Details Around Online Health Insurance Still Murky

By Beacon Staff

Nearly two weeks has elapsed since the launch of an online marketplace for uninsured Montanans to purchase health insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act, and reports about the website’s accessibility are murky at best.

According to Jesse Laslovich, chief counsel for state Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Monica Lindeen’s office, the federal government is not communicating with Montana about how many people have successfully used the site to get health insurance, nor have the feds reported why the site keeps failing.

“The federal government isn’t telling us who is accessing it and who isn’t,” Laslovich said in an interview on Oct. 11. “Anecdotally, we’ve heard that people are able to access it. I’m sure that [the government is] still trying to frustratingly work out the kinks and we’ve said to people that, as with anything, patience is a virtue.”

The Montana Legislature chose to have the federal government build the site that Montanans would access when it came to the ACA’s online marketplaces; other states chose to build their own.

Laslovich said that while those states may also be experiencing problems with their online marketplaces due to high visitation overwhelming the servers or software or coding, at least they know what the problems are and can advise their populations accordingly.

“From my perspective, if we had the control, even if we had problems they’d be fixed by now,” Laslovich said.

Commissioner Lindeen visited Kalispell on Oct. 2 for a town hall meeting about the new ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare, requirements and how they could affect Flathead Valley residents.

The ACA was signed into law in 2010, and largely upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012. Despite the federal government shutdown connected to U.S. House Republicans seeking to defund the new law, the health insurance exchanges opened Oct. 1. The exchanges are marketplaces for uninsured people to buy insurance from private companies.

Initial traffic on the websites proved overwhelming for the servers, Lindeen said on Oct. 2. Recent reports from media outlets across the country show similar website failures and inability to buy health insurance. The Wall Street Journal posited that the problems could stem from coding and software issues, but the federal government did not confirm those claims.

The lack of communication with the entities running the website has been tough to deal with, Laslovich said.

“They’re not telling the states what the issues are and how many people are signing up,” he said. “We have been in discussions in a regular basis, but they’re not giving any information.”

Laslovich said Lindeen’s office will continue to advise uninsured Montanans – which estimates place around 195,000 people – to remain patient and wait until the technological kinks are worked out.

“I know people don’t want to hear that,” Laslovich said. “There’s no reason that people need to get in the door right away.”

Coverage purchased before Dec. 15 will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Despite marketplace difficulties, Laslovich said Lindeen’s office has been “encouraged” by the general response from residents about the law. The office has fielded many phone calls and emails with questions, he said, and a team has been working full time answering questions asked online.

The online health insurance marketplace is located at www.healthcare.gov. For more information, visit www.montanahealthanswers.com, www.csi.mt.gov or call the commissioner’s office 1-800-332-6148.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.