Update: President Obama Addresses The Problems With the Obamacare Exchanges

Yesterday, President Obama addressed the challenges that have plagued the Obamacare health insurance exchanges since their launch on Oct. 1st. He made several key points and announcements:

  • He emphasized that “the Affordable Care Act is not just a website.” He noted that “for 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance through your employer or Medicare or Medicaid -– you don’t need to sign up for coverage through a website at all.  You’ve already got coverage.  What the Affordable Care Act does for you is to provide you with new benefits and protections that have been in place for some time.”
  • He noted that “nearly one-third of the people applying in Connecticut and Maryland . . . are under 35 years old.” In order for the marketplaces to be function successfully, it’s critical for relatively young, healthy people to enroll. Some had suggested that the technical challenges with the online marketplaces would discourage these types of consumers from enrolling.
  • He stressed that the website is not the only way to shop for coverage on the exchanges: consumers can “buy the same quality, affordable insurance plans available on the marketplace the old-fashioned way — offline, either over the phone or in person.” The phone number is 1-800-318-2596 and it is answered “by real people, 24 hours a day, in 150 different languages.” Thus far, wait times to talk to a representative have been less than a minute, and “it usually takes about 25 minutes for an individual to apply for coverage, about 45 minutes for a family.” The administration has also created LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov, which allows consumers to find out locations in their area where they “can get help and apply for insurance in person.”
  • He pledged that for those who have “already tried to apply through the website and . . . been stuck somewhere along the way,” representatives will follow up “directly, personally, with a concrete recommendation for how you can complete your application, shop for coverage, [and] pick a plan.”

Additionally, yesterday brought news from one of the biggest state-based exchanges. The New York health insurance marketplace announced that 150,000 people “have registered and been deemed eligible for insurance,” and the New York website “is now operating free of significant troubles.”

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