By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Three.
That’s how many people had signed up for individual insurance – or, more aptly put, could sign up – with Gundersen Health Plan, one of 13 insurers participating in the federal health-care exchange in Wisconsin.
“That’s a lot lower than we were projecting,” Greg Skemp, director of sales and marketing for the La Crosse-based carrier told Wisconsin Reporter.
Skemp will tell you it’s not the insurance product that’s to blame for the less-than-impressive showing in the first couple weeks-plus of the national roll out of Obamacare enrollment. It’s the $93.7 million federal website ostensibly designed to move customers through the health insurance marketplace described as everything from “glitchy” to an utter fiasco.
“We are experiencing some of the same slow systems everybody else is,” Skemp said.
So is Arise Health Plan, the wholly owned subsidiary of WPS Health Insurance.
“We have nine people enrolled so far, as of last week,” said Ellen Foley, WPS vice president of corporate communications. “We suspect there are more pending in the exchange system, but they haven’t gotten to us yet.
“We are optimistic the marketplace technology will become easier to use.”
So far, not so much.
A Wisconsin Reporter review of the insurers in Wisconsin’s federally controlled Health Insurance Marketplace seems to confirm what the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance told the MacIver News Service earlier this week: There has been “minimal participation” in the exchange to date. OCI estimated the number of people signed up was fewer than 50.
“We called all 13 carriers in the individual exchange and asked them. They gave us general numbers,” said OCI spokesman J.P. Wieske. “Everybody is aware of what’s going on with the website; we wanted to see what’s going on.”
The insurers who returned calls from Wisconsin Reporter all said the same thing: They are hearing an earful from would-be customers who keep getting kicked off the website.
“The Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) website is experiencing high volumes and significant access issues. Until these issues are resolved, be advised that connection times are very slow,” Arise notes on its website.
Even the insurers can’t get on the site, and they’re not getting much support from the federal government.
Skemp said Gundersen Health Plan doesn’t have a lot of “contact or direct interaction with the federal government these days.” He said he tried to create an account at healthcare.gov. After two weeks and a lot of failed attempts, Skemp said he was able to do it. As soon as he tried to shop and do price comparisons, however, Skemp got an error message, “Not Found.”
“We’ve been spending our own time online seeing if it’s working better. It ‘s really not. It’s really slow.”
A Forbes piece published Wednesday suggests the reason for the glacial pace of the website involves consumer sticker shock.
“(The Department of Health and Human Services) didn’t want users to see Obamacare’s true costs,” writes Forbes contributor Avik Roy.
He points to another report.
“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” reports Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.”
Compcare Health Services Insurance Corp., a subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin, has “just begun to receive confirmation of enrollment in the federal exchanges,” said Scott Larrivee, spokesman for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, wrote in an email to Wisconsin Reporter.
While Larrivee said it’s too early to provide specific enrollment details, the insurer has seen “unprecedented call volumes and heavy web traffic for our exchange plans.” The spokesman did not respond to a Wisconsin Reporter’s follow-up email asking whether the calls were due to customer confusion and frustration over the federal website.
Perhaps the big winner so far is Brookfield-based Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, which, according to CEO Robert De Vita, counted 21 subscribers and a total of 27 members in the insurer’s federally facilitated marketplace ranks as of Monday night.
“I’m not an apologist for what as a taxpayer you and I have paid for. Health insurance in this issue is as complicated as nuclear physics,” De Vita said. “That does not change the infrastructure piece from being a poor performer. I’m not a happy camper, I want to be selling this stuff.” While the exchange is a “channel” of business for the new insurer, De Vita said the cooperative isn’t simply counting on Obamacare business.
Skemp said Gundersen Health Plan put politics aside a long time ago. He urges patience with a the product and sounds optimistic the website will eventually perform up to its $94 million price tag. But so far, the insurer, perhaps like many others on the exchanges, has a “long way to go to make” projections on insured counts.
Meanwhile, insurers have urged anxious Obamacare customers to hold off on requests for paper health insurance applications because, as Skemp put it, insurers haven’t gotten clarification from HHS on what would happen to the documents after they are sent off, whether they would end up in a document “black hole.”
“It’s early on yet. We’ve got to work through it,” Skemp said. “We’ll cross our fingers that it works in the next couple of weeks.”
Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]
- Obamacare compliance means less money for TN service agencies
- The mystery of Obamacare spending in Arkansas
- Obamacare raises questions for MD small business owners
- Kansas official on Obamacare: ‘Let someone else be the guinea pig’
- Obamacare insurance marketplace has plenty of kinks on first day
- OR’s Obamacare insurance marketplace hits technological snag
- Fail: Day 1 of the New Mexico Obamacare rollout
- Senator asks: Do you want this dysfunctional government taking over health care?
