49 Stories That The Media's Focus On ACA Glitches Ignores

››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER, THOMAS BISHOP & LAURA SANTHANAM

The media has heavily focused on problems faced by the Affordable Care Act website's implementation problems at the expense of stories showing that the exchanges have allowed many people to successfully access affordable health care coverage.

Media Focus On Enrollment Problems With ACA Website

Chicago Tribune: "Few Have Succeeded" In Signing Up On ACA Website. An October 15 Chicago Tribune editorial claimed "Many people have tried to create accounts and shop for insurance under the new law. Few have succeeded." The editorial went on to claim that people who had managed to sign up "have often been hit by sticker shock":

If you've tried to sign up online for health coverage under the problem-plagued Obamacare exchange, our sympathies. Many people have tried to create accounts and shop for insurance under the new law. Few have succeeded. Those that have enrolled have found that the system is prone to mistakes. Some applications have been sent to the wrong insurance company.

Wait. It gets worse. Those who have managed to browse the marketplace have often been hit by sticker shock. Take Adam Weldzius, a nurse practitioner and single father from Carpentersville. He sought the same level of coverage on the exchange as he and his 7-year-old daughter have now, with the same insurer and the same network of doctors and hospitals. At best, Weldzius found, his monthly premium of $233 would more than double. If he chose a plan priced at the same level, the annual deductible would be $12,700, more than three times his current $3,500 deductible. [Chicago Tribune, 10/15/13]

WSJ: "The Rare Users Who Weren't Locked Out Experienced Crashes, Delays And Error Messages." A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed ACA website failures "have all but disabled ObamaCare," adding "the launch has been worse even than critics predicted. The rare users who weren't locked out experienced crashes, delays and error messages." [The Wall Street Journal, 10/23/13]

NPR: "The Promise Of Signing Up For Health Insurance With Point-And-Click Ease At Healthcare.Gov And State Exchange Sites Has Not Come To Pass." On the October 21 edition of NPR's Morning Edition, policy analyst Bob Laszweski called the health care roll out "a fiasco." Laszweski went on to claim "Literally a handful of enrollments [are] coming through to the largest insurance companies every day ... Just a handful, like maybe 10 or 20 or 30. So anecdotally, the enrollments are very, very, very low." [National Public Radio, 10/21/14]

But Healthcare.gov Has Allowed Many Americans To Find Affordable Coverage

ALABAMA

Think Progress: Joshua Pittman Was Able To Receive Coverage For The First Time On The ACA's Website. Think Progress interviewed Joshua Pittman, a "31-year-old self-employed videographer who initially supported repeal of the ACA but changed his mind after receiving coverage on the exchange website:

But on Tuesday morning, Pittman logged on to HealthCare.gov and after some initial glitches and delays, successfully enrolled in a Bronze-level Obamacare health insurance plan. 'It took me all day, really,' he says with a laugh. 'It kicked me out and told me you have to try again, but I knew what I was getting into with so many people exploring it.'

[...]

Pittman doesn't believe that Obamacare is perfect, but says Republicans in Congress should stop trying to repeal the law and give it a chance to work. "As a Republican, I think [the GOP's repeal effort] is childish and I think this is the wrong way to lead... it's babyish and I think as a party it just reflects negatively upon us," he explains. He predicts that other conservatives will set aside their party politics and do what they feel is best for themselves and their families. "I think there are Republicans that are all types of people who are making these decisions and they're not basing them on political party. It's just common sense kind of things. And I think that's the only way we're going to make a change in this country if people start thinking on those lines, instead of political party lines." [Think Progress, 10/4/13]

ARKANSAS

Arkansas Times: "Nearly All" Of The 56,288 Adults Who Stated Interest In 'Private Option' Program Are Now Enrolled. According to the Arkansas Times:

After just two weeks of enrollment, the Arkansas Department of Human Services announced today that 56,288 adults have informed DHS that they wish to enroll in the 'private option' program; nearly all of them are now enrolled. That already puts DHS about a quarter of the way toward the total number of people projected to be in the program, which uses Medicaid funds via the federal Affordable Care Act to pay for private health insurance plans for low-income Arkansans on the Health Insurance Marketplace. [Arkansas Times, 10/15/13]

Think Progress: Arkansas Man Found Better Coverage For At Least $13,000 Less Through ACA Website. Think Progress reported:

Butch Matthews is a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas who used to wake up every morning at 4 A.M. to deliver canned beverages to retailers before retiring in 2010. A lifelong Republican, he was heavily skeptical of the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. 'I did not think that Obamacare was going to be a good plan, I did not think that it was going to help me at all,' he told Think Progress over the phone.

But after doing a little research, Matthews eventually realized how much the law could help him. And on Tuesday, his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year through Arkansas' Obamacare marketplace.

[...] 

"I still am a very strong Republican, but this... I'm so happy that this came along," he continued. "Our home is paid for, vehicle's paid for, this is our expense that we have. We have more expense on medical care than everything else put together, so this is going to be a great help for us.'" [ThinkProgress, 10/2/13]

CALIFORNIA

Santa Maria Woman Obtained Cheaper, Better Health Insurance.  In a letter to the Santa Maria Times, retired engineer Allan Pacela explained that, through the exchange call center, he was able to procure better coverage for less money:

With so much controversy regarding Obamacare, you may be interested in our family's experience. 

