4,124 get health plans from Missouri exchange

During the first two months of open enrollment, 4,124 Missourians successfully selected a health insurance plan through the federal health insurance marketplace, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report released Wednesday.

Nearly 365,000 individuals selected a plan in the state and federal marketplaces nationwide.

Although the exchange is open through March 31, 2014, individuals who select plans and pay the first month’s premium by Dec. 23 of this year will have coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2014.

Enrollment began on healthcare.gov Oct. 1.

The health insurance marketplace, or exchange, is part of a key provision of President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The law aims to require everyone to have health insurance in 2014 or otherwise pay a fine.

States were given the option of operating their own exchange — a marketplace where individuals can go to purchase health insurance — or to opt in to a federally run exchange. Missouri is one of 36 states not operating its own health insurance exchange.

According to the HHS report, 39.1 million users have visited the healthcare.gov site since the Oct. 1 launch. A month ago, that number was 27 million users.

After the Oct. 1 rollout, the site was plagued with glitches, hindering many individuals from not only signing up for coverage, but also from accessing the website.

Local health insurance marketplace navigators — those qualified to help individuals enroll in coverage — say they are having more success in helping Missourians enroll in insurance plans on the site.

“The last two or three weeks definitely have shown the improvement in the website and we’re able to get people through pretty much from start to end without as many problems as we were having before,” said Jean Leonatti, chief executive officer of the Central Missouri Area Agency on Aging.

Leonatti’s agency was awarded an HHS grant to provide navigator assistance for enrolling Missourians in the health exchange.

The Community Health Center of Central Missouri (CHCCM) received a similar grant, allowing the center to hire two certified application counselors to help with enrollment.

Sarah Russell, billing manager at CHCCM, said because of the website’s initial glitches, the agency helped individuals enroll by filling out mostly paper applications.

“Since we are so close to the deadline and the paper process is a little bit slower, we’ve been leaning more towards the website now, which still has glitches here and there, but we’ve been able to get people through positively for enrollment,” Russell said.

Both Leonatti and Russell said many people they’ve helped enroll have found better insurance premiums in the marketplace.

“We’re very happy, and we’ve had consumers that are very happy,” Russell said. “They’re actually pleasantly surprised that they’ve applied and that they’re getting premiums that they can afford.”

Related:

Health care sign-ups pick up but may not close gap

Earlier coverage:

4,124 Missourians picked insurance exchange plans

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