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HealthCare.gov now working for 90 percent of users

5:56 AM, Nov 19, 2013   |    comments
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(ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE) -- Here's some good news about HealthCare.gov: 90 percent of the people who gave up on the federal insurance exchange during its troubled start have now been able to create accounts through the website.

That's according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which updated reporters Monday afternoon on efforts to fix the website's problems. CMS has been sending "try us again" emails to 275,000 users who ran into problems when HealthCare.gov was launched Oct. 1.

COMPLETE COVERAGE | The Affordable Care Act

It's comforting to hear that 90 percent of these users who gave HealthCare.gov another chance are having success the second time around, at least in creating accounts. But CMS didn't disclose how many of the 275,000 frustrated users actually came back to the site. One bad experience could be enough for some folks.

But the team in charge of making HealthCare.gov fully functional "made measurable progress" over the weekend, reports CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille. The website is faster and fewer error messages are popping up.

"It's a more reliable system that it had been several weeks ago," Bataille said.

By the end of November, the site will work smoothly for the "vast majority" of Americans, she said, echoing the phrase Obama administration officials have been using for the past week. A vast majority means 80 percent, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Some people will run into technical difficulties, or will start the process of enrolling online but decide they aren't comfortable doing this by themselves, Bataille said. Others may have complex personal or family situations that may be better served in person or by a call center representative, she said.

Bataille also said CMS soon will announce when small businesses can start enrolling online for coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program. Coverage through the new federal SHOP exchange is open to employers with fewer than 50 employees, but it's currently available only through paper applications.

The Senate Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on where things stand with the federal SHOP exchange and exchanges for small businesses in states that opted to set up their own health insurance marketplaces.

CMS better have some specific answers on the SHOP exchange by then or Sen. Mary Landrieu, the committee's chair, won't be happy. The Louisiana Democrat faces a tough re-election campaign, and she needs health care reform to start working.

(Atlanta Business Chronicle)

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