I am a retired engineer on Medicare, and my wife had long been insured by Cigna, under a group plan from my engineers' society. Because of minor pre-existing conditions, she could not leave that plan, because no other plan would insure her. 

The Cigna premiums increased to $5,000 per quarter, or $20,000 per year, just for my wife. This year, Cigna canceled the entire plan, leaving her with no insurance. 

So, we turned to Obamacare. She found it simple and easy to sign up through an agent in a 10-minute phone call. She obtained their best plan, providing much much better coverage than in the past, at a cost of $3,000 per quarter. 

My wife would not have insurance coverage at all as of Jan. 1, if not for Obamacare. And, here's the kicker - we now are saving $8,000 per year, for a very much better plan." [Santa Maria Times, 10/16/13]

Paul Cello Enrolled In A Plan Through ACA, Saving More Than $300 A Month Off What He Pays Now. San Francisco public radio station KQED reported that Paul Cello, a San Francisco resident, enrolled in a Blue Shield plan through the ACA's exchanges, saving more than $300 per month:

Covered California will not be releasing any enrollment figures until mid-November, but San Franciscan Paul Cello says he's already in -- and reports his new insurance will have better benefits, at lower monthly cost than the plan he's on now.

Cello originally hails from Florida and says he has friends there who are not fans of the Affordable Care Act. So he didn't delay.

"I really wanted to be one of those people who got in line and said, "Look, this is a good thing," he said, "so I could really see what are the plans and how much do they cost."

He enrolled in a Blue Shield PPO plan with a $1,500 deductible and maximum out-of-pocket costs of $5,000. Because he qualifies for a subsidy, he'll pay $178 a month, shaving more than $300 a month off what he pays now. [KQED, 10/4/13]

Freelance Filmmaker Leslie Foster Obtained Subsidized Coverage For $62 A Month. The Wall Street Journal reported that freelance filmmaker Leslie Foster used the exchange website to find subsidized coverage at a cost of $62 per month:

While millions of consumers stared down error messages on the online insurance marketplaces launched this week, some did make it through to shop the slate of coverage choices under the new federal health law.

Leslie Foster, a 28-year-old freelance filmmaker in Hollywood, is among the first to sign up for an insurance plan.

After spending several hours browsing the California insurance "exchange" late Tuesday night -- when traffic was lower and the online marketplace operated more smoothly -- Mr. Foster made his choice at about 10 a.m. Wednesday.

At $62 a month in direct costs to him, the plan, offered by managed-care firm Health Net Inc., is "a great deal," Mr. Foster said. [Wall Street Journal, 10/3/13]

CONNECTICUT

Brendan Mahoney Obtained Coverage In 20 Minutes On The ACA's Exchange Website. According to The Hartford Courant, law student Brendan Mahoney not only received coverage, but discovered he was eligible for Medicaid, eliminating his premium:

Hartford resident Brendan Mahoney, 30, said signing up took him about 20 minutes. Mahoney, a third-year law student at the University of Connecticut, said that by filling out the application online, he discovered he was eligible for Medicaid. So, beginning next year, he won't pay any premium at all.

In 2011 and 2012, Mahoney said, he was on a school-sponsored health plan costing about $2,400 a year. That was too expensive, he said, so this year he took out his own coverage: a high-deductible, low-premium plan that cost about $39 a month through a UnitedHealthcare subsidiary.

By going through the application process Tuesday, he found that he wouldn't pay even that much. [The Hartford Courant10/1/13]

DELAWARE

Janice Baker Enrolled In Coverage That Saved Her $150 Per Month. Delaware resident Janice Baker was turned down three times for coverage before obtaining insurance through the ACA exchanges, saving her almost $150 per month:  

Despite the snafus, Baker said she's grateful for a chance to buy insurance on the marketplace. Previously, she had been paying $1,600 a month for a company insurance policy for her and her husband. But after her husband was approved for his own coverage, she had to find her own.

During her hunt, Baker was turned down three times because of what she called minor pre-existing health conditions. In the new marketplace, no one can be turned away because of a pre-existing condition.

In Baker's new plan, she will be paying $700 a month for individual coverage, almost $150 less than the cost of her previous coverage. [Wilmington, Delaware, News Journal10/16/13, via USA Today]

FLORIDA

Daniel McNaughton Replaced Catastrophic Coverage For Gold-Level Plan At The Same Cost. According to Kaiser Health News, Orlando college student Daniel McNaughten was able to replace his existing limiting coverage with a gold-level plan through the exchanges. After subsidies, McNaughten's contribution remained the same:

Daniel McNaughton, a 22-year-old college student in Orlando, Fla., tried to enroll Tuesday, just when the marketplace opened for business. He tried three or four times the next day and was finally able to enroll Wednesday morning.

Currently, he has a catastrophic plan that pays for only three doctor visits a year.

On the federal exchange, he picked a gold-level plan, one of the most expensive options, and a premium of $270 per month. But after a large federal subsidy, his contribution will be $70 a month - the same amount that he is currently paying but for much broader coverage.

"I'm thrilled," he says. "To get something this good at that price?  It was a complete surprise." [Kaiser Health News, 10/4/13]

HAWAII

Honolulu Star-Advertiser: More Than 70,000 Unique Visitors Have Gone To The Health Connector Website. According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii residents have flocked to the state-run exchange while many are applying for coverage over the phone:

More than 77,000 people have visited the Hawaii Health Connector website since Oct. 1 to explore their options for getting affordable health care, but more people have successfully completed applications by phone so far than online. 

