States tweak ACA exchanges in preparation for open enrollment


With the second open enrollment period starting Saturday for health plans sold pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, states are scrambling to improve performance of their exchanges and bolster customer support, The New York Times reported. The goal is to prevent a repeat of last year's enrollment bottlenecks.   

The Maryland exchange, for example, tested and adapted software used by Connecticut to solve the problem of frozen screens and error messages. And "in an abundance of caution," Maryland will roll out its new system incrementally, the newspaper noted.

The new website will allow anonymous browsing, no longer requiring customers to create an account before they can comparison shop for insurance. This requirement was a huge furball in the cat's throat last year for both federal and state exchanges.

Idaho is launching its own exchange after using last year; but Nevada and Oregon, plagued by disastrous state exchange debuts, took the opposite tack and moved to the federal site.

But many critical parts required for to run smoothly were still missing as of September, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Overall, 37 states will rely on the federal exchange for open enrollment this year and 13--plus the District of Columbia--will run their own exchanges, The Times noted.

Stakes are higher for the exchanges this year since customers who bought plans last year will be re-enrolling. Experts worry that people who had bad experiences on the exchanges won't return. "There's a lot of cynicism and distrust, and a huge lack of knowledge," Peter Beilenson, M.D., CEO of Evergreen Health Co-op, told The Times.

Adding to the challenges of this year's enrollment period are potential double-digit rate hikes and a shorter enrollment time frame.

Besides making technical adjustments and repairs, many states are ramping up their numbers of customer service people and enrollment counselors. And many states are ready to switch to Plan B (paper application processing, for example) if their websites crash, notes The Times. 

For more:
- here's The New York Times article

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