better-known competitors such as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare and Humana. “Being in a David and Goliath type of situation, we have found that consumers' ability to see information about us, our plans, our premiums, our network, our drug formulary and those other considerations has been working well for us,” she said.
In Washington state, the number of people who have enrolled in coverage since Oct. 1 has reached nearly 25,000, with an additional 37,000 who have completed online applications and owe payment in December. Of those who have enrolled, more than 21,000 have signed up for Medicaid. Of that group, more than 13,000 are adults newly eligible in 2014 thanks to the state's decision to expand income eligibility up to 138% of the federal poverty level under the federal healthcare reform law. Only about 3,000 of new enrollees have signed up for private coverage. State officials said initial technical problems with Washington's exchange site due to heavy traffic in the first couple of days have been corrected.
Some insurers around the country say they are having particular problems with enrollment data they are receiving from the federal online marketplace, including duplicate enrollments, misidentified family members, missing data fields, and questionable eligibility determinations, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.
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