Part of the reason may be the fact that plan rates were not available until Tuesday, but part of it may also be the difficulty of navigating the website and length of the application process, observers say. 

So far, there have been 77,173 unique visitors to the Health Connector website, with 2,249 people starting an account and application, and 440 of them completing their applications, according to Executive Director Coral Andrews. 

Meanwhile, the Contact Center helped 1,177 individuals and 178 small businesses complete applications over the phone from Oct. 1 through Thursday. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser10/19/13, via InsuranceNewsNet]

ILLINOIS

Northwest Herald: In Only Two Days, Illinois' Website Received So Many Visitors That "High Traffic Caused Glitches And Down Time." The Northwest Herald reported that the state's health exchange website received 230,00[0] unique visitors, 800,000 page views and more than 5,000 application submissions, so much traffic that it "caused glitches and down time." Resident Holly Thurston said she thought the online exchanges are "a great idea," adding that "I'll definitely be signing up through the marketplace, and I am glad it is finally available to people who have lost their jobs or have pre-existing conditions." [Northwest Herald10/19/13]

Chicago Tribune: One Illinois Resident Saved Thousands Of Dollars On Health Insurance Costs And Retained Her Family Doctor, Thanks To The Online Exchanges. The Chicago Tribune reported that, for one Illinois resident, Kathy Kanak, the long wait to access the state's online health exchanges paid off, saying that she "laid to rest fears that no one in Illinois was able to sign up for new health insurance plans made available a day earlier under the Affordable Care Act":

After several failed attempts to log on to a federal website that hosts the Illinois insurance exchange, the Libertyville 57-year-old finally broke through in the late afternoon and signed up for new coverage that starts in 2014 for herself and her husband, Brant... Unlike many who visited healthcare.gov on Tuesday and Wednesday without success, Kanak was able to compare and purchase new coverage, the price offset with a subsidy based on her age, family size and income.   With federal tax credits, the Kanaks will pay about $390 less per month on premiums for coverage with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and be able to retain their family doctor, she said. Further, their annual deductible will drop to $1,500 next year, down from $5,000 this year. [Chicago Tribune10/3/13]

IOWA

Associated Press: Hundreds Of People Applied Through Iowa's Online Exchanges. An October 20 article reported that Iowans were interested in the "a new low-income health program the state is launching as part of the overhaul":

About 400 people have applied through the state for the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan, which would use federal funding to cover up to 150,000 people who don't qualify for traditional Medicaid. The state will start processing those applications soon, said Amy McCoy, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Human Services. [Associated Press,10/20/13, via Nexis]

KENTUCKY

Governor: Nearly 30,000 Applications Were Completed In Kentucky, And More Than Half Of Those Applications Have Made "New Affordable Health Care Coverage" Available To Individuals. According to the website of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, more than 280,000 people visited the state's online exchanges, known as kynect, which received 5.8 million page views. At the same time, more than 247,000 people "conducted pre-screenings to determine qualifications for subsidies, discounts or programs like Medicaid." Citing statistics from the state's online healthcare connection, Kynect, the website further noted that as of October 24, 47,069 applications for health care coverage have been started, of which 33,742 are completed; 18,370 individuals are enrolled in new affordable health care coverage; 378 small businesses have started applications for health insurance for employees; and 66,978 calls have been managed by kynect contact center. [Kentucky Governor's website, accessed 10/24/13]

Louisville Courier-Journal: The Newspaper Reported That A Kentucky Exchange Navigator Said, "Most People Have Been Happy With Their Options On The Exchange." The Louisville Courier-Journal featured Kentucky online exchange navigator Samantha Davis who said that demographic information and coverage levels influenced the cost of Kentucky's state-run exchange. However, Davis said "most people have been happy with their options on the exchange":

[Kynect navigator Samantha] Davis said premiums vary widely depending on factors such as age, income and whether someone smokes, as well as the coverage level selected. 

For example, she said a 60-something Family Health Centers client recently purchased a $235-a-month platinum plan (the highest level of coverage) and received a $135 monthly subsidy, for a net monthly payment of $100. 

Another single client around 40 bought a $450-a-month gold plan (second highest coverage level) and received a $285 subsidy, resulting in a $165 monthly payment. 

So far, Davis said most people have been happy with their options on the exchange. [Louisville Courier-Journal10/20/13]

USA Today: Kentucky's State-Run Exchange Generated Great Interest During Its First Week, Attracting "3.1 Million Page Views The First Week It Was Up." An October 8 article pointed out that Kentucky's exchange received more than 3.1 million. Jill MidKiff, spokeswoman for state's Health Cabinet, told USA Today that they have "'heard a lot of good news stories about people who were really excited -- many in their 40s and 50s who said they had never had insurance before:'"   

The website for the state [of Kentucky], which had more than 600,000 uninsured people in 2011, got 3.1 million page views the first week it was up. By Monday, more than 14,000 had completed applications, and almost 7,000 had enrolled in plans. An additional 155,000 people had checked to see if they were eligible for subsidies or for Medicaid. And 209 small businesses had started applications. 

