CHARLESTON, W.Va. – We’ve all heard or actually experienced the horror stories of trying to sign up on the new health insurance exchange.
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only company in West Virginia offering plans through the exchange. Fred Earley, Highmark’s president, admitted it hasn’t been easy for some people trying to sign up or even browse the site over the past week.
The federal government is in charge of the website. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is only responsible for getting their insurance offerings into the system. There have been a lot of bugs since it went online October 1. However, Earley stressed this is not a sprint, but rather a marathon.
“We still have until the middle of December for people to enroll for products effective January 1,” said Earley. “People can be patient about this and they don’t have to feel like they have to get in there this week or immediately. They have lots of time.”
The federal government is taking the site down a couple of times each week, for a few hours, to fix technical problems that are stopping folks from successfully signing up. Earley says he believes, by November, the site will be much easier to navigate.
“We think the system is going to continue to improve.”
Highmark is not releasing numbers on how many West Virginians have signed up for insurance through the exchange, so far, or how many people have logged on to the site. Earley said the company is leaving that information up to the federal government to release.
As for those frustrated by the system, Highmark is offering individual assistance.
“We’ve set up most of our service here locally for that one-on-one interaction with our current customers or our potential customers,” according to Earley.
He warns people not to go on to the site expecting to walk away with “Cadillac” health care for free. Earley said customers are going to have to pay out of pocket, how much will depend on your financial situation. But anyone who needs insurance, he stressed, shouldn’t shy away from finding out if they qualify.
“I encourage people not to think, ‘Gee, I know I’m not going to be able to afford this.’ I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” he explained. “I do encourage people to go out there and look, call us if they have questions and hopefully they’ll agree, they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Earley was a guest on Thursday’s MetroNews Talkline.