Healthcare exchanges have an easier launch compared with last year’s glitches

November 18, 2014

The first weekend of second open enrollment period on the healthcare exchanges was far smoother than last year’s launch, due to the retooled Healthcare.gov website and new leadership.

The first weekend of second open enrollment period on the healthcare exchanges was far smoother than last year’s launch, due to the retooled Healthcare.gov website and new leadership.

READ: Physicians caught in the politics of ACA enrollment data

Healthcare insurance plans became available for enrollment on the Healthcare.gov website on November 15, and enrollment remains open through February 15, 2015. According to early estimates, 500,000 people visited the website and 100,000 applications for insurance were submitted, says Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“Since I've been at the department, one of the things that I've focused on is transparency, making sure that all our numbers coming out, whether they're good or bad. And the other thing is that the law is based on the issues of transparency and belief in the American people and choices in the marketplace,” Burwell said on NBC’s Meet the Press on November 16.

According to the New York Times, some people looking to obtain health insurance using the Healthcare.gov website ran into problems with slow loading times, resetting passwords and unlocking accounts when returning to the website. However, these issues pale in comparison with last year’s launch where only six people were able to enroll in healthcare insurance plans the first day; and fewer than 300 people the next day.

Burwell said that healthcare exchange call centers received more than 100,000 phone calls on November 15. “I think the vast majority of people coming to the site were able to get on and do what they were intending to do,” she said.

In order to fix the problems with Healthcare.gov, which stands as one of the hallmarks of the Affordable Care Act, the website was redesigned. And former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was largely blamed for the failed launch of the Healthcare.gov, stepped down in April. Burwell took over for Sebelius in June.

A week prior to the opening of the second enrollment period, Burwell said that enrollment would be lower than previous estimates. Burwell estimated 9.1 million people would sign up for health insurance during the open enrollment period, while the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated enrollment would top 13 million.

Burwell said the estimate is still 28% growth in enrollment over last year. “(CBO) created a range that was 70% to 90%. Many of the people were in the 80% to 85%. We chose 83%. And then what we did was build the number that way. So in setting our target, what we did was take the information from last year, including the fact that when CBO did its estimates, and others did estimates, they actually thought more people would switch from employer-based care than did,” Burwell said.