"All of these numbers are, obviously, more than we expected,"' said Jill MidKiff, spokeswoman for Kentucky's Health Cabinet. "We've heard a lot of good news stories about people who were really excited -- many in their 40s and 50s who said they had never had insurance before." [USA Today10/8/13]

NY Times: It Took 45 Minutes For One Man With Epilepsy And No Insurance To Receive Health Care Coverage Through Kentucky's Online Exchange, Calling It "A Huge Relief." The New York Times reported that Brandon Hardy, 31, was among the first to sign up for Kentucky's online exchange. Prior to that, he had no insurance and required hospital care due to periodic epileptic seizures. Upon receiving health care coverage, Hardy told the New York Times, "'It was pretty easy,' Mr. Hardy said of the process. 'What I really need is a neurologist, and now hopefully that will happen. This is like a huge relief'":

Brandon Hardy, 31, of Louisville, Ky., was one of the first to sign up for health insurance through Kentucky's state-run exchange, working with an application counselor who guided him through the process last Wednesday. Mr. Hardy, who is uninsured and has epileptic seizures that land him in the hospital every few months, spent about 45 minutes filling out the online application, and learned that he would be eligible for Medicaid under the health care law.

"It was pretty easy," Mr. Hardy said of the process. "What I really need is a neurologist, and now hopefully that will happen. This is like a huge relief." [The New York Times10/8/13]

MARYLAND

Baltimore Sun: Maryland's Online Exchange Attracted Interest Among Thousands Of Residents. An October 16 article reported that 1,120 residents enrolled, while others turned to paper applications, according to The Baltimore Sun:

The state has about 800,000 uninsured and officials say just over 16,000 have completed applications online and been told whether they qualify for subsidies. More than 1,120 have enrolled in a plan. More have filled out paper applications with the help of 'navigators' hired to aid consumers. [The Baltimore Sun10/16/13]

Modern Healthcare: "A Few States Running Their Own Insurance Exchanges Are Touting High Levels Of Interest From Young People." An October 15 article on the website Modern Healthcare reported that Maryland Health Connection's "most common age group among its initial 25,000 verified accounts was 25 to 29 years old":

A few states running their own insurance exchanges are touting high levels of interest from young people, leaving observers to speculate about the likelihood of attracting a demographic group widely viewed as the linchpin of the healthcare reform law's success.   In an Oct. 11 update, Maryland Health Connection, the state's exchange, said the most common age group among its initial 25,000 verified accounts was 25 to 29 years old. Thirty-six percent of those 25,000 accounts were created by people under 35. 'Marylanders have continued to show tremendous interest in accessing quality, affordable health coverage,' officials said in the report. [Modern Healthcare, 10/15/13, registration required]

AP: Michigan's Online Premium Estimator Was Used About 120,000 Times Between October 1 And [October 10]. The Associated Press reported that people calculated their health insurance premiums online roughly 120,000 times, and that more than 14,000 people visited the exchange website for the state:

Michigan is among 36 states using the federal government's site, HealthCare.gov, which the Obama administration said has had millions of unique visitors. The administration has declined to release enrollment statistics, saying that will be done monthly.  Michigan officials have no control over the function of the marketplace, but the state's online premium estimator was used about 120,000 times between Oct. 1 and Thursday [October 10]. A state website with information about the federally controlled insurance exchange had more than 14,000 visitors, according to Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services. [Associated Press, 10/13/13]

MINNESOTA

NY Times: "Minnesota's State-Run Health Insurance Exchange Reported 12,011 Accounts Were Created On The Exchange Web Site, MNsure.Org, In The First Two Weeks Of Business. Minnesota's state-run health insurance exchange reported Wednesday that 5,569 households had completed applications for coverage in the first two weeks of operation, representing 11,684 people. The exchange portal has run relatively smoothly after struggling with technology problems for a few days after it opened on Oct. 1, said April Todd-Malmlov, the executive director... In all, 12,011 accounts were created on the exchange Web site, MNsure.org, in the first two weeks of business, she said.   She said that about 96 percent of people who try to create accounts on the site are now succeeding." [New York Times10/16/13]

AP: In The First Two Weeks Of Business Minnesota's State-Run Health Insurance Exchange  Announced "About 96 Percent Of People Who Try To Create Accounts On The Site Are Now Succeeding." An October 16 Associated Press article reported that the "Minnesota's health insurance exchange on Wednesday released its first data on enrollment, showing that two weeks into its launch more than 3,700 people have signed up for health insurance coverage...MNsure officials said 3,769 people have either finalized enrollment or are waiting for payments to be processed, while an additional 1,800 people have completed the application process but not yet chosen an insurer." [Associated Press, 10/16/13]

NY Times: "Uninsured Find More Success Via Health Exchanges Run by States." The New York Times reported that state run health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act were seeing much more success than the federal run program. The article included success stories from individuals who received coverage under the plan:

Robyn J. Skrebes of Minneapolis said she was able to sign up for health insurance in about two hours on Monday using the Web site of the state-run insurance exchange in Minnesota, known as MNsure. Ms. Skrebes, who is 32 and uninsured, said she had selected a policy costing $179 a month, before tax credit subsidies, and also had obtained Medicaid coverage for her 2-year-old daughter, Emma. 'I am thrilled,' Ms. Skrebes said, referring to her policy. 'It's affordable, good coverage. And the Web site of the Minnesota exchange was pretty simple to use, pretty straightforward. The language was really clear.  [The New York Times10/8/13]

MISSISSIPPI

NPR: After Working Through Site Glitches, Recipient In Mississippi Was Able To Sign Up Insurance For $60 A Month. Transcript from NPR's Morning Edition (emphasis added):

JEFFREY HESS, BYLINE: I'm Jeffrey Hess in Jackson, Mississippi which is one of the 34 states letting the federal government take the lead in establishing a health insurance exchange. Heavy web traffic and software problems have made it nearly impossible to use the new web site since it opened last week.

