Because the plans were conceived to be consumer-oriented competitors on the new health insurance exchanges, they are particularly vulnerable to the problems plaguing the enrollment process, especially in states not operating their own exchanges, such as Illinois.
“It's been well publicized the sense of frustration getting through,” and Land of Lincoln enrollees weren't exceptions, Yunker said. “I know that we had some glitches early on. Our staff has been monitoring the site on a daily basis and we're experiencing the same thing every consumer would. But once they do get through, they're pleased.”
Yunker declined to say how many Illinoisans have enrolled.
One trouble spot nationwide has been poor communication of basic enrollment information between HealthCare.gov and health plans, with garbled and incomplete enrollment data as a common bug, particularly information using a federally modified implementation specification of the ASC X12 834 benefits enrollment electronic messaging standard.
Yunker said the plan has not been immune from those issues, but what's available has been sufficient to get the job done.
For the most part, for the customers who have had their data come through, “it is complete data, it's enough data to start the process” for enrollment, including determining their eligibility for payment assistance, he said.
Land of Lincoln Health uses GoHealth, a Chicago-based vendor of technology to health plans and brokers, to provide its own website with plan shopping and comparison functions and enrollment.
Enrollees can start shopping anonymously at Land of Lincoln Health's website by entering a limited amount of personal data, including their ZIP code, date of birth, gender, smoking status, whether they have a spouse and/or dependants, and annual income.
The site then makes an estimate of the federal subsidy, if the individual is eligible, and applies that to the premiums of 35 individual plans Land of Lincoln offers. (The website also has separate shopping pages for small businesses and for insurance brokers seeking a quote.)
Customers are eventually transferred to the federal site for its more rigorous identity confirmation and an “official” estimate of any federal income tax credit that can be applied in advance to reduce the enrollees' monthly premiums. Armed with that information, customers are sent back to the Land of Lincoln Health site to complete their enrollment.
“We don't allow someone to enroll until the federal government passes someone back to our site,” said Michael Mahoney, senior vice president of consumer marketing for Go Health, who declined to engage in fed bashing despite the disappointing HealthCare.gov rollout.
“There have been a lot of us expecting things to go more smoothly,” Mahoney said, but “those guys are good partners. They're working their butts off to make sure we get the integration up and running.”
The federal site has repeatedly crashed since its Oct. 1 launch. Other times, it has kicked people off for mysterious reasons. And it has been slow. Federal officials, however, have repeatedly promised that by the end of November, it will perform “smoothly” for a “vast majority” of users.
On Tuesday, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the feds are on track to have a “significantly different user experience” for HealthCare.gov visitors by Dec. 1 than they had on Oct. 1.
But Mahoney said they're not there yet. “It is a work in progress and they're dealing with the highest priority projects first.”
Land of Lincoln, meanwhile, is in it for the long haul, Yunker said, with hopes to enroll 40,000 members by the end of its first year and break even in three years, he said.
“Clearly we would have liked for everything to work, but we're still encouraged we'll get through this transformation period,” Yunker said.
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn