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Highmark official says federal insurance marketplace web glitches are improving

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The head of the only West Virginia insurance company selling plans through the federal insurance marketplace says website glitches are getting better but haven't all been fixed.

Fred Early, president of Highmark West Virginia, said the federal government is making regular updates to its health insurance marketplace, healthcare.gov, which has been plagued by technical problems since it opened Oct. 1.

"It's getting a little better. I don't think it'd be fair to say the glitches are all gone," he said.

Healthcare.gov was meant to be a one-stop shop for citizens trying to sign up for health insurance, either by signing up for Medicaid or purchasing a plan from a private insurance company. Few people have been able to use the site, however.

Early said interest in his company's health care plans has been high, and calls to Highmark offices are up. He said he would not release statistics showing how many plans have been purchased through the marketplace, however.

"We're not releasing numbers at this time. Our position on this is, it's a federal program and we're looking for the federal government (to release that data)," he said.

He said improvements have been made to the website, however, including a "window shopper" function that allows users to see health insurance plan options before creating an account on the site.

"That seems to be working well," he said.

The Daily Mail attempted to access that section of healthcare.gov Tuesday afternoon but was unable.

Early acknowledged the marketplace also suffered glitches on the back end of its system, where information is submitted to health insurance companies.

He said some records showed up more than once.

"Some of those were people who tried to sign up more than once and didn't realize it had gone through," he said.

While the federal website is continuing to face problems, the state Department of Health and Human Resources' Medicaid sign-up page is operating without issue.

West Virginia inRoads, www.wvinroads.org, is meant to allow state residents to sign up for Medicaid and other government programs. Users cannot purchase private health insurance plans through the website, however.

DHHR Assistant Secretary Jeremiah Samples said 6,178 people have signed up for Medicaid through the site and at local offices.

Another 50,000 residents have signed up through the DHHR's auto-enrollment procedure.

In an attempt to cut down on Web traffic, the agency sent out 118,000 auto-enrollment letters to families who are eligible for Medicaid insurance. Applicants who want to apply just provide some personal information and send the letter back to DHHR.

Samples said the state does not yet know how many people have signed up for Medicaid through the federal health care marketplace. Those figures will be released on a monthly basis, he said.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.harold@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.


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