MEREDITH STARK: Why I keep trying is because this is something we need.

HESS: After a week of trying, 29 year old hotel desk clerk Meredith Stark became one of the few who managed to sign up. With a household income just over $20,000, she was able to get subsidized health insurance for herself and her husband for $60 a month.

STARK: I feel really lucky. I mean, that is less than a cell phone bill. Like Obama said, it is less than a cell phone bill.

STARK: I feel really lucky. I mean, that is less than a cell phone bill. Like Obama said, it is less than a cell phone bill.

HESS: Stark says she has a chronic blood condition and been skipping medication for three years while uninsured because of its cost. So for her it was worth the wait. But others had more trouble. I sat down with 25 year old Robbie Gowdy, an uninsured bartender in Jackson, Mississippi as he tried to sign up. [National Public Radio, 10/11/13

NEVADA

Kaiser Health News: "The Nevada Web Site Has Had 77,000 Unique Visitors As Of Wednesday Night And Nearly 19,000 User Accounts Were Created."  Kaiser Health News reported the Navada health care exchange website success noting  "it takes less than 20 seconds to start shopping for a health plan on the Nevada, Colorado and Connecticut exchanges where you can get a list of plans and prices by entering your zip code, age and annual income."  Kaiser added that during the first few days of their exchange rollout, "[t]he Nevada web site has had 77,000 unique visitors as of Wednesday night and nearly 19,000 user accounts were created." [Kaiser Health News, 10/4/13]

Las Vegas Sun Letter Writer Michelle Holzman: "I Recently Enrolled In Obamacare; It Was Overwhelmingly A Positive Experience For Me.  In a Las Vegas Sun letter to the editor, Michelle Holzman explained her overwhelmingly positive experience signing up for health insurance under the Nevada exchange:

I recently enrolled in Obamacare; it was overwhelmingly a positive experience for me.

I am currently on a HIPAA-guaranteed plan that costs me $565 a month. If I get sick and need an urgent visit, mammogram or other OB-GYN services, I have to drive to Las Vegas from Pahrump. That's going to change.

I enrolled in a plan that will save me more than $200 a month and provide local urgent visit and OB-GYN services in Pahrump.

However, if the Republicans are successful in defunding or even delaying the Affordable Care Act, I will join the millions of Americans who are uninsured, as I received a letter from my current insurance company advising me that now that they are not required to honor the HIPAA laws and my plan will no longer be offered after Dec. 31.

So I ask Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei, both of whom have fought so hard to stop this landmark legislation in its tracks: What should I do? Should I simply lose my insurance and, if I get sick, let nature take its course?" [Las Vegas Sun10/17/13]

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Associated Press: One New Hampshire Health Care Exchange Recipient Calls Dental Coverage Under ACA "A Very Pleasant Surprise." From the Associated Press:

Deborah Lielasus has an extra reason to smile about the insurance she bought through the online markets created by the federal health overhaul law -- new dental coverage.  

It took Lielasus three days to sign up for coverage after enrollment opened Tuesday -- one day to register, one day to fill out an application and one day to enroll. She and her husband will be paying $874 a month for health insurance -- about $550 less than their previous premiums for a plan with fewer benefits. And they added a stand-alone dental plan for $56 a month.

Lielasus, a self-employed grant writer, said she has been putting off routine cleanings, and her husband, who also is self-employed, recently paid out-of-pocket for dental treatment. She was shocked when a question popped up on the federal insurance website asking if she wanted to add dental coverage.

"I had no idea," she said. "It was a very pleasant surprise." [Associated Press, accessed via Nexis 10/6/13]

NEW MEXICO 

Head Of New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange: "New Mexico's System Went Live On Day 1 And Remained In Good Shape For The Rest Of The Week." USA Today reported that that the health care exchange rollout for the state of went better than expected, according to Mike Nuñez, interim CEO for the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. Nuñez reported:

By Monday, 486 employers had begun the application process to cover 890 people.

"This is much more than I was expecting to get,' said Mike Nuñez, interim CEO for New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. 'We were hoping for 1,500 to 2,000 for the whole year."

New Mexico's system went live on Day 1 and remained in good shape for the rest of the week, Nuñez said. Next year, the same team will create the individual exchange. [USA Today, 10/8/13]

Albuquerque Business First: "Small Biz Owner: Health Exchange Will Save Me $1,000 A Month." Albuquerque Business First reported that small business owners could save $1,000 a month on health care cost. The article also found that "[a]t least 100 New Mexico small businesses signed up to buy health insurance on New Mexico's exchange during its first six hours of business Tuesday." The article profiled one business owner who explained that his quote from the health care exchange would save him $1,000 a month:

The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange saved one Albuquerque small business owner $1,000 a month in insurance premiums Tuesday.

Michael Cadigan, president and owner of the Cadigan Law Firm P.C., said he signed up the firm's four employees Tuesday for an insurance policy and got a quote that was $1,000 less a month than he's currently paying.

