The person in charge of overseeing fixes to Healthcare.gov, the federal government website that hosts the new health insurance exchanges for 36 states, said the site should be fully operational by the end of November.
Technical problems have plagued the site since the Oct. 1 rollout of the exchanges, with most users unable to browse for insurance and purchase coverage. The issues are a setback for the Affordable Care Act because the exchanges are a central component in the laws goal to extend health insurance coverage to millions who lack it.
The site is fixable, said Jeffrey Zients, a onetime budget official in President Obamas administration who has been tasked with supervising the overhaul of the site. We are confident that each week, the site will get better, and by the end of November, it will operate smoothly for the vast majority of users. It will take a lot of work. There are a lot of problems that need to be addressed.
The exchanges are designed to allow people who do not have insurance through their employer to compare available individual plans available in their state and enroll in coverage. ACA insurance takes effect Jan. 1 for everyone who buys coverage by Dec. 15. A late-November deadline for making full repairs would give people about half a month to enroll.
For those who do not care about having insurance by Jan. 1, open enrollment lasts through March 31. Americans who have not signed up for insurance by then will face a tax penalty unless they qualify for an exemption.
Nationwide, about 700,000 applications for insurance at least have been started, about half through the website, said Julie Bataille, director of the office of communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency with direct responsibility for the website.
For those who began an application but are encountering errors because of problems with the site, officials will be in touch on an individual basis to help, Bataille said.
The Congressional Budget Office has projected 7 million people will obtain insurance through the exchanges. Fourteen states have chosen to run their own exchanges, which generally have performed better than the federal governments site but have not been error-free, according to reports. People also can check their options and buy coverage over the phone (800-318-2596) or in person (https://localhelp.healthcare.gov for a list of locations).
Estimate insurance costs and premium eligibility: http://1.usa.gov/173qQcf
Preview insurance plans and prices: www.healthcare.gov/how-much-will-marketplace-insurance-cost
Full ACA coverage from Nurse.com: http://topics.nurse.com/aca