Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Heavy Web Traffic as Health Insurance Marketplace Opens for Enrollment

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Heavy Web Traffic as Health Insurance Marketplace Opens for Enrollment

Article excerpt

The much-hyped health insurance marketplace opened its virtual doors Tuesday, but traffic to www.healthcare.gov quickly swamped the website and led to long delays for many people.

While technical problems prevented an accurate count of how many people attempted to enroll the first day for Pennsylvania and other states with federally-run marketplaces, Kaiser Health News reported some eye-opening numbers from other states just in the early hours of operation: 2.5 million visitors to the New York exchange; more than 1,000 applications in Kentucky; and 10,000 visitors -- but only 22 enrollments -- in Connecticut.

Those who did get into the website faced a four-step process to sign up for coverage: creating an account, applying, choosing a plan and then enrolling. People can also enroll by phone at 1-800-318- 2596.

The marketplaces, a signature component of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, gives people with no or minimal health insurance a way to purchase coverage. The plans being offered fall into four metallurgical groups: bronze -- the least expensive of the four -- then silver, gold and platinum.

All plans are required to include certain "essential" benefits: coverage for hospitalization, emergency services, outpatient services, prescription drugs, laboratory services, preventive care, maternity and newborn care, as well as pediatric care that includes dental and vision care, mental health and substance abuse care and rehabilitation services.

No one can be turned away because of a pre-existing medical condition.

At each level, the insured's cost-sharing varies. So while a bronze plan will have a lower monthly premium and deductible, the patient will be responsible for 40 percent of the cost of hospitalization. As the premiums rise, the patient portion of cost- sharing goes down: to 30 percent for silver plans, 20 percent for gold plans and 10 percent for the highest-cost platinum plans.

People under the age of 30 also can purchase a low-cost "catastrophic" plan that provides three yearly visits to a primary care physician and preventive care, but holds the individual responsible for all other medical costs up to a specific amount. …

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