"I was very pleasantly surprised. I thought it was going to be an administrative nightmare and it literally took me 15 minutes once I found everybody's birthdates, Social Security numbers and ZIP codes,' Cadigan, a former Albuquerque city councilor, said. 'They gave me a quote that would save me $1,000 over what I was paying at Pres [Presbyterian Health Plan], so I'm psyched."

Cadigan said he chose a gold level plan, which pays 80 percent of medal expenses, for the firm. [Albuquerque Business First10/1/13]

NEW YORK

Wall Street Journal:  New York State Exchanges "Says 58,283 People Completed Applications For Health Insurance Through Its Exchange As Of Wednesday Morning." An October 10, Wall Street Journal story reported:

After quadrupling its server capacity, New York now says users aren't experiencing major delays, and officials believe any technical issues have been fixed. The state says 58,283 people completed applications for health insurance through its exchange as of Wednesday morning. 'It speaks certainly to the amount of interest here,' said Donna Frescatore , director of the New York exchange. "For many New Yorkers, this was really the first time to sign up for coverage that was affordable." [Wall Street Journal10/10/13]

NY State Of Health: More Than 40,000 New Yorkers Signed Up In First Week. The New York State of Health announced that "over 40,000 New Yorkers have signed up for quality, low-cost health insurance in just a little over one week, more than any other state reporting thus far. These 40,000 New Yorkers completed the full application process and were found eligible for health insurance plans allowing them to now choose the low-cost health care plans they applied for." [New York State Of Health, 10/8/13]

Sally Kohn At FoxNews.com: "I Signed Up. I Saved. And So Will Millions Of Americans." Former Fox News contributor Sally Kohn wrote about her success signing up for health insurance under New York's health care exchange:

I signed up. I saved. And so will millions of Americans. 

Honestly, I couldn't wait to sign up for ObamaCare -- not because I talk about it on television, but because I'm tired of being ripped off by my insurance company. 

I live in New York State -- which for several decades has had the highest individual insurance premiums in the nation.  For the past three years, since leaving a job at a non-profit organization and then exhausting my COBRA, I have relied on the individual insurance market to get coverage for myself, my partner and our daughter. 

Three years ago when I was shopping for insurance, there weren't that many options to choose from. And the plan I ended up with is expensive and, to put it bluntly, crappy

[...]

But finally, early on the first Saturday morning following the launch of the exchange site -- probably because the rest of the state (unlike my five-year-old) was still asleep -- I was able to log-in and complete my registration and check out all my options for insurance. 

There were literally 50 plans that were better than my current insurance -- both with lower premiums, lower out-of-pocket costs and better coverage. And there were ten plans with a higher premium than my current insurance, but with lower deductibles. [FoxNews.com, 10/21/13]

OHIO

Toledo Blade: Reports on Successes In Ohio's  Health Care Exchange. A October 10 article from the Toledo Blade reported on the success of the exchange rollout and navigators:

Health-care outreach worker Robin Deters persisted, and after many attempts she successfully enrolled in a health insurance plan on the healthcare.gov Web site. 

She has been without health insurance for 18 years, and now she and her husband have coverage and have qualified for a 'considerable amount of tax subsidies and credits' to help cover the cost of their new silver plan, Ms. Deters said. 

"[The site went] down on me several times but finally on Sunday I got through it,' she said. 

Ms. Deters is one of four outreach workers hired with grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and given to nonprofit agencies for training of outreach workers and 'navigators' to provide free information about the health-care marketplace to consumers. 

The program is connected to the implementation of national health-care coverage given by the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. 

Ms. Deters is gearing up to go out and speak to church and community groups in the Toledo area and help others better understand the nuances of the exchange program. 

She will soon be joined by three additional outreach workers and 16 navigators, who will help consumers enroll in coverage." [Toledo Blade10/16/13]

OKLAHOMA

Tulsa World: "Two Callers [To Rep. Markwayne Mullin's Town Hall] Said They Signed Up For Insurance Through The ACA." The Tulsa World reported that during a town hall with U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), callers explained their success in signing up for ACA:

Of the roughly two dozen callers who got through, none demanded the impeachment of President Barack Obama or seemed supportive of Republicans' continued demand for changes to the Affordable Care Act in exchange for a budget deal.

Two callers said they signed up for insurance through the ACA, commonly called 'Obamacare.' Another said co-workers had.

When Mullin tried to tell her that insurance enrollment through the online exchanges that went active on Oct. 1 'isn't happening,' she said, 'It absolutely is!'" [Tulsa World10/8/13]

OREGON

Oregonian: "The Low-Income, Medicaid-Funded Program Has Already Signed Up 56,000 New People, Cutting The State's Number Of Uninsured By 10 Percent." The Oregonian  reported that "Oregon cuts tally of people lacking health insurance by 10 percent in two weeks: Though Oregon's health insurance exchange is not yet up and running, the number of uninsured is already dropping thanks to new fast-track enrollment for the Oregon Health Plan. The low-income, Medicaid-funded program has already signed up 56,000 new people, cutting the state's number of uninsured by 10 percent, according to Oregon Health Authority officials. ... To enroll, all they have to do is make a phone call or send a form consenting to be enrolled. So far, 56,000 people have done that, coming on top of more than 600,000 already enrolled." [The Oregonian10/17/13]