- Jobs, coverage at risk with Obamacare, MN union health official says
- Oregon’s Obamacare ads resemble middle school art
- VIDEO: Obamacare vs Affordable Care Act: Comedy triumphs in court of confusion
- Patience is key to navigating Illinois’ Obamacare marketplace
- Hawaii residents, lawmakers frustrated with health connector glitches
- Healthy young, key to Obamacare, aren’t buying it
- NM’s health exchange tries to lure ‘young invincibles’
- Obama drama: Senator blames governor for big rate hikes
- Progressive group navigates Oregon students through Obamacare
- Maddening: Trying to log onto federal health care site
- You know that one guy who successfully signed up for Obamacare? He didn’t
- What’s wrong? It’s been a week, and Obamacare website still not working
- HHS Secretary Sebelius back in FL after embarrassing Obamacare rollout
- Health centers enroll Floridians in Obamacare as application problems persist
- VIDEO: Stewart skewers Sebelius on Obamacare
- Obamacare effect? 9 companies exit Nebraska’s health insurance market
- Obamacare: Children of undocumented parents face an uncertain future
- Which way do we go? Obamacare navigator registration in TN in question
- NM health exchange tries to ease problems with Obamacare website
- CPA says hype over Obamacare small business tax credit is misleading
- Obamacare navigator under fire for arrest warrant
- Reports of Obamacare fraud emerge in Tennessee
- After two weeks, FL online Obamacare enrollees are hard to find
- Illinois state governor touts 100K Obamacare enrollees, all in Medicaid
- Kansas lawmaker calls for crackdown on Obamacare navigators
- WI health care exchange seeing few getting through
- Hawaii’s Obamacare exchange relaunches with more glitches
- We’ll know next month how many people in NM signed up for Obamacare — maybe
- Zero: Number of Nebraskans Obamacare navigators have signed up
- It took this Delaware woman 11 days to sign up for Obamacare – and she was the first
- How many people have signed up for health insurance in VA? Who knows?
- What else? NM federal health exchange ads stalled due to website problems
- Blue Cross hires temp workers to deal with Obamacare glitches
- If Obamacare is the next Medicare, will physicians leave en masse?
- Three problems that won’t be solved by fixing the Obamacare exchange glitches
- Plenty of Oregonians interested in Obamacare, but none can enroll online
- Criticize this: Obamacare premiums a near match to WI disclosures
- Report: Missourians will see sharp rise in premiums under Obamacare
- Kansas navigators say they’ve enrolled no one in Obamacare
- Obamacare too costly for rich Coloradans, Democrat congressman says
- Study: Kansas premiums to spike following Obamacare rollout
- Hang on to your candy: Creepy Uncle Sam is back
- Obamacare or bust: NM Watchdog turned back again
- Medical journals, experts refute claim that Medicaid cuts ER use
- Arkansas spends $4M on Obamacare ads, wants more
- LOL: In July video, HHS bragged about being ‘on schedule’ with Obamacare
- Illinois uses Day of the Dead to market Obamacare
- Sebelius denies GOP’s Terry ‘unreliable’ Obamacare info
- About 290,000 Washington residents lose health insurance plans
- Broken promise: Obamacare cancels almost 20,000 Kansas health care plans
- Top hospitals opt out of Obamacare
- Obamacare moves to intensive care
- Obamacare provision could lead to more Medicaid fraud
- Obamacare: Religious groups want to ‘move mountains’
- Obamacare hitting Wisconsin residents with double whammy
- Kansas AG: Obamacare threatens consumer privacy
- 1,500 in New Mexico have to move out of the high-risk insurance pool
- Cover Oregon website fiasco creates jobs, but costs millions
- For Florida’s Obamacare small business exchange, it’s crunch time
- Only 877 Wisconsinites have signed up for Obamacare, federal report says
- Just 172 in NM have completed Obamacare applications: ‘Woefully inadequate,’ says NMIX board member
- With only 346 Oklahomans signed up, leaders decry ‘Obamacare debacle’
- Defying Obamacare: ‘Send them the bill,’ NM insurance official says
- Kansas Obamacare enrollment dwarfed by nearly 20,000 cancellations
- Numbers don’t lie: In Illinois, Obamacare means Medicaid
- Wisconsin governor proposes insurance plan to address Obamacare rollout failure
- Tennesseans might know Tuesday if they can keep canceled health insurance
- People demand answers over Oregon’s Obamacare fail
- Calif. says ‘no’ to Obamacare freebies, makes own law
- HI health exchange violates federal law, League of Women Voters say
- Obamacare video winner: ‘Forget about the price tag’
- Harvard study finds ‘striking’ rejection of Obamacare by young Americans
- HI health exchange has signed up 574 people, for about $348,000 apiece
- Are the uninsured getting Obamacare coverage in Illinois?
- Secret Obamacare handbook the feds don’t want you to see is online
- Lost in translation: Once-supportive Hispanics turning backs on Obama, ACA
- HI Obamacare exchange not fiscally sustainable, lawmakers told
- Illinois’ latest Obamacare targets: gold diggers and momma’s boys
- Now Democrats are bashing California’s Obamacare exchange, too
- Obamacare: For $1.37M we get Richard Simmons in lurid web stream
- Obamacare: A welcome mat for IRS horrors
- California senator seeks audit of state Obamacare exchange
- Report: Hawaii ranks worst for Obamacare signups
- CA senator sues Obamacare exchange for causing policy cancellations of 1M
- Failure of Maryland Obamacare exchange could mean higher premiums in North Dakota
- Video: Watch Creepy Uncle Sam make it rain
- Five bright spots surrounding the Obamacare exchange failures
- Obamacare architect admitted in 2012 states without exchanges lose subsidies
- Architects of Richard Simmons Obamacare dance-off rehired in $156M PR campaign