The only West Virginia insurance company participating in the federal health insurance marketplace is receiving many more calls than usual, but few new customers are signing up for coverage.
Fred Early, president of Highmark West Virginia Inc., said sign-ups through the marketplace remain "low," although he was not able to provide specific figures. He said the company likely would not have those numbers until the end of next week.
Still, Early said Highmark did not expect a huge volume of new customers as soon as the marketplace opened Oct. 1. He expects sign-ups will remain small through October before picking up in November and December as people learn more about the marketplace.
"They're fact-finding, or window-shopping," he said. "Some people have already completed their Christmas shopping, some will do it on Christmas Eve. I think it will be the same way with this, as well."
Early said glitches at the marketplace's official website, www.healthcare.gov, might have prevented some users from signing up.
Users have had difficulty signing up on the website since it opened earlier this week. Early said some of those problems are related to the large number of people attempting to access the site, which also has suffered technical issues.
Early encouraged users to be patient as officials work out the kinks.
Open enrollment for health insurance lasts through the end of March, and Early said users have until mid-December to sign up for plans that begin coverage on January 1.
The marketplace is one of the most anticipated sections of the Affordable Care Act. It is meant to be a one-stop location for health insurance, where users can log on, compare different plans and sign up.
The site also collects financial information, allowing Medicaid-eligible users to sign up for the government health insurance program and connect others with health insurance subsidies available through the federal government.
Early said Highmark's call volume has increased dramatically since the marketplace opened on Tuesday, but employees haven't had any difficulty meeting customers' needs.
"It's mostly people just wanting more information," he said.
Users do not have to contact Highmark to sign up through the marketplace - the website is meant to guide them through the process from beginning to end - but Early said people can call Highmark directly if they have questions or want more information about available plans.