AP: "Oregon's Exchange Won't Open Until Early November, But More Than 16,000 People Have Visited Sections Of The Website That Detail Coverage For Small Companies." The Associated Press found that "in states where small business exchanges aren't open, there's plenty of interest. Oregon's exchange won't open until early November, but more than 16,000 people have visited sections of the website that detail coverage for small companies." [Associated Press, 10/16/13]

RHODE ISLAND

Providence Journal: "In Its First 11 Days Of Operation... Healthsource RI Fielded 62,000 Unique Website Visits.  Of These Visitors, About 5,500 Started Accounts And 1,698 Completed Their Applications And Selected A Health Insurance Plan." The Providence Journal  reported:

"In its first 11 days of operation, Oct. 1 through Friday, HealthSource RI fielded 62,000 unique website visits.  Of these visitors, about 5,500 started accounts (created a username and password) and 1,698 completed their applications and selected a health insurance plan.  These numbers were released Saturday by Christine C. Ferguson, director of the agency, which runs the health insurance marketplace or exchange created under the federal health care overhaul." 

[...]

In addition to the website, HealthSource RI runs a contact center to help people select health insurance. From Oct. 1 through Oct. 5, the contact center received 39,061 calls and saw 233 people who walked in for in-person help." [Providence Journal10/12/13]

USA Today: "In The First Three Days, Healthsource RI Was Open, 26,039 Rhode Islanders Visited The Site, For A Total Of 30,416 Website Hits. And 580 People Made It All The Way Through The Process... About 3,000 People Created Account."  USA Today reported on Rhode Island's experience with the ACA exchange: "In the first three days, HealthSource RI was open, 26,039 Rhode Islanders visited the site, for a total of 30,416 website hits. And 580 people made it all the way through the process. ... About 3,000 people created accounts -- or a user name and password -- but not everyone was able to get further because of the verification issue. On Day 1, the state site crashed for a couple of hours because of the 'enormous volume,' but it came back up the same day." [USA Today10/8/13]

Kaiser Health News: Uninsured Residents In Rhode Island Are "Chompin' At The Bit" To Get Coverage. Kaiser Health News reported the easy process to get affordable insurance for one Rhode Island resident:

Uninsured for more than five years, Leslie Peters says she was "chompin' at the bit" to get coverage to afford regular medical care that she often has gone without.

That's why as soon as HealthSource RI, the Rhode Island online health insurance exchange, went live Tuesday, she enrolled. 'I was so excited,' said Peters, who lives in Tiverton, R.I.

[...]

Peters said she found the enrollment process easy. "I was really pleasantly surprised," she said. Peters had two companies and 11 health plans to choose from on the site. She said it took her 15 minutes to fill out information on the HealthSource web site, though she needed more time on the insurer's web site to examine what doctors and hospitals were in the health plan networks. [Kaiser Health News, 10/2/13]  

SOUTH CAROLINA

Aiken Standard: In Aiken County "People Have Been Pleased With What They Have Found About The Plans And The Tax Credits That Are Available." The Aiken Standard conceded the rocky first few weeks of the exchange rollout, but as Anne Fulcher, community outreach and enrollment coordinator for Rural Health Services, explained, "as time has gone on, it has gotten better":

In general, Fulcher reported, people have been pleased with what they have found about the plans and the tax credits that are available.

"There are at least 27 plans in Aiken County," she said.

One woman, who makes a little more than $13,000 a year as a waitress, 'qualified for a bronze level (insurance) package that had a premium of like $490 a year,' Fulcher said. 'She also qualified for a tax subsidy that will cover 87 percent of that premium.'

In another case, "I worked with a family of seven, including five kids, that had a household income of $48,000 annually," Fulcher said. "Their annual premium was $1,490, and they qualified for a 93 percent tax subsidy, which means they only have to pay 7 percent of that premium." [Aiken Standard10/20/13]

TEXAS

Enroll America: Small Business Owner In Texas Claimed "Health Insurance Is 'One Less Thing I Have To Think About" After Receiving Health Insurance Under ACA.  Enroll America profiled Austin small business owner Mark Sullivan, 31, on getting affordable health insurance after signing up under federal health care exchange.

Mark got started creating an account on healthcare.gov right away. After reviewing the plans available and comparing them to his COBRA continuation coverage premium, Mark is relieved to know that he can focus on growing his new business without the cost of health care cutting into money that should go into the company. Despite a few glitches along the way, Mark found an insurance plan that will provide him affordable coverage, and it can start January 1st.

Mark now feels confident focusing on the success of his new consulting business, saying health insurance is "one less thing I have to think about." He also thinks the Marketplaces will make it possible for more people to start new businesses.

After comparing plans, Mark settled on a bronze option and added dental insurance. He will receive $82 per month in financial help, which will halve the monthly premium he will pay down to $78. Even without the tax credit, his total premium is still much more affordable than the private plans he had been able to find on the individual market. [Enroll America, 10/14/13]

UTAH

Salt Lake Tribune: "The Salt Lake City Business Owner Was Able To Compare 38 Plans And Apply For Tax Credits To Put Toward His Monthly Premiums." The Salt Lake Tribune reported on one business owner's success in getting affordable health care through Utah's exchange:

It took half-a-dozen tries over several days. But Phil Sherburne struck gold on Saturday -- silver actually -- with family health coverage purchased on the Affordable Care Act's online exchange.

After plugging in particulars about his family of five, the Salt Lake City business owner was able to compare 38 plans and apply for tax credits to put toward his monthly premiums. He settled on a silver-level plan from Altius that retails for about $850 a month.

