CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care says it’s past time for problems with the health insurance enrollment process, through the federal exchanges, to be fixed.
“It’s taken far, far too long to resolve these glitches and it needs to happen sooner rather than later,” said Perry Bryant on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” A supporter of the Affordable Care Act, he is critical of how the enrollment process has gone since its launch on Oct. 1.
“It is a failure on the healthcare.gov website and it needs to be resolved to allow people to go on, see what their choices are and let let them think about those choices and come back and make a decision at some point,” he said.
As of now, federal officials are not releasing details about how many people have successfully enrolled for subsidized health care coverage through the federal exchanges, including the exchange in West Virginia that offers plans from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Over the past more than three weeks, the process has been described as “clunky” and “inoperable.”
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius is scheduled to testify next week on Capitol Hill about the many problems with the enrollment launch.
Sebelius told CNN this week President Barack Obama did not know of the problems with the ACA website, including the fact that the site crashed on a test run, until after its launch at the start of October.
In contrast, Bryant said enrollment in the Medicaid expansion in West Virginia has gone much smoother with an estimated 50,000 state residents enrolling automatically, so far, after being notified by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
“We’re a national leader in this,” he said. “We’re doing exceptionally well.”
Bryant, though, is critical of another state agency, the state Offices of the Insurance Commissioner. He said 270 people were supposed to be hired with federal money to help residents, across West Virginia, personally work through their health care coverage options. At this point, he said only 80 are in the field.
The enrollment period continues through March 31.
As far as the enrollment website, Sebelius said a team of high tech experts, lead by Jeff Zients, a former CEO and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, has now been tasked with fixing the problems with healthcare.gov.
West Virginia is one of more than 30 states utilizing the federally run exchanges. In 16 states, state-run exchanges are reporting more success in enrolling people who do not currently have health insurance.
Bryant said a “window of opportunity” is closing with every day that passes without an efficient enrollment system. “They need to get the website fixed and be able to let people see what their options are and make a choice, an informed decision, and the sooner the better,” he said.