The Ottumwa Courier

Southeast Iowa

October 7, 2013

Iowans note delays seeking health care information

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Many consumers hoping to shop for insurance through Iowa’s new health care exchange when it opened Tuesday encountered the same error messages and long waits as those in other states.

Ken Ridge, a 62-year-old retiree from Clive, said he wanted to compare his current policy with those offered through the state’s new online marketplace but was unable to create an account in the hours after it opened for business.

“The system has so much traffic that I wasn’t able to do it,” Ridge said. “They have a button where you can talk to someone in chat mode, but that didn’t work. Any system that has many millions of people trying to find out information at one time would have difficulty.”

Ridge’s experience was echoed by consumers throughout the U.S. who reported having trouble accessing the website or reaching someone who could help them on a toll-free Affordable Care Act phone number that was set up.

Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said that more than 1 million people had visited the website in the last day — five times more users than have ever been on the at one time.

Violet Menke, 62, of Ankeny, doesn’t have a computer and tried to get information by phone Tuesday morning. After 90 minutes and several phone calls she became frustrated and called her own insurance company to get more information. When she called the toll-free information line she was told her wait would be 30 minutes.

Broadlawns Hospital saw between 50 and 60 people Tuesday morning who wanted help with the new exchange. The hospital’s 12 financial aid staffers have been trained as certified application counselors, said Senior Vice President Mikki Stier.

“We do have people showing up and it’s a very slow process with some delays. It’s really hard to get on the health exchange. It’s very, very busy,” she said.

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