After tax credits, the Sherburnes will pay just $123 a month. [The Salt Lake Tribune10/10/13]

Deseret News: Utah Resident Claimed His Insurance Premium Will Now Be $1,200 Less With Better Coverage. The Deseret News reported that Utah resident Randal Bennett and his family are ready for the health care law to take affect starting January 1, 2014. Through ACA Bennett said:

Bennett said before signing up he was paying a $420 monthly premium with a $2,000 annual deductible. Now he'll be paying a $720 premium and a $500 deductible, but his family also will be getting maternity and dental coverage -- something the Bennetts couldn't get before. 

"The process to even get insurance before was so difficult that surprisingly, even with all the bugs, I still find HealthCare.gov more simple,' Bennett said. 'So for us this is a huge win, because we're paying what we think is fair. And yes it's more than before, but we actually have coverage that we like now." [Deseret News10/21/13]

VIRGINIA

WVEC: Virginia Resident Exclaims The Exchange Process "It Felt Great. I Finally Got Insured." Norfolk, Virginia, TV station WVEC tracked "how the enrollment process in the Healthcare Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act is working for Virginians, profiling one resident who became insured under ACA:

Angelette Harrell is one of 12 people who bought plans with Optima Health. She says she called the phone number after the website didn't work.   'I found Optima health. It was $85 a month,' Harrell said.   Harrell works at a care facility for adults with autism and says she couldn't afford an Optima plan that would have been $280 a month without the tax credit, but because she falls at 200% of the poverty line she was eligible for help.   'It felt great. I finally got insured,' Harrell said." [WVEC, 10/15/13]

WASHINGTON

Seattle Times: Nearly 25,000 Enrolled In State's Exchange In First Two Weeks. The Seattle Times reported that "the Washington state-run exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, is widely perceived to be off to a strong start. Nearly 25,000 residents have enrolled in health-care coverage through Healthplanfinder over the exchange's first two weeks, according to figures released Monday by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which operates the exchange." Further, "An additional 37,000 residents have gone through every step of the application except the final one, which is paying their first monthly premium, not due until Dec. 23." [The Seattle Times10/18/13]

NPR: "Washington State Reports About 30,000 Enrollees." An October 21 article NPR reported that  "Washington state reports about 30,000 enrollees" successfully enrolled on the exchanges:

Richard Onizuka, CEO of Washington's health exchange, says his state was prepared.  'We started early. We've been working on this for nearly 2 1/2 years,' says Onizuka.  Still, even Washington's system crashed. It went down for 4 1/2 hours on the first day.  'It was nerve wracking. We did a lot of analysis and diagnosis,' he says. 'We were hoping it would get better the second day. It got a little bit better .... We took it down the second night and it got better the third day.'  Onizuka says with time, anxiety has gone down.  'I'm breathing a little easier,' he says." [NPR, 10/21/13]

Seattle Times: "Traffic On The Healthplanfinder Website Held Steady In The Second Week, With The Number Of Total Site Visits Nearly Doubling To More Than 1.4 Million And The Number Of Page Views Doubling To More Than 5.5 Million." Seattle Times reported that "[t]raffic on the Healthplanfinder website held steady in the second week, with the number of total site visits nearly doubling to more than 1.4 million and the number of page views doubling to more than 5.5 million.   The Report added that "[p]hone calls to the customer service center in Spokane increased from more than 23,000 during the first week to more than 53,000 by the end of the second week." [Seattle Times10/16/13]

USA Today: "The State Exchange Received 160,000 Unique Visitors The First Week And 800,000 Hits."  USA Today reported on the Washington state exchange after the first week:

Monday the state announced 9,452 people had enrolled in insurance or its Medicaid program. The state exchange received 160,000 unique visitors the first week and 800,000 hits, said Michael Marchand, director of communication for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. 

"I've heard, 'It sounded too good to be true.' But when I went online, I found out it was true," Marchand said. 'It's going to change their lives.'  Marchand, who handled public affairs for his region during the Medicare Part D roll out, said the "bumps in the road" for Part D were the same as for the exchange. The site, he said, is now running smoothly." [USA Today10/8/13]

KXLY: Washington Resident "One Of About 25,000 People In Washington Who've Signed Up Online." Spokane, Washington, TV station KXLY profiled one Washington resident with a preexisting condition who was able to get insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act:

An effort to bring affordable health care to everyone in Washington hit the open road as Governor Jay Inslee kicked off the campaign Wednesday in Spokane.

The mobile health plan finder unit will be traveling to eight cities across the state, encouraging people to sign up and know what their options are when it comes to paying for health care.

The burden of living without health insurance was suddenly lifted this afternoon when Jessica Lawson drove by the mobile health plan finder unit in North Spokane.

"So something was just speaking out to me so I pulled over and came here," Lawson said.

Once inside she signed up for health insurance through the Washington health benefit exchange. She's now one of about 25,000 people in Washington who've signed up online.

"I have insurance, thanks to these people here," she said. "I just applied and I got approved. I'm really happy now because now my life is going to be a lot better."

Lawson, who has a disability, has been without her medication for nearly two years.

"It's been really hard, its been a major struggle for me because I'm unemployed and I don't have the money to pay for anything out of pocket," she said. [KXLY, 10/16/13]

Media Matters intern Samantha Rhodes contributed to this post

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune
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