Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Health Website Is Faster, Easier to Use, Offiicials Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Health Website Is Faster, Easier to Use, Offiicials Say

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * U.S. officials expressed confidence Wednesday that the government's health care website will work far more quickly and dependably this year, cutting in half the time needed for most people to apply for insurance.

In contrast to last year's disastrous launch of the website, in which the government had only a few days to perform full tests of the site, the final stage of "end-to-end" testing for this year's site began Tuesday, more than five weeks before open enrollment begins Nov. 15.

"We're doing all kinds of testing" to ensure "a successful consumer experience," said Andy Slavitt, the federal official who oversees operations of the online insurance marketplace.

Beginning Nov. 9, consumers in states using the federal site will be able to sign on and begin browsing to see which health plans are available in their areas and to compare prices. Some aspects of the site that don't directly affect consumers, particularly the parts which involve payments to insurance companies, won't be fully operational until early next year, however, officials said.

About 70 percent of consumers will be able to use a new streamlined version of the website that will cut to 16 the number of pages one needs to click through, down from 76 last year, officials told reporters at a briefing that included a live demonstration of the site.

The government has been trying out the new site since July, using it for some consumers who were able to sign up outside the normal enrollment period because of special circumstances, such as the loss of a job or the birth of a child.

For the 30 percent of consumers whose complicated personal situations won't allow them to use the streamlined version, the older system will remain automatically available. The government also plans to hire additional staff members for call centers to provide help, said Kevin Counihan, the chief executive for the online marketplace. …

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